Playing at Work Can Be More Stressful than Working at Work

July 19, 2012

In summertime, the living is easy, as the song goes, but not necessarily the working. Recognizing that most employees would rather be anywhere else but in the office during the warm, sunny summer months, HR directors have wracked their brains for years trying to devise the perfect “company events” that would gather everybody together in a happy, communal celebration… all the while keeping the employees relatively nearby to their desks or workstations. But research indicates that all that effort may be for nought.

According to a recent survey of over 1,000 U.S. office workers conducted by Wakefield Research Study (and commissioned by software company Citrix), three out of every four workers (74%) dislike participating in at least one of their company get-togethers. Some of these gatherings are more likely to inspire cringing rather than bonding, with costume contests ranking at the top of the “least-liked” company event (34% of employees say they don’t like them). And anything that smacks of “team-building” similarly gets the thumbs-down from employees, with 31% saying they dislike these activities. Apparently, many employees would rather just keep working than engage in more playful pursuits while in the office.

Taking a vacation is a traditional release from work-borne frustrations, but according to the survey 21% say that getting away from their boss is a bigger reason for needing time off than getting away from the office. In fact, 30% of employees wait to schedule their vacations until they know when the boss will be out, and then time their vacation so they don’t overlap – in effect, getting two weeks of vacation from the boss instead of just one. And in case you think this is tactic is mostly practiced by junior-level employees, it’s actually the reverse: Senior executives and managers adopt the 2-for-1 vacation more frequently than junior-level employees (39% vs. 27%).

Another common release from “boss burnout” is working from home, at least on an occasional basis, but exactly half (50%) of the respondents to the survey say their bosses frown on the practice. When asked what the worst type of boss is, though, respondents tagged “the one who steals your ideas” (37%), followed by the know-it-all type (33%).

Referring to the survey results, Kim DeCarlis, vice president of corporate marketing at Citrix, observes, “Companies will benefit by being more flexible in allowing employees to work from anywhere. Enabling people to blend their professional and personal lives can boost morale as well as productivity. And there are plenty of tools and technologies today that empower people to do their jobs from any location. (In case you’re wondering, Citrix’s cloud-based solutions are designed to help employees access corporate information from home, or other off-site locations, so there’s a bit of self-serving going on here.)

In the category of “I’m not sure what to do with this information,” the survey also notes that for those whose bosses do let them work at home, roughly half (49%) are most likely to be dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, 25% are working in their pajamas, 14% are wearing workout clothes and 12% fall into the category of “other.” At the risk of conjuring up images that you would just as soon not have related to your coworkers, the survey helpfully points out that 7% of those “others” say they are “working from home in their underwear or birthday suit.”

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