Extra hours fail to improve productivity

Staying at work longer often means people just spread their work and can leave them feeling demotivated and stressed, says a new study.

working mum sits at desk, stressed


Presenteeism is leading to people working overtime at their desks, but many employees say it does not increase their productivity and can be demotivating, according to a new study.

The study by MAXIS Global Benefits Network (MAXIS GBN), based on a survey of 1,000 workers across 10 global markets including the UK, found that 79% of office-based employees work on average 20.4 hours (almost three full working days) beyond their contracted hours each month because they have a company culture where they feel they should be seen at their desk.

In the UK, more than three quarters (79%) of employees staid they work in an office environment where they were expected to be seen at their desk. This culture led to them staying at their desk just over 17 hours a month on average.

When asked what the main impact of a ‘desk time’ culture is in their organisation, more than a quarter (29%) of employees working in these environments say they simply spread out their workload to fill the extra time they are expected to be seen at their desk, generating no increase in productivity, says the research. A fifth (20%) of those expected to be seen at their desk say it is demotivating and 22% say it has a negative impact on their mental or physical health.

Moreover, one in eight (12%) employees in a workplace with the desk time culture say that the primary outcome of the culture is that those who don’t work longer hours become marginalised.

When asked what their greatest source of stress is, 35% of employees said “maintaining a work life balance”, something which is made more difficult when they are expected to have longer facetime in the workplace, says the study. The second most common stress felt by employees was “personal or financial issues”, which a third (33%) of employees say is the greatest source of strain in their life. Other primary concerns for employees include the size of their workload and a lack of support (32%), job security (23%) and bullying and harassment in the workplace (13%).

Across international markets, 82% of people consider it important to consider the culture of an organisation before accepting a job, with 58% ranking it as very important – in the UK the figure was 80%. Only 34% of UK employees said that they thought their employer performed well when it came to mental health support and only 39% felt their workplace performed well in not contacting them when they were on leave.


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