Overworking from home doesn’t mean you’re more productive

  • Remote workers logged longer days during the COVID-19 pandemic than ever before, but more hours don’t necessarily boost productivity.
  • Overworking can lead to presenteeism, a phenomenon where a worker is less engaged, or not at their best, despite being at work.
  • Fatigued or distracted workers cost employers billions each year.

The shift to remote work during the pandemic was supposed to benefit the work-life balance for employees, but workers spent more time working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic than they did in the office. Below are the two major problems associated with trying to look busier than your colleagues.


Problem #1: Looking busy is different than being busy

You might think working longer hours is the way to show your company that you’re committed, but it isn’t necessarily benefiting you or them.

Research has shown that workers who log more than 55 hours a week substantially increase their risk of death compared to workers that have workweeks of 40 hours.

Workers during the pandemic increased their work day by nearly 40% in the US, or an extra three hours per day. That means Americans were working 11-hour days, which was far more than what workers were logging in the office.

For those who believe that being available 24/7 on Slack is a sign of commitment, consider this: Productivity falls sharply after 50 hours of work per week (and even more so when it eclipses 55 hours); your persistence for staying connected isn’t benefiting anyone.


Problem #2: It doesn’t save money and actually costs employers

The Harvard Business Review coined the phenomenon “presenteeism.” This refers to when employees show up to work despite not being at their best. Whether it’s due to illness, lack-of-focus, or other medical conditions, productivity suffers when workers aren’t fully there. And presenteeism can cost companies:


How employees and companies can fix this

Despite research showing that workers can remain productive at home, companies are calling for workers to come back to the office to beef up creativity and return to some form of normalcy.

Fixing presenteeism starts with offering leeway for all employees. If managers aren’t feeling great, they should stay home and not work through illness. By staying at home, it sends a message to employees that if you’re not on your A-game, it’s best to sit the day out and recharge at home.