Overcoming Presenteeism - RSA

Overcoming Presenteeism


  • Picture of Sarah Spargo FRSA
    Sarah Spargo FRSA
  • Creative economy
  • Employment
  • Behaviour change

Imagine a world where your working peers praise you for taking time out to go to a yoga class or for picking up your children from school. Where you can work from wherever and whenever you want, and when you feel the most productive.

Where you don't have to commute but are connected to a world-class team of specialists with an international reach. With CEO’S openly sharing boardroom information and inviting those who contribute the most to become equity partners.

Until 6 months ago I would have dismissed it as a utopian ideal but I am now an Associate of The Hoxby Collective which runs alongside my existing graphic design practice and makes it possible for me to work on larger projects with larger teams.

The Hoxby Collective is a purpose-led organisation who campaign to create a more meritocratic working world in pursuit of a happier, more fulfilled society.  Their recent survey on presenteeism in the workplace found that 88% of those working flexibly believe they are more efficient at work, happier, more focused, more in control and more motivated. Breaking free from the traditional and outdated 8 hour “working” day and being able to work at the times of the day when they can be most productive was quoted as the key reason for their increased efficiency.

It's not only my productivity that has soared since I left a working environment, but also the quality and creativity of my work. I’m no longer distracted by internal politics, extra administration tasks and an hour or more of commuting time each day.

The findings suggest being visible at a desk for lots of hours could actually be less productive than working from a remote location with no time expectations. Rigid working hours were reported to have contributed to mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia in 33% of those who completed the survey. Affecting employers not only with sick leave but also with the reduced productivity of the workers still sat at their desks.

You might have felt compelled to show commitment by working long hours in the office and you're not alone. 3 in 5 people feel this way, with 2 in 5 showing commitment because others do. 62% believed presenteeism was due to it being ingrained in the organisational culture and 44% felt that negative comments were made about those who worked flexibly or part-time. I believe there are significant opportunities for employers and policymakers to tackle these cultural beliefs within organisations. Promoting health, well-being and happiness and finding ways to offer more flexibility to employees. Starting with a shift of focus onto deliverables and less concern about presence during rigid hours.

The Hoxby Collective has more than 300 talented individuals across 29 countries working flexibly to deliver exceptional work. We use digital tools to communicate and collaborate on projects, and provide a much-needed watercooler channel on Slack (a digital workspace for team communication and collaboration) so you don't have to miss out on social interaction and “office” banter. The future looks bright for this model of working - with the founders beginning to offer consultancy to other organisations to help them adopt more flexible working practices too.

I am excited to be joining them on their journey and would urge anyone interested in finding practical ways to manage flexible workers to get in touch with hoxbycollective.com.

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