Faking Your Workload and How Presenteeism is Harming Work Cultures

Have you ever stayed in the office longer than productively necessary, gone to work while you were sick, or put in overtime when you were already exhausted simply to impress the boss?  If yes, you might be suffering from presenteeism—and it may be harming both you and your business over the long term.

Traditionally, this term refers to those who choose to work while sick or unwell. But this definition has now widened to encompass a generation of young people who feel they are forced to fake the extent of their workloads in order to win favor with their superiors, according to research conducted by Ricoh with office workers in the UK.

A new report entitled Overhauling a Culture of ‘Presenteeism’ at Work points to the belief among many employees that working long hours at their desk is the best way to secure career progression and positive endorsements from senior stakeholders at work.

Additionally, the report reveals that 39 percent of currently employed 18- to 26-year-olds believe working away from the office could damage their career progression, while nearly half (41 percent) feel their bosses favor staff that work in the office longer than their contracted hours. Perhaps as a result of these perceptions, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of the 18- to 26-year-olds admitted to faking the extent of their workload by staying late at the office.

The study recommends that employers consider different attendance standards based on changing work styles.  I agree.  We are experiencing a changing of the guard when it comes to the work style of a group I call the inbetweeners (millennials).

As the report concludes, “By embracing a culture in which the onus is placed on outputs and delivery of work, rather than being present in the office, young professionals would be happier, more motivated and would benefit from an improved work / life balance.”

If you are skeptical about the less-is-more work style theory, here’s a story from my home town of San Diego that may convince to at least take a second look.

One good way to measure productivity is revenue per FTE (Full Time Employee). This year, Tower Paddle Boards in San Diego will generate $9 million in revenue with just ten employees—a small sample, but still very impressive at $900K per FTE! Did I mention that Tower employees work only five hours a day? This is a staggering metric when you put it into perspective.

If some employers are able do more with less time, what can the rest of us do to move in that direction? Remember, the goal always must be efficiency and output. Neither of these should be sacrificed in exchange for a person simply being present.

A new working generation of Americans is seeking a new level of flexibility. If you are a manager, which do you think is more important: quantity of hours put in or quality of work?  Both have impact. Only you can decide which one has a more positive and productive outcome for your organization.

3 thoughts on “Faking Your Workload and How Presenteeism is Harming Work Cultures

  1. Interesting indeed. I’m all for work output and efficiency. I’ve worked “virtually” for more than 10 years and my boss knows I do what it takes to get the job done and keep customers happy. I think one of the biggest issues we’ll face in the workforce, as more and more jobs move outside of the office, is work balance. Managers are going to have to look at competence and commitment (sound familiar?) differently and measure success as you say – not by hours at the desk, but by work done well.
    There IS an upside to all those hours in the office. It is easier to build and maintain relationships with the boss and others when you are face to face because there are unplanned opportunities to interact. It’s kind of hard to run into the boss in the hallway or coffee room, when you work from home.

  2. All very sensible; problem is nobody in a senior position is as sensible as that. I’ve worked in businesses for many years and lots of senior people lack balance in their own lives. Successful people – in any sphere – from sport through arts to business – are characterised by a selfish, obsessional devotion to what they do. It makes them very successful, but it ill-equips them to understand the rest of us who,you know, want to do regular stuff as well (family, go for a run or swim or bit of 5 a side, meet mates down the pub etc). They’re nutters in other words. Our society and culture normalises and even lauds their mental disorders and unbalanced sad-sack lives on the basis that, while unhappy and often ghastly, they’re v rich. They’re often running form issues in their personal lives and will view your desire for a normal, balanced life with deep suspicion and will consider that you don’t have the right stuff. Sum-up, error to assume that most of these high-fliers are normal and reasonable; they’re not.

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