Why presenteeism is rife among teachers

But like Ruth, she found that just one day off would lead to more stress in the long run.

Jo tells us: ‘I would often find that having to sort resources and lesson plans for a covering teacher took me twice as long as if I was going to teach myself, as the plan would need to be more detailed and would often differ from what I would have done as their teacher with them.

‘This was especially the case when you did not know anything about the person covering.’

Jo says that when she did take the odd sick day, she would often end up planning the next day’s lesson instead of recuperating.

The general consensus seems to be that there isn’t enough support for teachers who are absent due to illness, making presenteeism the least painful option.

The 2018 Teacher Wellbeing Index found that 36% of teachers feel they have no form of mental health support at work. A huge 64% of schools admits they don’t regularly survey their staff to gauge their sense of wellbeing.

Counselling Directory member Louise Whitnall says that choosing to go to work with an illness is a personal choice, depending on how extreme your symptoms are.

‘For those who are physically unwell, it may just be not possible to work and the only way to get well is to rest,’ says Louise. ‘With mental illness, sometimes work is a useful tool to help people manage their depression.

‘Work is very tied up with a sense of identity, respect, meaning and usefulness, all elements that make up a healthy state of mind.’

You should make sure you talk to your GP about the pros and cons of working in relation to your own specific health concerns, but Louise warns that presenteeism could negatively affect your mental wellbeing if you choose to ignore medical advice.

‘The long-term implications of not taking time out will cause stress and could lead to a state of deep depression which will be much more difficult to get out of,’ she explains.

Whether you choose to go to work or not, she advises taking steps to maintain a healthy mind.

Although you may not be able to achieve all of these goals due to health or physiological reasons, she suggests outdoor walks, healthy relationships, keeping yourself free from debt and — maybe the hardest of all — finding an enjoyable job where you feel valued.

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