What is ‘leavism’ and does it impact my employees?

A quick summary:

  • Leavism meaning
  • How to identify leavism in the workplace
  • The consequence of leavism in your team
  • How to address leavism within employees
  • Our final thoughts

We’ve heard of absenteeism and presenteeism, and we’ve even covered ‘pleasanteeism’. Now, it’s time to discuss the new term on the block, ‘leavism’.

As the workplace evolves, new terminologies are founded. Take ‘WFH’ for example. Who knew most of us would become familiar with this abbreviation? But unfortunately, the latest addition — leavism — highlights a growing workplace epidemic.

Employees are increasingly overworking, burning out and enjoying their jobs less and less. But this is no new challenge. Instead, some leaders have been avoiding these signs for years.  

Through neglect, the term ‘leavism’ has touched down in the LinkedIn sphere and across HR departments. But before tackling problems, we must first understand them.

In this guide to leavism, we’re exploring everything you need to know as a manager. From its meaning to its consequences. We’ll also look at various ways to address leavism in the workplace. Let’s dive into things!

What is leavism?

Leavism is a term that describes employees who take time away from work – typically in the form of annual leave – just to use that free time to focus on work projects and tasks. Need we say anything else for you to realise just how damaging that can be?

And although the term has been around since 2013, its prevalence has escalated in remote-first workplaces. Employees are finding it increasingly difficult to close their work equipment like a laptop and disconnect from projects and duties.

What’s more, Leavism takes shape in various forms. It might be making phone calls whilst on vacation. It could be responding to emails whilst an OOO notice has been activated. No matter how small, these are all forms of leavism in the workplace.

On the surface, leavism might appear as the solution to higher productivity and output. After all, employees are working even longer, right? The reality is, employees are more prone to mistakes, and errors.

Think about it. When was the last time you took a break, returned to work and felt refreshed and ready for whatever challenges come your way? This is usually how most of us feel after a holiday.

But those who exhibit leavism behaviours do not receive the same re-energised experience from taking time away from work.

So what causes leavism? For some employees, it’s the fear of falling behind, being replaced or being frowned upon for missing deadlines and projects. For others, it’s to avoid distractions or interruptions from colleagues.

But neither of these reasons are healthy. Employees should always use annual leave as a time to step back from work duties. A time to support better work-life balance, relaxation and recharge.

Unfortunately, workloads aren’t designed to end, and no matter how close we come to finishing a project, there’s a new one awaiting. Now, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as it provides us with a meaningful and fulfilling job.

One more consideration when understanding leavism is this… if your employees are struggling with some of the causes listed above, it could be a time to reflect.

Think about your current approach to people management, your company’s benefits and initiatives and other strategies put in place. If leavism is happening on a wide scale within your organisation, it might signal that change is needed at the top.

An unhappy employee working from home
How to identify leavism at work

How to identify leavism in the workplace

Before we dive into the consequences of leavism, let’s assess a few ways to identify these issues within your team. This list below is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of the signs to look out for.

  • Employees are active on communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams
  • Team members respond to emails despite being on annual leave
  • Your staff have come forward with issues of burnout or overworking
  • It’s become apparent employees are working at the weekends

Any of these signals above should demonstrate a growing problem of leavism within your company. Make sure to quash these before they escalate.

The consequences of leavism in your team

In this next section, we’re looking at the various reasons why you should take leavism seriously. From the repercussion on workplace wellbeing to individual performance and output. Find out why leavism doesn’t come without detrimental impacts.

Poor work-life balance and relationships

The most obvious consequence of leavism is the impact it has on our social and emotional wellbeing. When we’re so committed to one problem — like a work project — we fail to acknowledge everything else crumbling around us.

Our relationships with others rely on appearances and communication. And without, they gradually fade. It’s not long then before we fall into the leavism trap. Fewer friends and more work commitments.

But it’s not just friends, this can also be said for our families or spouse too. An absence due to work can see fewer invitations to family events, and a lack of connection from a spouse. All in all, it can be damaging to our social lives in various ways.

Emotionally, we can become so alone, isolated and stressed that just isn’t sustainable. The stress is carried around like a burden, and under poor mental health, we’re unable to perform at our best in the workplace.

Eventually, leavism creates a vicious circle of becoming prone to stress that we bring back into the workplace and fail to perform, which means we take our work back home to catch up, and land right where we began.
As the demand for better health and wellbeing continues to skyrocket in the workplace, we decided this makes the top of our list. If you want to ensure employees are healthy and happy in the workplace, it’s time to address leavism.

An employee smiling at her desk in the office
Consequences of leavism in the workplace

Productivity and performance are diminished

We’d all love to feel less tired, exhausted or low on energy. Imagine how much we could get done! But that’s just not realistic. By overworking we are making it much harder to focus and perform during working hours.

You see, most people choose to return to work fresh and energised. But if you’ve been working flat out since you left your desk, burdened by leavism, then there’s been no reasonable respite.

This applies to employees who use annual leave hours or evenings after work to continue on projects and tasks. In the beginning, it may seem manageable. But as we work more hours, our emotional wellbeing takes a hit and we start to struggle.

Like most of us, you will have an assigned amount of annual leave each year. Using this allowance solely to work means we’re losing out on quality time with friends and family. And once it’s gone, we can only reflect on the work we’ve done outside of work.

It’s quite clear why this isn’t healthy and why this form of leavism needs to be addressed. Ultimately, we must take time away to rejuvenate and step back from commitments and projects.

Remember: leavism doesn’t help us tackle problems. If anything, it can be responsible for new obstacles in life.

Leavism harms brand reputation and company culture

Moving on, let’s discuss how leavism can hinder reputation and culture. Firstly, if employees are aware of other employees using annual leave to work, it may be perceived as toxic management.

