Are your employees pretending to be overworked?

by Chloe Taylor16 Sep 2015
Overwork and employee burnout is one of HR’s highest priorities – but according to Andrew May, a Sydney-based performance coach, many of your seemingly exhausted staff members could be exaggerating.

Speaking to ABC News’ Breakfast show, May said that research had shown around a third of workers were “faking being overworked”.

According to May, the problem is “endemic”, and warned employers to be wary of people who appear to be constantly working.

“Hours of work is not productivity – that’s the number one myth,” he said. “If someone is working 60 hours a week, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re productive.”
May suggested the following five techniques for tackling ‘fake overwork’:

1. Reward performance, not hours

Articulate clear performance indicators for employees and be explicit about what they need to achieve in their roles, then it is up to them how many or how few hours they do.

2. Allow regular breaks

Let employees take regular breaks and ensure employees take all of their holidays. People who stockpile their annual leave have higher incidences of sick leave and burnout.

3. Go analogue

Encourage employees to schedule regular periods each week where they switch off, disconnect and unplug to avoid the constant distraction of digital devices and open plan environments and focus on their job description.

4. Banish negativity

If you have people in your team who, despite coaching and conversations, still cannot see the positives in their role – no matter how much potential they show or how long they've been in your organisation – remove them. Similarly, employees should avoid negative colleagues.

5. The 3 Fs: food, fitness and fun

The absolute building blocks of productivity and innovation are healthy nutrition, three or four fitness sessions each week and getting as much walking or moving around as you can during the day – and don't forget to laugh and have fun in life.

The ABC’s original interview with Andrew May can be watched here


  • by sceptical 16/09/2015 11:42:25 AM

    Research since World War 1 has shown that longer hours are associated with lower productivity. With the possible exception of short stints, most people who work long hours are less productive. There are good recent demonstrations in the papers published in The Economist at the end of 2013 and 2104 on working hours and productivity in 22 OECD countries, using more than two decades of data from each. They showed high-productivity countries had low per capita working hours and that productivity dropped smoothly and consistently from approximately 28 hours per week (the lowest level measured). That suggests the average Australian worker (even if part-time and full-time workers are included in the calculation) is overworked, if productivity is your measure. While some of the suggestions above are appropriate, given the level of work intensification that has occurred, and the average Australian full-time worker does about 6 hours of unpaid overtime each week, maybe actually properly evaluating workloads is the first step!

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