Research has shown that since the recession employees have been spending more time at work than before the downturn.

The balance between work and life has disappeared. Employees feel they are doing more work for the same amount of money.

Of the 3,000 workers surveyed for the Cornwall Development Company, 35 per cent said that they were now working more hours than they did before the crash, compared to only 13 per cent whose working time had reduced. Increased responsibility at work was the most common reason cited for this shift.

A fifth said they had to work longer hours because their company was understaffed and another fifth said they were scared of losing their job.

On average staff work 30 days a year of unpaid overtime, and the survey identified a lack of time for family and friends as the main negative effect of this. One in ten even said their sex life had suffered.

Despite this, almost half of respondents believed they had a good work-life balance, while a third said it was adequate and just 11 per cent said it was ‘poor’ or ‘terrible’.

Demographic analysis showed that people with the most responsibility in a business felt they have the upper hand when it comes to balancing home and work, compared to staff who are “a small cog in a large machine”.

But this finding did not tally with higher pay scales, as those on salaries more than £83,000 were most likely to feel they have a poor or terrible work-life balance. People earning between £41,000 and £62,000 were most likely to say they were happy with the balance between their home and work life.

However, employers forced to cut jobs and restructure during the recession could now be seeing the impact of heavier workloads on employee happiness and consequently productivity.

Recent research, from think tank Demos, showed a clear link between productivity, growth and flexible working policies that enable workers to have a more balanced lifestyle. Further research from Working Families and the CIPD also back these findings as workers are more engaged and therefore more likely to put in extra discretionary effort.

From the latest survey, it is clear that employees understand the link. Eight out of ten employees agreed that wellbeing created by a good balance between work and home is good for business and productivity. A similar proportion (86 per cent) said it was also good for staff retention and attracting new recruits (84 per cent).

Dr Alexandra Beauregard, a lecturer in Employment Relations and Organisational Behaviour at the London School of Economics, said: “During tough economic times, organisations may think of work-life balance as a luxury they can do without. This is a short-sighted perspective; maintaining a motivated and productive workforce is more important than ever in an economic downturn.

“Individuals working for a supportive organisation reciprocate with increased effort, initiative, and loyalty – they go the extra mile. Those who feel overworked and undervalued will do the work necessary to keep their jobs, but will jump ship as soon as a better option presents itself.”

Two-thirds of workers (63 per cent) said they would change their job to improve their home/work mix, while a similar number (59 per cent) would be prepared to move home.