Pleasanteeism and its impact on wellbeing at work

A quick summary:

  1. What is pleasanteeism?
  2. How can pleasanteeism affect wellbeing at work?
  3. How to prevent pleasanteeism in your team
  4. Questions to ask unhappy employees
  5. Our conclusion on pleasanteeism in the workplace

Pleasanteeism can be an HR department’s worst nightmare. Not every people manager understands what pleasanteeism entails, or the various prevention methods.

Now, most leaders are familiar with absenteeism and presenteeism; characteristics that wreak havoc on the engagement, job satisfaction and happiness metrics of some businesses.

But as we navigate the aftermath of the pandemic, in a time of heightened uncertainty, leaders must recognise that pleasanteeism is the result of a neglected employee wellbeing strategy.

The solution? Employers must do more — it’s as simple as that. If employees do not feel heard or valued, it is an open invitation for pleasanteeism to fester.

We’ve put together this guide to pleasanteeism to better prepare leaders. Here, we’re going to discuss what it is and what it means for your business. How it hinders wellbeing and some preventive measures to put in place.

We’ll then turn our attention to questions to ask unhappy employees, before rounding things up with our conclusion on pleasanteeism. So, without further ado, let’s jump right into this trending topic.

An employee suffering from pleasanteeism at work
What is pleasanteeism in the workplace?

What is pleasanteeism?

Pleasanteeism refers to the concealed stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil employees experience in their day-to-day working lives.

And in an age of pressure to create corporate openness to mental health, employees feel they must hide negative emotions in the workplace. In fact, more than half of UK employees have reported feeling the need to appear okay, despite suffering from poor wellbeing at work.

That isn’t all, almost one in five are concerned about their stress being visible to others at work, proving pleasanteeism to be a growing concern for HR leaders.

The reason some people decide to cover up their mental health and wellbeing needs is that they'd prefer to suggest everything is fine, and so as not to seem disruptive or problematic.

However, pleasanteeism should be seen as a stepping-stone to much larger problems. Disguising one’s emotions for too long creates unhappiness and despair. Leading to present employees, yet weakening performance and productivity.

This downward spiral doesn’t end there, as employees will quickly develop traits of absenteeism, which will certainly have a knock-on effect on your business.

How pleasanteeism can impact employee wellbeing

Pleasanteeism is caused largely by a toxic workplace environment. In an ideal world, people can express their emotions without feeling uncomfortable doing so.

In certain workplaces, however, this just isn’t the case. In these environments, people are discouraged to open up about how they feel, and instead, encouraged to leave whatever problems they are facing at the door.

This approach to workplace culture must be abolished by leaders if they are to avoid pleasanteeism in the office. In recent years, burnout has become a status of hard work and determination.

Yet a much less appealing picture is painted in reality when it comes to mental health and employee wellbeing. In simple terms, pleasanteeism stands against everything toxic workplaces have become over the past decade.

Leaders cannot develop a culture of health and happiness when the same ship is steered by hustle culture. Whilst the stigmas remain around topics like mental health and emotional wellbeing, employees will continue to conceal what they think and feel.

Without openness in the workplace, employees will bottle their emotions until the only answer for them is to depart your business. Don’t let pleasanteeism be the reason for losing talent.

A quiet office space communal area
Signs of pleasanteeism in your team

Signs of pleasanteeism in your employees:

We’ve included a few points of the characteristics and traits of pleasanteeism that you might notice amongst your team:

  • Unusually short-tempered
  • Uninterested in projects and tasks
  • Low mood or noticeable unhappiness
  • Poor communication or effort to socialise
  • Concealed worry and anxiety
  • Symptoms of burnout
  • Vocally negative towards the workplace

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should round up the qualities you can expect from an employee suffering from pleasanteeism in the workplace. This list should give leaders the signs they need to look out for, and reason to approach the issue compassionately.

The difference between pleasanteeism, presenteeism and absenteeism

While they sound the same, pleasanteeism, presenteeism and absenteeism do differ slightly in their definitions. Leaders should familiarise themselves with the terminologies. Below, we’ve defined all three words to give you a better understanding of their meanings.  

Pleasanteeism: Concealing emotional turmoil and stress, so as not to come across as disruptive and problematic to colleagues and managers.

Presenteeism: Being present in the workplace, yet delivering underperforming results and/or showing a lack of productivity or care towards one’s work - presenteeism is very closely linked to pleasanteeism.

Absenteeism: Probably the furthest difference between the three, absenteeism occurs when employees are absent from their jobs without good or clear reason - often caused by issues in the workplace.

Whether that’s problems with colleagues or managers, stress-related issues, or overall lack of job satisfaction, there’s a variety of causes for absenteeism.

We recommend reading Investopdia's much more in-depth absenteeism definition. Likewise, we also recommend checking out Investopedia’s presenteeism definition.

A group of millennial employees looking at a laptop
How to prevent pleasanteeism

How to prevent pleasanteeism in the workplace

Knowing how to minimise pleasanteeism is essential to improving wellbeing at work, and showing your team that you care as a leader.

