Almost two thirds (65%) of workers in the UK feel under pressure to work extra hours, with nine out of ten (94%) working over and above their contracted hours each week, according to a new survey released today by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).
The survey of over 1,000 ILM members found that overtime is firmly embedded in UK working culture, with 76% of people routinely working late in the office or at home, 48% regularly working through their lunch-break and over one third (38%) working weekends. Over half (53%) of respondents felt they had to work extra hours to complete their workloads, with the main out-of-hours tasks being catching up on emails (78%), reading papers and documents (32%), and dealing with urgent or time sensitive matters (30%).
Nearly half (47%) of employees polled work at least one additional day (7.5 hours or more) of overtime per week, with 13% working over 15 hours, or two working days, of overtime on a weekly basis. Only 13% of workers felt that they had a good work/life balance.
Over six in ten workers felt pressure from their organisation to work extra hours, while 44% felt under direct pressure from their boss. In total 60% admitted the pressure to work extra hours was in part self-inflicted.
Commenting on the findings, Charles Elvin, Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management, said: “When you add up all the skipped lunch breaks, early morning conference calls and after hours emails you see just how widespread the extra hours culture is within UK business. We asked workers at the start of 2014 what their work New Year’s resolutions were, and nearly a third said they wanted to improve their work/life balance. It is sad to see that this is only being achieved by a small percentage of workers.
“Of course, all organisations face busy periods when employees will feel motivated to work above and beyond their contractual hours. But excessive hours are not sustainable – there are only so many times you can burn the midnight oil before your performance, decision making and wellbeing begin to suffer. This is why it’s so important for organisations to equip staff with the fundamental planning and time management skills they need to cope with their workloads more effectively.”
The survey also identified the impact of smartphone technology on under-pressure workers, with 60% saying they use their personal phone for work matters and over eight out of ten workers (86%) regularly checking their emails on evenings and weekends. A hard core of 21% spend over an hour per day sending email via their smartphones, and typically check their work email more than ten times per day outside of office hours.
Charles Elvin continues: “Smartphones are a fantastic enabler of flexible working, but we see here that they can also lead to some rather unhealthy behaviours, such as the obsessive checking and sending of out-of-hours emails. We all know how stressful it can be to receive an urgent late night email when you feel compelled to respond immediately. Organisations can help address this with some clear guidelines on email etiquette, including when best to send and reply to important messages.”