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The normalisation of overwork: A scoping study of Leavism

Richards, James; Pustelnikovaite, Toma; Ellis, Vaughan; Canduela, Jesus


James Richards

Toma Pustelnikovaite

Jesus Canduela


The proposed paper focuses on Leaveism, understood as employees using allocated time off to work (CIPD, 2018). Leaveism involves using allocated time off when actually unwell, taking work home that cannot be completed in normal working hours, and, working while on leave to catch up (Hesketh et al., 2014). Leaveism is common in work organisations (e.g. see CIPD, 2018) and has negative implications for employee well-being and performance (Hesketh et al., 2015; Gerich, 2015; Miller, 2016), yet remains under-researched.
The paper offers a review of the limited literature on Leaveism and a survey of employees practising Leaveism. The aim is to further theorise Leaveism and in turn inform organisational and industrial relations practice regarding Leaveism.

Given the research shortfall and apparent relevance to studies of the labour process, the proposed research is based on answering four research questions:
1) What is the scope and impact of Leaveism for UK employees?
2) How does Leaveism differ depending on gender, disability and age?
3) How do flexible working and well-being policies impact on Leaveism?
4) How can the findings inform organisational/industrial relations practice related to Leaveism?

Data was gathered via an e-survey, principally based on closed questions (n=1070). Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook were used to distribute the survey. Nearly 500 participants provided further comments on Leaveism, culminating in approximately 32,000 words of qualitative data.

A full analysis of the data is ongoing, but set to be completed early 2020. Early findings broadly suggest negative employee experiences of Leaveism, emphasising above all else a normalisation of overwork. Between now and the conference, further analysis of quantitative and qualitative data will be done, plus further drawing out of practical and theoretical implications from the findings. Qualitative data will be analysed using themes related to work centrality (Hyman et al., 2003), ideal worker (Acker, 1990) and boundary work (Abbot, 1995), a range of theories suited to conceptualising a normalisation of overwork.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name International Labour Process Conference
Start Date Apr 15, 2020
End Date Apr 17, 2020
Deposit Date Nov 4, 2019
Public URL