Employees Under Pressure: Work Faster or Work Longer?

Research has found a strong relationship between time pressure and negative impacts on employees’ health, such as increased irritability. At the same time, research has also shown a relationship between time pressure and high work engagement (or motivation) of employees. In other words, time pressure on the job can also be experienced as a challenge leading to a sense of growth and achievement.

This raises the question: what is the best way to cope with time pressure so that the positive effects of it are maximized and the negative effects minimized? This study looked at two ways of coping with time pressure: working faster and working longer.


Researchers (Baethge, Deci, Dettmers, & Rigotti, 2018) explored how working faster or longer impacts two different relationships: between that of time pressure and irritation, and between that of time pressure and work engagement.

The researchers studied 122 employees from 13 public offices in Germany. The participants were provided smart phones so that they could complete a web-based survey twice a day. First, at the close of the workday, they answered questions about how much time pressure and work engagement they experienced that day. Second, right before going to bed, they answered questions about their level of irritation, if they worked faster than usual, and if they worked longer than usual.


Results of the study suggest that there was a greater relationship between time pressure and irritation if employees worked faster than usual. Working longer did not impact the relationship between time pressure and irritation.

The researchers also found that under increased time pressure, work engagement decreased if employees dealt with it by working longer than usual. However, working faster did not impact the relationship between time pressure and work engagement.


Based on their research, the authors recommend that employees and managers be mindful that employees are not working faster or longer too often. They suggest that organizations provide training on more health-promoting coping strategies.

Organizational culture can also encourage high use of these strategies. The authors recommend that executives work to minimize the expectation to work longer and value employees’ time needed to recover, such as lunch breaks and family time.

Certainly, there may be times when working faster or longer is needed, but it is best for employees, and organizations as a whole, if these strategies are used minimally and work-life balance is prioritized.


Baethge, A., Deci, N., Dettmers, J., & Rigotti, T. (2018). “Some days won’t end ever”: Working faster and longer as a boundary condition for challenge versus hindrance effects of time pressure. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000121