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Overworked in America, who’s got time to shop?


A new study by Staples shows that many Americans are burnt out and working more than ever thanks to the always on mentality of the connected economy. So why are we so happy?

New research from the Staple Advantage business-to-business division of Staples looked at the work behaviors of 2,602 employees in the U.S. and Canada to create the inaugural Workplace Index. The key takeaway is that more than half of employees report feeling overworked and burnt out (53%), but the overwhelming majority (86%) are still happy at work and motivated to rise in their organization.

"We're committed to understanding how the workplace is evolving so we can support our customers as they navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by generational shifts, new technology and the increasingly mobile and diverse workforce," said Neil Ringel, executive vice president of Staples Advantage, North America. "The Staples Advantage Workplace Index gives us unique insight to help our customers meet their recruitment, retention, productivity and engagement goals. This research uncovered a number of new benefits - such as flexible schedules, telecommuting, office perks and being an eco-friendly business - that have emerged as critical factors for balancing intensifying work demands with employees' personal lives."

The Workplace Index was created in conjunction with Dan Schawbel, founder of, a research and advisory membership service. The survey of 2,602 employees 18 or older was conducted across a variety of companies, both in size, geography and industry. A total of 1,528 employees were interviewed in the U.S. (1,026 were classified as general workers and 502 as business decision makers) and a total of 1,074 employees were interviewed in Canada (744 general office workers and 330 decision makers).

"With the rise of the mobile workforce and the resulting 'always on' work culture, it's not a surprise that employees are feeling overworked and burnt out," said Schawbel. "While many are still happy at work, we have to ask whether it's because they're truly inspired and motivated, or simply conditioned to the new reality? Either way, employers need to retain talent and optimize productivity, engagement and loyalty with employees."

According to the research, employees are working longer days, and about a quarter of them regularly work after the standard workday is done. Furthermore, about four out of 10 work on weekends at least once a month. Breaks are becoming rare as well - about half of employees feel like they cannot get up for a break at all, and just under half eat lunch at their desk.

The driving force behind the "always on" work culture is the need for employees to complete work they don't have time to do during the day, followed by a desire to get ahead for the following day. A drive to advance in the organization plays a role as well, with nearly two-thirds of respondents seeing themselves as managers in the next five years.

The downside of this situation is that almost four out of 10 employees acknowledge that burnout is a motivator for a new job search. Burnout is also eroding productivity, according to 66% of U.S. employees. The biggest culprits in burnout include workload (53%), personal pressures employees put on themselves to perform (41%) and time pressures (40%). About half of employees surveyed acknowledge they receive too much email, with about one-third of those saying that email overload hurts productivity. Inefficient meetings, a perennial complaint, also appear to be a major productivity drain, with some employees spending more than two hours a day in meetings. More than a quarter of employees say meetings are inefficient.

The majority of employees also say a distraction-free environment would increase their productivity by at least 20%, citing loud coworkers as the top distraction. Though employees are happy, about one in five employees still expects to change jobs in the next twelve months. This flight risk is slightly higher for millennials. With employees working longer days and on weekends, the biggest request for employers is to provide more flexibility.

Of particular note is that all of these softer benefits are more important to millennial happiness than any other age group, according to the research. Flexibility is also critical for the recruitment and retention of top talent. In fact, work-life balance was one of the most important aspects to employees when looking for a new job (46%), second only to salary.

Additionally, one in five employees cited work-life balance issues as a reason for considering a job change, while close to a third identified it as a leading contributor of loyalty.

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