Most people do not feel as though their annual leave requires them to work. It’s important leaders lead by example and speak with employees who feel the need to work during annual leave.

Both turning a blind eye or praising these behaviours sends a bad message to your wider workforce. Leavism isn’t something to reward, and it can impact brand reputation.

In fact, even investors may reject your business if it sees traits of toxic management or working styles. The ‘hustle culture’ that is so evident in businesses large and small must be extinguished.

It’s an unattractive characteristic that will drive every stakeholder away from your business. Don’t let ‘hustle culture’, i.e leavism impact everything your company has achieved up to now.

Closely followed is organisational culture. If employees begin to feel as though they just can’t get ahead, opting to work their weekends and holidays, then change is needed. This is a sign of leavism.

Company culture is the driving force behind engagement, job satisfaction and many other critical attributes of a successful organisation.

Leaders who want to construct a great work environment must focus on their culture and quash overworking and burnout in employees. Not convinced? Here are several reasons why company culture is absolutely critical:

  1. It contributes to a better brand reputation
  2. Culture can be leveraged to help achieve organisational goals
  3. It’s one of the major drivers for attracting and retaining talent
  4. Productivity goes through the roof with an exceptional culture

These are just a few of the reasons your company’s culture is pivotal. Start building healthier, happier workplaces by demolishing leavism at work.

Declined job satisfaction

Despite how it may appear, leavism doesn’t suggest employees are ecstatic about the job. In fact, working tirelessly throughout the weekends may be a sign of fear. Fear of a toxic manager or the consequences of missing deadlines.

Whilst most of us can happily say we like our jobs, leavism can contribute to weakened job satisfaction. That’s because, no matter how much we enjoy our careers, we all need a break from time to time.

The general consensus is that we use our weekends and annual leave for this purpose. If you, as an employee aren’t making the most of your time away from work, you can expect to fall out of love with your job very quickly.

Here are some tips that you can either suggest to employees or utilise yourself. They should help you step back and enjoy your time away from your desk.

  • Put an ‘Out of Office’ on your emails
  • Let colleagues know you’re completely unavailable
  • Do not take your laptop home after work
  • Finish tasks and duties before the end of the day
  • Better plan your day to avoid missed deadlines and overworking

Ultimately, a decline in job satisfaction due to leavism can affect business performance. When we just aren’t happy with our job, our productivity and creativity drop.

Try implementing new ways to tackle leavism. Once you’ve done this, track employee job satisfaction using our HR cheat sheet.

A woman working at home on her bed
How should you address leavism in employees?

How to address leavism in the workplace

Now that we’ve covered some of the most pressing concerns around leavism, you’re probably wondering how you can address this issue. You might be surprised to hear that it’s relatively easy.

Let’s look at a couple of ways to tackle leavism in the workplace, starting with setting healthy boundaries for employees.

Setting boundaries for employees

As employees, we sometimes feel as though it’s our duty to get projects over the line. This may mean we overrun our day by five or ten minutes. Anything longer can severely irritate us.

As a manager, it’s important to set boundaries and highlight these to employees who appear to be stepping the line. Just as we want employees to perform their best, we should be as strict with them overworking.

If employees exhibit behaviours of leavism, pull them to one side for a quick chat. Remember, leavism will most certainly come back to bite your business in the way of performance and output.

When we say ‘set boundaries’ we mean create a set of rules for employees to follow. Your boundaries might look something like this:

  1. Employees shouldn’t work beyond their working hours
  2. Laptops must remain in the office environment at all times
  3. Deadlines can be reviewed to support employees
  4. Employees shouldn’t struggle alone — speak up
  5. Teams should work collaboratively to get projects done

There are a number of other ideas and rules to consider when it comes to extinguishing leavism and setting boundaries for employees.

CIPD survey statistics on leavism in the workplace
CIPD leavism findings during a 2021 wellbeing survey

Offer ongoing support for employees

Our final idea for addressing leavism as a manager is to offer ongoing support. This includes wellbeing meetings and other communication that conveys the company’s stance on leavism (overworking).

Try to check in with employees as regularly as possible. Not to discuss deadlines and progress, but to ask how they feel about upcoming deadlines and projects. Do they need support? Are they comfortable with expectations?

These questions can bring to the surface signs of leavism. If employees are open, they may respond by saying they have been working outside of work to get projects completed.

Team members who exhibit these signs need support. It’s a leader’s duty to understand the seriousness of leavism. Find out just how often said employee(s) are working outside of working hours.

Are they taking equipment home? Does work make them feel anxious, worried or stressed? Get to know employees on a personal level to be able to offer ongoing support.

The truth is, not every employee will come forward with problems surrounding leavism. It’s by building better relationships with employees that you can create a sense of openness and honesty as a manager.

Top tip: to better understand your team’s mental health and wellbeing, try the following two resources we have put together for leaders:

Final thoughts on Leavism

There you have it, our take on leavism. In this complete guide, we’ve covered ways to address leavism, how to identify it within your team and more. You should by now be thinking about the way employees use annual leave and how to promote healthier, happier breaks from work responsibilities.

It isn’t just personal wellbeing that is affected by leavism, but also performance, productivity and even reputation and culture. For an issue that can spin up so many problems, leaders must grasp leavism and learn how to combat it.

Don’t let leavism become detrimental to your company’s success. If you’ve read this far, you likely care about both your company and its workforce. The greatest of leaders understand just how important employees are in the grand scheme of things.

As long as you look after your team, they will look after your business. If you’d like to learn more ways to create healthier, happier workforces, get in touch! We’re an employee wellbeing platform and our experts are on hand to help you.

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