Staff ‘needlessly staying late to boost career prospects’

The majority of younger employees have unnecessarily worked beyond their contracted hours in a bid to improve their career prospects, according to new figures that suggest the culture of presenteeism in UK workplaces extends far beyond ill-health.

A study from technology provider Ricoh found that 67 per cent of employees aged 18-26 had exaggerated the extent of their workload in the hope of receiving positive feedback from managers. When questioned, 41 per cent said they felt bosses favoured those who worked beyond their contracted hours.

The term ‘presenteeism’ has traditionally referred to staff who opt to work while unwell through fear of putting their job security in danger, but drivers such as high youth unemployment, managerial pressure and economic uncertainty have widened the definition and created a culture of fear, Ricoh suggested.

The survey found that increased access to flexible working could help alleviate such issues: 39 per cent of the 2,069 people polled feared working away from the office could damage their career and one in three (33 per cent) called on the government to do more to encourage employers to embrace flexible working.

“Despite the government introducing new legislation to grant every employee the legal right to request flexible working [after 26 weeks of employment], it seems that businesses are still rewarding the idea that employees who work the longest hours at their desks – not those producing the best work – will be favoured by management,” said Phil Keoghan, CEO of Ricoh UK and Ireland.

A separate piece of research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicted that greater flexible working could add £11.5bn to the UK economy every year. It also suggested that flexible working allowances could save UK workers £7.1bn in reduced commuting costs and more than half a billion hours spent travelling.

Sickness-related presenteeism was also on the agenda at the CIPD Ireland annual conference in Dublin yesterday (15 June). Keynote speaker Professor Sir Cary Cooper, president of the CIPD, told delegates that the effects of stress and mental conflict could be felt in everything from attendance to organisational culture.

“Stress-related absence is high in most EU countries. The challenge is to create good places to work, where people are managed by praise and reward and not fault-finding and word overload, where they are trusted to work more flexibly and where they have better balance in their lives,” he said.

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