SHRM Poll: Employees Admit Self-Imposed Pressure to Work Long Hours

Lunch breaks, evenings, weekends, sick leave, and vacation time shortened

May 12, 2009

Alexandria, Va.Roughly 72 percent of employees across the country report that they work through lunch while 70 percent report working beyond scheduled time and on weekends, according to the new Pressure to Work: The Employees’ Perspective poll released today by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

The SHRM poll surveys employee perceptions regarding sick leave, flex time work arrangements, and work beyond the official work day including weekends.

More than half (52 percent) of polled employees admit that “self-imposed pressure” is the main reason for working beyond scheduled time while 44 percent cite “meeting project or performance goals.”

Only one in five polled employees (21 percent) cite “pressure from immediate supervisor/manager” as the reason for working extra hours. Even fewer (12 percent) cite “pressure from top management” executives and C-suite leaders as a source of pressure.

Another 12 percent cite advancing their individual career goals as the motivation for working extra hours.

Email is also a factor in after-hour work. During the past 12 months, employees indicated that they frequently or occasionally checked work email after work hours (59 percent), while taking sick leave (52 percent), and while on vacation (49 percent).

Additional survey highlights include:

  • Sick leave – 48 percent of employees said they reported to work because “no one was available to cover my workload” while 39 percent said “I had too much work to do/impending deadlines.” Forty-nine percent agree that their organization discourages presenteeism—discourages people from reporting to work sick.
  • Sick leave – Another 19 percent said “I did not want to use my leave time” while 29 percent reported “I could not financially afford to take time off.” Only 10 percent cited “fear of discipline if I stayed home.”
  • Flexible work arrangements – The majority (58 percent) of employees do not feel that they “will be perceived as less committed to the job” if they take advantage of telecommuting, flex time, or compressed work week benefits. Only nine percent cite concern while 18 percent say they are somewhat concerned and 15 percent are somewhat unconcerned.
  • Flexible work arrangements – Roughly 63 percent say flex time arrangements will not “jeopardize job security.” Only seven percent feel flex time jeopardizes job security while 13 percent report being somewhat concerned and 16 percent say they are somewhat unconcerned.

The poll surveyed 605 full-time or part-time employed U.S. residents. Reporters may read the complete SHRM poll, and others, at:


About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’slargest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at


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