Flexible working does not reduce levels of overwork

UK employees are having to work harder to pay the bills, with the vast majority (91 percent) working beyond their contracted hours on a weekly basis and almost half (43 percent) not leaving the office or taking a break at lunchtime according to an analysis of Morgan McKinley’s Working Hours and Flexibility reports. And the growing practice of flexible working appears to be having no impact on the overworking culture.

The survey of 1,500 professionals, employed in professional services, banking and financial services or commerce and industry, claims that 17 percent work beyond their contracted hours by ten hours or more on a weekly basis to meet deadlines and cope with workloads. 31 percent of employees feel it is expected of them to work overtime, yet they are not rewarded, with only 10 percent stating they receive compensation for the extra hours.


Always on

Nearly two thirds (62 percent) of respondents say that they are available on mobile devices outside working hours, checking emails first thing in the morning, stay online commuting home and in the evening. 55 percent of the UK workforce expect flexible working when looking for a new job. 65 percent are offered flexible working by their current employer, with 84 percent of that proportion making use of the opportunity.

The survey claims that 78 percent of respondents believe flexible working has had a positive impact on their company’s performance and profitability, as well as highlighting how it is beneficial for the employees with improved staff wellbeing.

These well recognised benefits to both business performance and employee wellbeing make it doubly important that companies manage the flexible proportion of their workforce effectively. When asked what they thought was the biggest downside to flexible working, a ‘less engaged workforce’ was the most frequent response (39 percent).

David Leithead, Chief Operations Officer at Morgan McKinley UK, commented: “The way in which we all work has changed dramatically. Employees have increased access to flexible working but end up working a greater number of hours every week. It is becoming a widespread dilemma.

“Employees often don’t take any kind of lunch break but feel obligated to work beyond their contracted hours. When they finally leave the office, they feel they should be available on mobile devices. This feeling of ‘not being able to down tools’ can negatively affect an employee’s wellbeing, causing mental burnout.

“The Labour Party believes introducing a four day working week could restore balance in our lives whilst maintaining productivity levels – our survey findings suggest professional workers would support such a policy. Unsurprisingly, business groups are skeptical. Whilst this may not be the best solution, it is crucial that employers recognise the issue of overworking and manage it appropriately.”