The Rise of The Zombie Workforce

Of course we don’t literally mean zombies, that would be madness. What we are referring to is the worrying increase in those who decide to work, despite feeling ill or unwell.

According to the Office for National Statistics we’re taking far less days off sick, in 1993 we would take off 7.2 days sick per year. In 2017 that number has almost halved to 4.1 days per year.

You would be forgiven for thinking that this meant that workers are simply healthier and more eager to work, which is true for some, but sadly this isn’t the case for all.


Why Is It Happening?

There are many theories as to why this could be happening. The first is that we’re more health conscious and are going to the gym more. We’re also eating healthier and keeping a closer eye on our mental health.

confused office worker

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The second theory is financial worries. The financial crash in 2008 is where the trend pretty much started. With 0 hour contracts, people are unable to refuse shifts. On top of inflation rising and minimum wage not keeping up.

The third theory is the sheer threat of losing your job. It has become increasingly difficult for job hunters to get into work and those with jobs don’t want to risk becoming jobless, so will do anything they can to keep their job (even if it means they have to suffer).


The Worry of Losing Your Job

It may shock you to know that some big brands, such as Amazon, actually punish those who take time off sick. In Amazon’s case, sick days turn into “points”, which then turn into a disciplinary and eventually leads to job loss.

losing your job

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This account from an anonymous writer reveals that many workers don’t even feel like they can tell their boss that they’re sick – even when they’re diagnosed with serious medical conditions. There is also ‘too much work to do’, so we couldn’t possibly have a day off – or it will just pile up.

The issue with this is that when you force yourself to work when you’re unwell, it completely affects your mood. You become far more depressed and generally low because of it all. Those aged 25-34 admitted that almost 10% of sick days were simply due to mental health.


The Worry of Losing Your Income

In the last 10 years absence rates have decreased by 0.5% to 1.9%. On top of this, there has been a huge surge in those who become self employed. More than 15% of labourers are self employed and there are 4.8 million self employed workers in the UK.

man with empty pockets

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Additionally, the rise of 0 hour contracts has left many taking any and all shifts they’re offered. Worryingly, over 900,000 workers in the UK count their 0 hour contract as their main source of income.

There is also the very sharp rise in gig-economy style workers, for example: Uber, DPD and Deliveroo drivers. These workers do not have the same employment rights as others and are not entitled to sick pay or even minimum wage. Just 1 day off could cost you up to £150.


The Stubbornness of Being a Woman

Almost 80% of women go to work unwell, 10% more than their male coworkers. Women also feel 10% more pressured to go to work.

stubborn woman worker

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Being the “troopers” that we are, we also prefer to use online help to physically going to a doctor – 10% more than our male colleagues. Additionally, almost 75% of those aged 16-34 say having an online doctor would give them ‘peace of mind’.

64.6% of employees under the age of 35 reported delaying medical advice because they didn’t want to take time off work for an appointment.

Understandably, almost 85% of employees in the UK believe that their employers have a responsibility to support employee health and wellbeing.


Employees Aren’t The Only Ones Overworked

You might be sat there thinking that it’s only the workers who suffer and that managers and other higher-ups are having a very peaceful time of it – but they’re not.

overworked in office

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The average entrepreneur in the UK works over 50 hours a week. Worse still, two thirds of business owners only take up to 10 days off per year (with many of those being well under 10).

While we work away to make sure we’ve got food on the table, those who are in charge of us work away to make sure they can even pay us. 500,000 people even worked on Christmas Day in 2016 – worrying more about the business than the family gatherings.


What Should We All Do Then?

There’s no magic wand to make everything and everyone better, but there are few things you can do to reduce stress and time off:

Don’t work unwell…

If you really are feeling sick then you need to rest. Working ill makes it more likely for you to feel sick for longer. You also don’t want to pass any illness onto your coworkers. Stay at home in bed with a cuppa and call a doctor – if the doctor asks you to come into the surgery then do it, they know best.

Take all of your holiday… 

You don’t just slave away for the money, you also get to have time to yourself (28 days a year in the UK). Don’t neglect time and make make sure to spread your time out evenly – don’t book it all over one month. It can also help your mental health in the long term.

Be honest with your boss… 

If you have ongoing issues with physical or mental health then you need to make sure that your boss is made aware. It might be scary, but if they don’t know you’re struggling they won’t know to help you. They are human beings too and are likely to empathise with you. It also takes a weight off your shoulders – you can stop pretending you’re okay!

Stay as healthy as possible…

I’m not saying you need to go on a yoga retreat and eat 5 apples a day, but you do need to make sure you’re not the one causing your own illness. Try not to eat junk foods like crisps and chocolates and also avoid buying lunch out –  not only is it expensive but it’s also far less healthy than making it yourself.

Get off your bum! 

Exercise is also key – even in small doses. If you work at a desk, you need to get up and walk about every 15 minutes or so to ensure you don’t hamper your circulation. Exercise releases chemicals into the body that make us happier, so why ignore them?

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