The research by Maxis Global Benefits Network surveyed office-based employees across international markets including the UK, US, Russia and UAE, finding that staff worked extra hours because of company cultures which make them feel they should be seen at their desks.
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 (both 83%).
While the UK didn’t rank as highly, 79% of employees still said they work in a ‘desk-time’ office environment.
The research stated that the idea that spending more time in the office makes you more productive is a myth. Instead a desk-bound culture could contribute to higher rates of illness and absenteeism, it said.
When asked what the main impact of a ‘desk-time’ culture is in their organisation, 29% of employees working in these environments said they spread out their workload to fill the extra time at their desk, meaning no increase productivity. Twenty per cent said it was demotivating and 22% said it had a negative impact on their mental or physical health.
Working long hours was also found to cause anxiety among employees. When asked what their greatest source of stress is, 35% cited maintaining work/life balance.
Despite the potential negative impact of this culture, the research stated that in some firms time spent at desks has a direct effect on progression and management’s perception of someone’s ability. One in eight (12%) employees in a workplace with a 'desk-time' culture said that the primary outcome is that those who don’t work longer hours become marginalised.
The research also found that 82% of employees across international markets find it important to consider the culture of an organisation before accepting a job, with 58% ranking it very important. However, not all firms are honest about their working environment, with more than 27% of people believing they were misled about the culture of their organisation before they joined.
Leena Johns, head of health and wellness at Maxis Global Benefits Network, said that organisations should focus on improving organisational culture if they want to boost productivity. “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 [those] working harder. They need to measure real productivity and output,” she said.
“A strong workplace culture can help motivate employees and deliver improved financial performance, with a measurable increase in revenue. Unhealthy or stressed employees are a cost in terms of decreased productivity, rapid staff turnover, increased healthcare costs and absenteeism. There are a number of factors that affect workplace culture, from the physical environment of the office to the benefits and corporate wellness programmes offered by the employer, all of which have the potential to foster a healthier and more productive workforce.”