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Clock-watchers more likely to suffer stress

Employees who don't get deeply involved with their work are more likely to suffer burn out or emotional exhaustion and have lower levels of well-being, according to a new study.

Researchers from Kingston University's Business School gave 227 British workers, mostly in their 30s, standard tests used to measure engagement and motivation. They found that the 15% who were watching the clock and felt the most withdrawn from their work also reported the highest levels of burn out. Feeling alienated at work caused feelings of frustration and apathy, often leading to lower levels of well-being, the study found.

"You might expect someone who is withdrawn from their work to be more balanced and less emotionally-drained because they have time for other things in their life," Dr Kerstin Alfes from Kingston Business School said.  "But actually we found that it's these people who are having severe problems with stress-related exhaustion.”

The study also found that individuals are less likely to feel withdrawn from work when they derive meaning from it and feel that their skills, knowledge and experience are being fully utilised.  "If people are given ownership of their work, see the impact it has on beneficiaries and understand how they fit into the bigger picture, they feel much more positive about work," Dr Alfes said.

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