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Brits feel pressured to prove they are working, shows worrying new research

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New research shows productivity paranoia is at an all-time high in the UK, with employees feeling the pressure to “prove” they are working.

According to a survey by POINT3 Wellbeing, almost two in five Brits are feeling stressed at work, and/or experiencing poor mental health. The data shows that of those employees who are suffering from poor well-being at work, over half feel less supported by their manager and organisation.

Research also shows 85% of leaders find it challenging to have confidence that their employees are being productive, according to data from Microsoft, with the shift to hybrid work leading to a 153% increase in weekly meetings. In response to this, employees feel the pressure to “prove” they are working which then causes burnout.

Commenting on the research, Sarah Mayo, co-founder of POINT3 Wellbeing said “Our survey shows that those employees who are reporting poor well-being in the workplace also report feeling unsupported by their manager. The data suggests that despite over three years of remote working, many managers still struggle to trust that their employees are working productively when they aren’t visible.

“The lack of trust from employers is concerning. We know that trust is the basis of the highest-performing teams, so if managers aren’t creating this culture of trust, then high performance is simply not going to be achievable. Managers need to proactively find ways to build this trust in a remote working model, and it starts by affording your team with flexibility, treating them as adults and discussing clear expectations and boundaries.

“If managers don’t shift their way of thinking, they will face resentment or resignation from employees. Instead of measuring employee productivity via screen time and keystrokes, leaders should be ensuring team members are clear about their roles and contribution to the team, helping them with prioritisation and clarity of direction, and checking in at agreed points to assess progress and support in distributing workloads.”

To help managers shift away from productivity paranoia, Sarah Mayo, Leadership Trainer and co-founder of POINT3 Wellbeing recommends:

  1. Attend mental health training: Managers should take part in mental health in the workplace training to understand what mental health is, give them the confidence to have mental health conversations with the team and share practical tools to support their team members who may be experiencing a mental health issue or to help prevent it from getting to point of crisis. By expanding the awareness and confidence that managers have around mental health conversations and tools, organisations can create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health concerns.
  2. Be flexible and accommodating: Managers need to recognise that everyone’s mental health needs are unique. Organisations must offer flexible work arrangements where possible, such as flexible hours or remote work options, to accommodate individuals who may require additional support. This can help reduce stress and create a better work-life balance. Here, it is important for managers to also role model this behaviour, to demonstrate to employees that they are following the standard they expect from their team.
  3. Check-in regularly: Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your employees to discuss their well-being and work-related challenges. Managers must actively listen to their concerns and offer support and guidance, and with regular check-ins, you can demonstrate that you value their mental health and are invested in their overall well-being.
  4. Help your employees to establish their well-being non-negotiables. These are the things which help them to burn bright and leave them feeling calm, alive, and recharged. For some people, this might be a walk in nature, for others a conversation with a loved one. By supporting employees in understanding their well-being and non-negotiables, it will allow them to better separate the demands of work and home life.

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