Breaking the culture of presenteeism

Technology may be the best bet for businesses to wean Britain's young workers off a culture where attendance takes precedence over quality of work|Technology may be the best bet for businesses to wean Britain's young workers off a culture where attendance takes precedence over quality of work

In a world where technology is supposed to make our professional lives more efficient and productive, it seems that outdated attitudes towards flexible working are preventing us from taking full advantage of this opportunity.

Despite the government introducing new legislation to grant every employee the legal right to request flexible working nearly two years ago, progress has been somewhat underwhelming.

As latest research from IT services company, Ricoh UK, in cooperation with YouGov, shows a culture of ‘presenteeism’ – where employees work longer hours at their desk in order to secure positive endorsement from management – is thriving in British business. More worryingly, it’s young professionals, the digital natives accustomed to using mobile and tablets for work and pleasure, who are hit hardest by the impact of this old-fashioned working etiquette.

Polling 1,249 knowledge workers across the UK, the research reveals that two thirds (67 per cent) of 18 to 26 year olds have admitted to ‘faking’ the extent of their workloads by staying late at the office beyond their contracted hours in an attempt to get ahead. Meanwhile, 39 per cent of young professionals believe working away from the office could damage their career progression, while nearly half (41 per cent) feel their bosses favour staff who work over their contracted hours in the office.

In this digital age, it is absurd that we are allowing these desk-bound, legacy working practices, out of touch with modern lifestyles, to flourish. In response, we should make it our priority to equip new generations of young professionals with the technologies they’re familiar with, supporting their development with tech-driven working plans tailored to their preferences.

At Ricoh, we know first-hand the role that technology can play in fostering innovation and productivity. We invest in a tech-enabled work style in which employees are free to choose how they work – whether that’s hot desk-ing in the office, or connecting remotely from home. This not only improves staff engagement and wellbeing, it also cuts down on travel and time-consuming process.

The research suggests that young professionals see a direct correlation between digital skills and success, with nearly half (47 per cent) calling for the government to connect employers with technology experts and a third (31 per cent) calling for the government to grant funding for the provision of technology to empower a more digitally-driven British workforce.

But it’s not just new technologies that will help organisations adopt a more digital approach. The youngsters believe that in order to thoroughly purge this outdated culture of presenteeism from British businesses, a change of mind-set is also required. Indeed, 58 per cent of young workers think the government should educate employers more about the benefits of flexible working, and 49 per cent want the government to ensure businesses are clear on their employer obligations to provide access to this style of work.

It is only by working with wider government and digital experts to tackle both the technology and cultural aspects of the problem that we will be able to build workplaces that help, not hinder, our young employees to reach their full potential and secure the UK’s digital economy well into the future.

Chas Moloney is a marketing director at Ricoh UK & Ireland.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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