• Ali H.

Leaveism, a shared responsibility

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

Whilst still relativity under explored, leaveism considers the encroachment of work on what was typically known as your own time, and in essence, considers three aspects:

(1) Employees using leave when sick. (2) When work can’t be finished during typical working hours, employees taking work home. (3) Employees working whilst on leave.

Recent research has advanced the idea that leaveism could be considered an extension of work intensification (WI) and lengthens employee working hours, as well as being propelled by legacy ‘ideal worker’ norms (IW). Albeit these catch-up hours might not be in the office and could be whilst ill, at home or on a commute, they could present harmful linkages to employee health and wellbeing. Furthermore, the legacy expectations around long hours, being busy and ready to pick up work at the drop of the hat, could tap into deep-rooted organisational history in masculinised ideal worker norms. As such, we should consider leaveism as a shared responsibility between follower and organisation (leader).

Work intensification. Work intensification (WI) can be considered as increased work effort, for example, the pace of work, workload or hours worked.

(Old) Ideal worker norms. Broadly speaking, we can consider the legacy Ideal Worker (IW) norms as an employee that is willing to put work as a priority over all other areas of life. (Caveat – this needs to change if we want to tackle the masculinised ideal work norms).

Whilst not exhaustive, here are a few bits to consider.

Organisational Drivers

  • We are short-staffed/lean operating model

  • Workload/certain projects to deliver

  • Culture of overwork

  • Culture of legacy masculinised ideal worker norms

  • Prevent work from pilling up

  • Scrutiny on work absence

Follower Drivers

  • Motivation and love for work and job.

  • Poor time management/difficulty balancing work/life

  • Seeking promotion

  • Insecurity

  • Difficulty detaching

  • Integrator

So, despite a significant call to arms in relation to work-related stress and mental health, leaveism is often considered normal practice by organisational leaders and employees, which certainly presents a significant challenge when we consider intervention. Try these questions to get started.

  • When was the last time you checked in on your team’s recovery practices?

  • What organisational factors can you manage to better prevent your team engaging in leaveism?

  • With fewer home structures facilitating the legacy IW norms. Do you understand what home support structure your team have?

  • Whilst performance might currently be high, are your team engaging in sustainable practice?

  • What team behaviours could be considered harmful to their wellbeing?

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