Employee burnout a major cause of absenteeism

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The World Cup brought the issue of absenteeism firmly back into the spotlight once again, with Canada Life Group Insurance research revealing that almost one in ten employees would take unnecessary sick leave during the tournament to watch a match. However, this is more than just a passing phase, as more than one in four employees (26%) admitted to taking time off work when they’re not ill.

Although some have called in sick for trivial reasons, such as a hangover, many employees cited stress or tiredness as the reason. This suggests that they or their employers do not equate these conditions with physical illnesses, or do not recognise the potential seriousness if these are not properly addressed.

Employee burnout a major cause of absenteeism

Over one in six (17%) of those who have called in sick, despite not being ill, did so because they were tired. 12% of respondents said they needed time off due to work-related stress but didn’t want to admit it. This suggests employee ‘burnout’, caused by a lopsided work/life balance, is one of the leading causes of absenteeism. It also highlights a concerning lack of communication between employees and their employers when conditions in the workplace are contributing to poor health.

Employer attitudes towards staff leave are also a significant cause of unnecessary absence: almost a quarter (23%) felt they had to call in sick because they had a family emergency but did not want to use annual leave, while one in ten (9%) wanted time off but instead called in sick as their employer made them feel guilty about taking annual leave.

However, some have pulled a sickie for more trivial reasons, with 9% saying they had a hangover and 12% turning to unnecessary sick leave when they wanted time off but had run out of annual leave. It is important for employers to understand why their employees are going to such lengths and conversations about the work environment and what is expected from both employers and employees can be beneficial in any organisation struggling with a high rate of absence.

Why did you take unnecessary sick leave? All Male Female
Needed to deal with a family emergency but did not want to take annual leave 23% 19% 24%
I was tired 17% 21% 15%
I needed time off for stress (caused by my job) but didn’t want to admit it 12% 10% 13%
I wanted time off but had run out of annual leave 12% 10% 13%
I had a hangover 9% 10% 9%

Paul Avis, Marketing Director at Canada Life Group Insurance, comments:

There is a big difference between calling in sick because of a hangover and doing so because of more serious problems such as stress or being overworked. While it is unlikely employees will repeatedly pull a sickie for trivial reasons, failing to address underlying issues such as workplace stress and an unhealthy work/life balance will undoubtedly result in recurrent patterns of absenteeism. This will then have a significant negative impact on business productivity.


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3 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. I am not convinced the title of this article mirrors the results.
    Burnout is total exhaustion mentally and physically – it is not just feeling tired. There are many reasons for tiredness – both physically and psychologically and these may or may not be related to work.
    |My experience is that many people blame work for their health state but when we do an individual Wellbeing/Risk Assessment based on the 6 key factors it helps to put work and home life into perspective.
    My concern is more about the percentage who felt unable to admit how they felt which tells me a lot about the organisations culture.
    there is no one magic bullet and it is therefore vital that clear assessments are made and Organisational Risk Assessments are carried out regularly as required by law.
    These can give masses of information about an organisation and indicate where to start to ask the staff why they are not engaged and ask those who are coping well to share their ‘secret’

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