Always on work cultures commonplace and harmful

Just under a third (29 percent) of employees agree with the idea that their workplace has an always on culture, but new research from Microsoft UK suggests that many more are adopting unhealthy ways of working that are having a profound impact on their wellbeing and personal lives.

Asking the views of more than 2,000 British workers, the study claims that 30 percent of respondents regularly sacrifice their personal lives for work, 56 percent have answered work-related calls out of office and 8 in 10 (80 percent) have struggled to focus at home due to pressure from work.

These unhealthy ways of working are going unnoticed by many British employees – only 29 percent of whom concede that their workplace has an ‘always on’ culture – but are leaving people struggling to keep their heads above water.

The report claims that 86 percent of Brits say they have felt anxious due to work pressure in the last year –whilst 87 percent have trouble switching off) and sleeping (86 percent), as well as feelings of failure (79 percent). Meanwhile a third (33 percent) don’t have enough time to spend with their family and 41 percent struggle to make time for health appointments – all due to workload.


The role of flexible working

When it comes to addressing the issue, British employees are clear that flexible working can help improve work life balance, spend more time with family and take care of life admin. However, few feel in a position to take advantage of flexible working policies today. Of the 50 percent of UK workers whose organisations offer flexible working, just 35 percent are actively encouraged to do so and more than a third (35 percent) say they need an ‘official reason’ such as an appointment to work outside the office.

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Meanwhile, for those that do make it out of the office to work more flexibly, outdated tech is slowing people down and preventing employees from doing their best work. Just 18 percent percent of Brits have have not faced tech difficulties when working remotely and almost half (48 percent) of British employees wish their organisation invested in better tech so that they could work more efficiently.

The findings also show a lack of support systems available for employees in Britain today. Only 23 percent of organisations regularly implement initiatives to improve employee wellbeing and 53 percent disagree that their organisation offers training to help employees embrace a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Abby Hubbard, Co-Founder, Work Well Being said: “The success and wellbeing of people and business go hand in hand. Encouraging time to unplug and to invest in re-energising activities is an important part of any thriving business. Organisations that understand and act on this will continue to adapt, innovate and outperform those that don’t.”


Extra strain

Of all employees surveyed, under 35s are putting themselves under extra strain to succeed. 43 percent say they need to prioritise work over their personal lives in order to be promoted (vs. the national average of 36 percent). Meanwhile, single parents are struggling to make it work, with just 26 percent able to prioritise their children because of their work life balance.

The report urges employers to equip their employees with the workplace culture, tools and know-how to reclaim their work/life balance and make the most of flexible working:

  • Ensure that working from home is seen as business critical, not just an employee benefit. Leadership must set a positive example for employees and actively encourage the workforce to take advantage of flexible working policies
  • Create a culture of trust amongst your organisation. Empower employees to work when and where works for them, and discourage presenteeism
  • Equip employees with tools and devices that enable them to work seamlessly and efficiently no matter where they are

Image: Microsoft