Who’s more productive? A fearful employee or an engaged one?

According to recent research by ADP, many employees are still working a significant number of hours of unpaid overtime – 66% of respondents said they worked longer than their contract hours, averaging an additional six hours per week, with some working more than 10 hours over their contracted limit in a week.

In many firms, particularly in the professional services and finance sectors, unpaid overtime is part of the ‘culture’, where employees are expected to work beyond their contracted hours on a regular basis. In some cases, failure to put in these additional hours can be seen as a lack of ambition or dedication to the role.

Fear and productivity

Also known as ‘presenteeism’, this pressure to work longer hours can create a culture of fear – fear of losing a promotion; fear of missing out on pay rises; fear of losing the job altogether. This fear can lead to a lack of productivity, no matter how many additional hours are worked. It can also lead to poor physical and mental health, and increase in sick leave – although one of the features of presenteeism is employees coming into work when they should be off sick – and high staff turnover. It can also damage the business’s reputation, reducing the quality of potential applicants at all levels.

Engagement and productivity

Conversely, engaged employees have been shown to be more productive during their working hours. They may still work additional hours, but this will be because they want to; not because they feel they have to. Engaged employees feel a personal loyalty and connection to the businesses they work for, and become advocates of that business both during their working hours and beyond. They tend to be given more support, mentoring and personal opportunities, which in turn makes them happier, likely to work harder and to stay with the business for longer.

And the differences between the two cultures become obvious not just to those within the business, but to customers, investors, partners and recruiters. As internal culture becomes ever-more important when making business decisions or choosing people to work with, those businesses who encourage a healthy work-life balance, remove extreme competitiveness from their culture and focus on investing in their people are likely to be the winners in the long run.

Are your people engaged?

If you have high levels of presenteeism or a significant proportion of your workforces works beyond their contracted hours, or if your reputation is suffering, talk to us today – we have the experience and understanding to help and advise you to make positive changes.


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