British workers stay late to woo bosses

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Vanity show helps no one in terms of productivity

Workers in the United Kingdom are putting in longer hours at the office to, in their opinion, boost efficiencies – and to impress the boss. But is this the correct approach to an evolving workplace, where we are increasingly assisted by technology?

According to the survey, conducted by OfficeBroker.com, a quarter of those polled said that they put in longer days so they can do their job more efficiently. 39 percent would stay later or arrive earlier to come across as more dedicated than other colleagues. Whether this is a Machievellian power bid or truly a better way to work is a matter of debate, because right now, the developed working world is more flexible than it ever has been before.

The proliferation of mobile computing means – essentially – we are always connected. Showing face at the office is good PR, but not necessarily best for working. The poll’s findings are in contrast to a major survey undertaken by Intel and Dell last year, called the Evolving Workforce, which suggested that even the  idea of working 9-5  from the office  is a trend that, really, could be doing more harm than good. Worker productivity increases with autonomy and freedom. Small to medium sized businesses were more likely to allow their workers flexibility in terms of devices used – and where.

OfficeBroker.com agrees. In a statement, a spokesperson said that staff are twiddling their thumbs in their offices in an effort to stand out from colleagues. Altogether it suggests a poorer work life balance and, “ultimately”, no productivity gains. In fact – quite the opposite – as staff are returning to work the next day tired, which doesn’t help anyone.

This kind of practice has been common among Japanese salarymen, who are encouraged to and feel obliged to stay in the office until late hours, often completing little work, but done to curry favour with the boss – who eventually expects it.

Chris Meredith, head of UK sales at officebroker.com, said to ChannelBiz UK that the findings do not necessarily reflect a change in the way work is approached. “It could suggest that workers feel greater pressure to be seen to be busy,” Meredith said, especially “with concerns over the future of the economy still making regular headlines.”

With all the technology available to staff, should bosses become more progressive and encourage remote working to increase productivity? Meredith acknowledges that remote working is becoming an increasingly popular option, “but it’s hard to argue that it will ever fully replace the productivity gains of operating as part of a close knit team – although the degree to which this is true can vary significantly, depending on business type.”

Bryan Jones, Executive Director for Public and Large Enterprise, Dell EMEA, pointed out that in the Evolving Workforce research, only one in two British workers report that they can complete their workloads within a traditional 9 to 5 working day, so workers may not be trying to impress by staying late, but more simply trying to get their work completed.

Jones also flagged the economic climate. “As the economic downturn continues to bite,” Jones said, “people may feel less secure in their jobs and be putting in more hours in an attempt to impress. This effort is probably misplaced as staying later in the office is not necessarily the most productive solution now that technology has evolved to enable effective mobile and remote working.”

“Technology, such as mobile and cloud computing, can aid businesses in increasing employee productivity and satisfaction,” Jones said. “Our study revealed that 40 percent of employees in the UK feel that working remotely helps them get more work done.”

In fact, Jones believes that businesses could negatively impact on work life balance if they insist on placing too much importance on time spent in the office. “To increase productivity and employee effectiveness,” Jones said, “businesses should focus more on employee output, which is particularly true within global organisations that conduct business across different time zones and geographies.”

“It’s a positive sign that our research revealed that 71 percent of UK workers today feel their productivity is measured by the quality of work rather than time spent in the office,” Jones said. “Dell’s Evolving Workforce report has acknowledged a correlation between an output-based productivity model and worker morale. 82 percent are “extremely happy” with their job being measured based on work quality versus only 51 pecent of those who are “unhappy” with their job.”

Dell points out that there is a long list of factors which cast their shadow over worker productivity. “According to Dell’s study,” Jones said, “British workers are less likely than their counterparts in Europe and North America to have the option of flexible hours.”

The UK is “clearly lagging”, with only 51 percent in the country compared to 67 percent in Germany, 62 percent in France, and 55 percent in the US. “It is something UK companies should think about when considering the productivity and work-life balance of their employees,” Jones said.


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