From leading by example for employees to educating your team, and investing in better initiatives, we’ve covered it all below.

Leading by example is key

First and quite possibly the most important pleasanteeism prevention tactic is leading by example. Show employees that it’s okay to experience the ups and downs of everyday life. Be open with your own emotions, and make it a habit to ask your team members how they are feeling.

Leading by example is one of the quickest ways to boost wellbeing at work. Bulldozing these walls of worry, judgement and backlash will see pleasanteeism vanish from employees, and an open culture of health and wellbeing emerge.

It’s no secret that leaders possess a lot of influence over their workforce. If they exhibit low energy, their team reflects this in their own efforts and performance. If they appear unhappy or frustrated, so too will their employees.

Creating a culture that is open, honest and emphatic starts at the top. Pleasanteeism is the result of stigmas around health and wellbeing discussions. How are you leading by example? Are you using your power to eliminate pleasanteeism?

Educate your team on mental health and wellbeing at work

To understand, we must learn. It is when we are unaware or lack knowledge, that problems and misconceptions occur — this notion is applicable in everyday life and a million different scenarios, including pleasanteeism.

By training and educating your team on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, you can do away with pleasanteeism. Whether it’s hiring a speaker or offering an online course, the more understanding employees, the easier it is to construct a supportive and amicable workplace — one that detects and averts pleasanteeism.

Educating your workforce means creating a team who can identify poor wellbeing at work - rather than ridicule, attack, or conceal negative emotions.

Invest in employee wellbeing initiatives‍

Our final idea for preventing pleasanteeism is to invest in employee wellbeing initiatives. No, not beanbags or ping-pong tables, but genuine and meaningful benefits.

You know, the kind that focuses on the health, wellbeing and happiness of people in the workplace; the exact reasons — when neglected — causes pleasanteeism.

Examine your current employee benefits scheme, and consider how many initiatives focus on wellbeing. You might be surprised to learn that your current offering is too generic and doesn’t support personalisation.

It’s not to say that alone, your benefits package can resolve pleasanteeism, but you may be a lot closer to achieving this with better incentives.  

Be it subsidised gym memberships, 1-2-1 wellbeing meetings, team building activities or learning and development opportunities, as a leader, it’s your job to think outside the box when it comes to wellbeing at work.

Below, we’ve listed a few questions to ask your HR department when it comes to pleasanteeism and your current employee benefits package.

  1. What is the utilisation rate of our current benefits?
  2. What percentage of our perks focus on personalised wellbeing?
  3. Have we ever conducted surveys or feedback on our incentives?
  4. Which new perks can we invest in to minimise pleasanteeism?
  5. What processes do we have in place to ensure benefits don’t become stale?

By asking the right questions to your human resources department, you should uncover the right answers to tackle pleasanteeism at work.

Other ways to quash pleasanteeism in the workplace...

Our list above doesn’t include every way you can prevent pleasanteeism. However, to give you a better chance of quashing this workplace problem, we’ve listed some other ideas to explore.

Like all of our guides, including this one about pleasanteeism in the workplace, we recommend doing your own research. No two workforces are the same, and what works for one company, may not work for yours.

An empty office space
Our final thoughts on pleasanteeism

Our final thoughts on pleasanteeism

There you have it! Our guide to pleasanteeism in the workplace. By now, you should realise how damaging toxic work environments can be.

How your employee benefits can do more harm than good, and why a people-first culture is a must.

When leaders put their team's needs first, they can prevent pleasanteeism. That's where many organisations lack in their efforts to support healthier, happier employees.

Much like presenteeism and absenteeism, pleasanteeism mustn't linger. The longer it's allowed to occur, the higher the chances of losing talent.

As we enter 2023, leaders should focus on eliminating 'hustle culture'. Not only is it self-destructive for our wellbeing, but it keeps pleasanteeism alive.

The idea of "putting on a brave face" is unsustainable for our health and happiness. Employers mustn't endorse it and employees should adhere to it.

In our recent resource on wellbeing trends in 2023, we discussed self-settling. A concept that insists we accept what we have in life, rather than beat ourselves up over what we do not have.

It's a way of living that helps us reject hustle culture and the need to work harder and harder.

But it isn't only 'hustle culture' that has its roots in pleasanteeism. Employers must also quash toxic leadership styles.

Things like micromanagement, neglecting employee concerns and ignoring the signs of unhappy staff. These are all traits that feed the beast of pleasanteeism.

Before we let you go, let us introduce you to something that can help do away with pleasanteeism once and for all — Heka!

Let Heka take care of your team’s wellbeing in 2023

When it comes to employee wellbeing, there are a ton of great ways to increase health and happiness. It’s just knowing where to start!

Here at Heka, our employee wellbeing platform helps HR professionals and leaders alike transform their employee benefits schemes. We achieve this by offering access to more than a thousand experiences, services and products.

Whether it’s healthy meal deliveries straight to your doorstep, virtual therapy sessions, or helping your team build a fitter lifestyle, there’s something for everyone. So, if you’re serious about implementing wellbeing at work, book a demo with our experts.

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