Across the globe companies are increasingly operating with a ‘desk time’ culture where employees feel they need to be seen at their desk working significantly beyond their contracted hours, new research from MAXIS Global Benefits Network (MAXIS GBN) reveals.
Researchers found that 79% of office-based employees across international markets including the United Kingdom, United States, Russia and United Arab Emirates (UAE), 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.
Across the international markets analysed, Mexico (87%) had the highest number of office employees working in an environment where they were expected to be seen at their desks, followed by India and South Africa. While the UK didn’t rank as highly, more than three quarters (79%) of employees still say they work in a ‘desk time’ office environment.
When it comes to additional time logged per employee, those in the UAE are putting in the most additional hours each month with 24. Workers in Hong Kong and the United States are also racking up the additional facetime hours with colleagues, averaging over 23 hours each month.
While a ‘desk time’ culture may be seen as boosting productivity, the research indicates this could be an illusion and actually cost companies money as a result of increased illness and absenteeism. 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. 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.
Despite the potential negative impact of this culture, in some firms it has a direct impact on progression and management’s perception of an someone’s ability. 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.
Dr. Leena Johns, Head of Health & Wellness, MAXIS Global Benefits Network, said “All organisations should look to create a nurturing and supportive environment that encourages productivity. It is important that managers distinguish between employees simply sitting at their desks and working harder. They need to measure real productivity and output.
Long hours in the workplace contribute to some of the greatest anxieties felt by employees. 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. 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%).
The importance of culture
The culture of an organisation has a huge impact on the ability of firms to attract and retain talent, particularly at a time when the growth of the gig economy can result in transient workers, hot desking and a less stable work environment. 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. However, not all firms are honest about their working environment, with more than a quarter (27%) of people believing they were misled about the culture of their workplace before joining the organisation.
Research has shown there is a strong correlation between poor workplace culture and staff turnover. When companies have a poor culture almost 50% of employees may start looking for a new job and unhealthy workplace culture contributes to 40% of turnover costs. Not only is this expensive, it is potentially damaging to an employers’ brand.
The research found that, across the globe, people believe their employers are under performing when it comes to benefits and support. Less than a third (29%) of companies were ranked as performing well in the provision of private healthcare and they are also underperforming when it comes to mental health support (23%). In addition, only a quarter of firms were seen to perform well when it came to not contacting employees when they are on leave.