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A third of day lost to performative work, study finds

Almost one third (30%) of the UK worker's average day is lost to performative work that doesn’t contribute to company goals but is simply done to appear productive, according to a study from instant messenger Slack.

The study also found 37% of UK desk workers said their productivity was measured on visibility in the office or online. 

While 39% said they were more productive when they are able to choose the hours they work, 40% of business leaders were concerned providing flexible work would cause a decline in productivity. 

More on productivity:

Is working from home as productive as it seems?

How workers can manage both health and productivity

How can managers beat productivity paranoia?

Chris Mills, head of customer success at Slack, said this research should encourage employers to rethink how they measure productivity. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Measuring how much workers are getting done by how much you can see them is concerning and clearly encourages an unhealthy culture of performativity and presenteeism. 

“For HR managers and business leaders, this is the moment to reassess and shift the focus from hours spent to output that clearly aligns to the company’s overall goals.”  

Almost half of workers (47%) said they think using AI will help them to boost productivity.  

Using automation, 59% said they could achieve more with less time and resources, and 42% could focus on tasks that have more impact. 

However, only 21% said their employer was utilising AI productivity tools. 

Mills said AI could allow employees to focus on more fulfilling work and improve their motivation. 

He said: “When adopted in a thoughtful way, it’s clear that AI and automation has the potential to transform how we get work done today.  

“Some may use those improvements to work fewer hours, but for most people it’s about removing the drudgery and basic processes that underpin much of work today.” 

Automation has however created worries about job security.

Around half (49%) of respondents to a separate LinkedIn survey in May 2023 said AI gave them concerns about job security. 

Alexandra Dobra-Kiel, innovation and strategy director at behavioural consultancy Behave, said employers must make sure AI serves their employees. 

She said: “We have to build work cultures underpinned by psychological safety so that employees use AI to their advantage, instead of worrying that AI will replace them.  

“That’s why employees should be honest and communicative about their weaknesses and strengths so that businesses can train and upskill them; showing employees how to use AI to support productivity by freeing them to focus on the work that matters most."