What is Leaveism and How Can We Stop It?

Topic(s): burnout, stress, wellness
Publication: Human Resource Management Journal
Article: Developing the concept of leaveism: From presenteeism/absence to an emergent and expanding domain of employment?
Authors: J. Richards, V. Ellis, J Canduela, T. Pustelnikovaite, S. Saxena
Reviewed by: Grace Cox

Leaveism is a workplace concept that researchers are just starting to explore. There are three distinct behaviors that fall under the heading of leaveism: (1) employees using paid time off when they are actually sick, (2) employees taking work home that they couldn’t finish during normal working hours, and (3) employees working while on leave to catch up. Because this concept is so new, researchers (Richards et al., 2023) worked to solidify the definitions and drivers of leaveism.


The researchers conducted an exploratory study, sending surveys to 959 participants to capture their experiences of leaveism. Through these responses, the researchers found that the three biggest drivers of leaveism were feelings of higher workplace expectations or work overload, increased use of technology that connects people to work, and changing ideas of what an ideal worker looks like. Many participants (88%) said that they felt burnt out at work and believed they needed to continue working beyond typical hours to stay on top of their ever-growing responsibilities. Beyond that, between 30-50% of participants said they felt expected to work during non-work hours, and that the increased use of technology always made them feel connected to work – never being given a chance to step away, even for the night.


While leaveism is just beginning to be studied in academic literature, we can already detect emerging links between these behaviors and burnout, lower job satisfaction and performance, and poorer worker well-being. To protect their employees against the harmful effects of leaveism, managers and organizations should consider doing the following:

  • Work with employees to create reasonable timelines for work to be accomplished that do not involve employees being forced to work during “off-hours.”
  • Encourage employees to disconnect from work at night or during time off. Leaders can set a good example by disconnecting themselves.
  • Create policies to protect employees. HR managers may want to consider banning the practice of emailing after hours or setting up automatic “out of office” replies for any emails sent after hours.
  • Work to enforce time off and holiday breaks and ensure they are being taken without the expectation of still being connected to work.


Richards, J., Ellis, V., Canduela, J., Pustelnikovaite, T., & Saxena, S. (2023). Developing the concept of leaveism: From presenteeism/absence to an emergent and expanding domain of employment? Human Resource Management Journal, 33, 384-405.

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