People work harder during recession

During tough economic times, including periods of recession, people are much more likely to put increased effort into their jobs.

New research from the US National Bureau of Economic Research has revealed that when workers were tracked using productivity software over several years – between 2006 and 2010 – overall productivity increased by up to five per cent during the periods of recession.

All of the employees tracked for the purposes of this study worked in roles including test-grading and insurance claims processing, where the measure of productivity is relatively straightforward.

Higher workforce productivity during recessions, according to The Economist's Free Exchange blog, could be a reaction to employer hiring practices during tough times.

This is often a situation when employers will be more likely to make cutbacks, so each employee may be trying to prove his or her value to the organisation. Interestingly, the study revealed that it is not always the least skilled workers whose jobs are scaled back – so productivity tends to rise across the board.

In fact, worker productivity increased the most in areas that experienced the highest unemployment rate, the study found – possibly because people with jobs recognised that they may be lucky to have them under the present economic circumstances and consequently worked harder.

During the period of recession from late 2007 until the third quarter of 2009, total working hours fell by ten per cent, however output only fell by seven per cent – representing an overall rise in productivity.

Last month, figures from Roy Morgan Research revealed that job satisfaction in Australia stems from recognition in the workplace – and that even at times when the unemployment rate is higher, the overall sentiment among working Australians is that they are satisfied with their jobs.

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