72% of Retail, Catering & Leisure Workers Surveyed now Suffer From ‘Pleasanteeism’

‘Pleasanteeism’ – the pressure to put on a brave face – is on the rise across the UK, as 72% of retail, catering & leisure workers surveyed admit to feeling like they have to put on a brave face in front of their colleagues regardless of how they’re really feeling

According to new research, released by Lime Global, pleasanteeism is up by 18 percentage points from May 2021 – when just over half (54%) of these workers admitted to suffering from this phenomenon.

With more workers masking how they really feel than ever before, pleasanteeism is having a significant impact on the productivity of UK retail, catering & leisure businesses. Findings from the research revealed that over half (54%) of employees surveyed in this industry have taken time off work due to feeling like they have to put on a brave face.

In fact, on average, workers in the retail, catering & leisure sector take 2.88 days off per year as a result of this brave face culture. Across the entire UK workforce, pleasanteeism could therefore be accounting for as many as 67 million days lost each year due to this phenomenon alone.

If left unaddressed, this could become a catastrophic problem, affecting absenteeism levels in an industry already suffering from serious worker shortages – with job vacancies in the retail sector alone reaching a record high.

Not only is this driving up absence rates, but workers also revealed that having to put on a brave face at work impacts their ability to do their job effectively, with 30% of those in the industry who feel like they have had to put on a brave face admitting that they have been unable to concentrate at work or had an unproductive day.

Cost of living is top concern contributing to pleasanteeism

Despite these workers putting on a brave face, behind closed doors it’s a different story with more people saying they are struggling to cope at work (31% – up from 25% in May 2021) and 34% not coping in everyday life.

A number of factors are contributing to people feeling this way, in particular 31% admit to being worried about money and the rising cost of living, while 23% are stressed at work, with 17% revealing they’re suffering from burnout.

Better support and benefits for every employee

Findings from the research demonstrate that more can be done to tackle pleasanteeism and the negative impact that it is having on workers and business productivity. In fact, over half (53%) of workers revealed that their expectations of their employer to support their mental health are higher now than they were before the pandemic, however they expect this support to be offered to every member of staff. 66% of workers surveyed said that they believe benefits should be offered to the whole of a company’s workforce, not just the select few, while 46% said that it’s unfair that healthcare and wellbeing benefits aren’t currently offered to the whole of their workforce.

Shaun Williams, CEO & Founder, Lime Global Ltd, commented: “After two years of stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic, concerns over health and wellbeing are understandably on the rise among these workers. It’s therefore vital that companies act to offer each one of their employees as much support as possible. Not only is it the right thing to do, but amid a backdrop of economic uncertainty, low productivity and staff shortages, it will be crucial to help drive down absenteeism and protect retail businesses’ bottom lines.

“Providing access to inclusive healthcare benefits – that are designed to make a tangible impact – combined with a company culture that supports an open dialogue around the challenges that people are facing, are key steps to producing a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.”

Many retail, catering & leisure workers also said they would welcome small initiatives from their employer including greater flexibility in working hours (21%), and mental health days off (18%). While a quarter (25%) said they would like their employer to be more mindful of their workload and work/life balance.

Dr Ben Littlewood-Hillsdon, Medical Director at HealthHero, commented: “No one’s health or resilience should be taken for granted, particularly during difficult periods such as these. Acting to prioritise our own wellbeing and that of our colleagues, doesn’t always require a lot of work – the first step is to create space to have an open conversation, ask questions and make it clear that there will be no negative repercussions from talking about the challenges people are facing.

Everyone’s health and resilience are equally important, employers really will reap the rewards if they take time to consider and support the wellbeing of each member of their team, that’s the key to building a stronger and more successful UK workforce.”