While absenteeism and presenteeism are established problems within the workplace, there’s another issue that companies need to be aware of: leaveism. What’s more, leaveism is especially insidious because it can go undetected until its damage is already done.

This post explores the idea of leaveism, its forms, causes, and what you can do about it.

What is leaveism?

Leaveism is a term first coined by Dr Ian Hesketh, from the University of Manchester, in 2013 to describe the tendencies of employees who use their annual leave allowance to work outside of their contracted hours.

It comes in a variety of forms, such as:

  • Employees taking work home with them, including checking and responding to calls and emails
  • Employees taking annual leave, or another type of leave for sick leave, such as TOIL or duvet days, instead of calling in sick
  • Employees using their holiday allowance to catch up on work – or to do extra work

What causes leaveism?

Just as leaveism has a variety of guises, it also has a variety of causes

  • High workloads: Employees have so much work assigned to them that they find it difficult, or impossible, to complete it within their contracted hours.
  • Distractions: Employees find the office environment too distracting (co-workers constantly approaching them, socialising, etc) and feel the need to catch up out of hours.
  • Presenteeism: Employees come into work when they’re feeling unwell so they’re less productive. As a result, they feel compelled to take work home to catch up.
  • Insecurity about job position: Employees don’t feel safe in their job position, perhaps due to being new to the company, being a young employee, or (in the case of jobs with targets) a lack of performance.
  • Workaholism: Quite simply, some employees love to work and are particularly career-driven, so they’re happy to take their work home to them.

What are the effects of leaveism?

  • Burnout: If your employees aren’t resting or engaging in recreation on their days off, then they’re bound to burn out. This is could be physical burnout, resulting in susceptibility to falling ill, or it could be mental, resulting in less enthusiasm for work and difficulty in concentrating.
  • Higher staff turnover: If instances of leaveism within your company are caused by excessive workloads, then employees are likely to depart when they come across a similar position that appears to offer a lighter workload – or more money for the same amount of work.
  • A failure to realise how understaffed you are: If your staff are regularly taking on a workload that should be undertaken by more than one person, then you won’t have an accurate representation of how many members of staff you really need.

How can you deal with leaveism?

Communicate with your staff

First and foremost, talk to an employee who’s engaging in leaveism and try to discover why it’s taking place. Is their workload too high? Do they feel insecure about their position in the company? Or are they a workaholic? Understanding the root cause makes it easier to find the most effective solution. Then, once you’ve got to the bottom of their leaveism, encourage, or implore, them to actually switch off when they’re off work.

Assess your flexible working options

If an employee frequently takes home with them because they’re distracted in the office, you could offer them the chance to work remotely or similar flexible working options. If you don’t currently offer many, or any, flexible working options, like the ability to start and finish work earlier, then this would be a good time to start.

Assess workloads

If you find that staff are consistently working outside their contracted hours because they have too much on their plate, you need to sit down with them and assess their workloads. You can then help them prioritise, redistribute their workload among existing employees, or even hire additional staff if necessary. Not only will this solve leaveism issues with specific employees but it will contribute to a company culture where staff aren’t afraid to express the fact that they have too much work.

ScheduleLeave is absence management software that allows you to easily track your employees’ annual leave and sickness absence, better enabling you to identify potential leaveism issues. If you’re interested in how much time ScheduleLeave can save your company, sign up for a free trial