The business world has an ever-expanding lexicon to describe different employee phenomena that are occurring more frequently in the modern working world. These terms include presenteeism, absenteeism and leaveism, but recently, Lime Global Limited has coined a new term to describe people’s unhealthy working habits. The term, appropriately named “pleasanteeism”, refers to the pressure employees face to hide feelings of stress and anxiety. It alludes to the mask of pleasantries people put on when they want to hide their true feelings behind a more “pleasant” façade.
The rise of pleasanteeism in the workplace
In recent years, there has been a push for businesses to be more open about mental health in the workplace, to create better support structures for employees, and to break stigmas and encourage conversation.
In the UK alone, around 14% of employees suffer from a mental health condition at any given time, meaning that employers need to invest in the appropriate support for managers and staff. Investing in staff wellbeing could save the UK economy as much as £8 billion every year.
A new phenomenon, however, is now on the table, or at least according to a recent August 2021 study undertaken by Lime Global Limited. The study’s findings have shown that the mental health and resilience of employees is further threatened by a rise in workplace pleasanteeism brought about by the pandemic.
Due to lockdowns and social distancing measures, many workers feel as though they are no longer able to open up and confide in others. This has had a negative impact on the nation’s working life, with 40% of people stating they feel less resilient than they did before the pandemic started.
This statistic is particularly interesting because, although 40% of people are hiding how they truly feel at work, 40% of respondents also noted that they would be able to notice that a colleague was struggling with their mental health. 37% went even further and said that they became concerned about a colleague over the pandemic.
Who is struggling with pleasanteeism?
Women and young people are taking the brunt when it comes to pleasanteeism, with many women struggling with childcare over the pandemic, or taking on extra jobs.
Lime reported that 56% of women – compared to 45% of men – feel as though they should put a brave face on at work since returning to the office environment.
Pleasanteeism is also affecting young people rising into employment. 44% of men and 61% of women aged 16-24 are struggling with returning to a working/educational environment following the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
This could be due to the fact that many young people haven’t had the opportunity to gain work experience ever the past 18 months, meaning that their entry to the workplace can be highly stressful.
Pleasanteeism can also be a prevalent struggle in workspaces that don’t have a positive community and work culture. In workspaces that neglect staff wellbeing, it is difficult to discuss genuine feelings, leading to a rise in pleasanteeism, as well as the possibility of presenteeism, absenteeism and leaveism. This can be easily eradicated with a healthier working attitude.
Is pleasanteeism prevalent in your business?
It can be difficult to strike a balance between keeping workplace chatter professional, whilst also giving a clear insight into how individual employees are feeling. However, if you notice any of the following signs, it could be an indicator that pleasanteeism is prevalent in your business.
Rising cases of presenteeism (when employees show up to work in spite of poor mental or physical health) could be an indicator that some of your workers are suffering from pleasanteeism; they find it difficult to say when work is getting too much.
- Generic responses
When staff answer questions such as ‘how are you’ with ‘great’ or other generic responses that convey positivity unconvincingly, rather than giving a genuine response.
- Inability to say no
Never saying ‘no’ when given a task, although it may not be completed on time due to other responsibilities
Spending abnormal hours in the office to complete tasks.
- Not asking for help
Crying at work or exhaustion, but still not asking for help.
It can be difficult to broach the subject of pleasanteeism, as it is involves changing the norms of workplace conversation. However, currently in the UK only 16% of those asked about their mental health feel as though they receive adequate support at work, compared with the 81% who want further support from their employers for their health and wellbeing.
It is important that pleasanteeism is acknowledged and acted upon to help safeguard the wellbeing of staff, and to enhance work productivity, staff retention and employee satisfaction.
3 ways to tackle pleasanteeism in your business
- Understand how your employees are truly feeling
Take note of absence reports, as well as surveys to understand any areas for concern. It may be beneficial to ask for specific feedback, such as ‘is there anything we can do to better your mental wellbeing’.
It might be helpful to arrange some team-building tasks that aren’t linked to work to help create a healthier bond between your employees, making it easier for an open conversation about mental health when you return to the office.
Annual office events, such as family days, Christmas dinners and office socials, can help to show your employees that you aren’t just their ‘boss’, but also someone who values their wellbeing.
As employees are struggling to open up, it may also be useful for leadership and management teams to be more vocal about their struggles post-pandemic. This will again help to show a ‘whole-team’ spirit when it comes to tackling poor mental health.
- Consider mental health training
Implementing regular training programmes such as Line Manager Training, Wellbeing Champion Training or Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) may be integral to your employee wellbeing strategy.
MHFA training can be just as important as physical first aid training and may provide useful knowledge to employees in providing first-line support for their colleagues.
Having a team of Mental Health First Aiders in the office will show your employees that you are serious about providing support, and it can also help to promote awareness and education about mental health.
By holding mental health awareness days, and implementing policies such as open-door policies, businesses can improve their workplace culture and help tackle the onset of pleasanteeism.
- Allow employee downtime
Encourage employees to take a step back and find the right headspace. This could be something as simple as suggesting a lunchtime walk or providing leaflets on the correct way to implement a ‘self-care’ routine.
You could even manage your work scheduling to include a ‘free hour’ in people’s routines that can’t be filled with meetings, or setting mandatory ‘out of hours’ emails, so your employees don’t work late into the night. This can be effective in increasing resilience, as well as creating a more positive work environment for all.
When tackling pleasanteeism, it is important to reflect on what changes you can make to your workplace to ensure a more supportive environment, especially in the aftermath of lockdowns and social distancing measures.
Leaving cases of pleasanteeism to thrive can be detrimental to the overall mental health and wellbeing of employees, and may find reflection in lower productivity and staff output. By promoting a healthier attitude to work, resilience is being strengthened in the workplace and beyond.
Thrive4Life is at your side in helping businesses safeguard employee health and wellbeing
Our training services include Line Manager Training, Wellbeing Champion Training and Mental Health First Aid. We can help your business with putting together a health and wellbeing promotion campaign. Our promotional services include educational webinars delivered by health and wellbeing experts, as well as health and wellbeing newsletters and other digital content.
 Mental Health and Work, Royal College of Psychiatrists, available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/212266/hwwb-mental-health-and-work.pdf.
 Removing barriers: The facts about mental health and employment, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, available at: www.ohrn.nhs.uk/resource/policy/TheFactsaboutMentalHealth.pdf.
[3, 4, 5, 6 & 7] Keeping up appearances: How pleasanteeism is eroding resilience, Lime Global Limited, available at: https://uploads-ssl.webflow.com/5ebaa388b12fd1b0b7366429/610289183978c97ab6bc84bb_LIME_MentalHealth_29-07-21.pdf.