Stress, unpaid overtime and other pressures taking a toll on people’s wellbeing

A new poll from leisure operator Better suggests that the UK population is working far beyond its contracted hours, and this is taking a toll on the health of the nation. Two-thirds of people surveyed say they regularly work unpaid overtime, on average an extra two hours per week, equating to 14 working days per year. One in ten (11 percent) of 45-54 yrs work more than five extra hours per week; that’s the equivalent of 35 days of unpaid work per year. Those working in the education and HR sectors undertake the most unpaid overtime; at an average of 15 days per year.

The survey goes on to highlight that eight out of ten respondents believe their workplace has a negative impact on their wellbeing, with a third of those surveyed (34 percent) citing excessive workload and pressure as the primary cause. This figure rises to 42 percent among those living in Northern Ireland and Scotland. 16 percent of workers are also expected to be contactable outside of working hours.

The report claims that this ‘always on’ culture has led to Brits finding it hard to switch off from work, with 68 percent struggling to switch off during weekday evenings and a further 59 percent unable to disengage over the weekend.

These perceived pressures may have resulted in the nation’s relatively high levels of sick leave. On average, Britons are signed off work for four days per year. This figure more than doubles for those living in Northern Ireland (seven days), while those living in North East England take the least sick leave (three days). One in six Gen Z take more than 5 days of sick leave per year, compared to just 10 percent of Boomers.

A fifth of respondents stated that they took time off work for mental health reasons (23 percent), rising to 30 percent for those living in the South West, and one in six took time out of the workplace for fatigue. Perhaps surprisingly, 23 percent said that they took sick leave for family emergencies, with men 9 percent more likely to report this as a reason than women.  One in ten took sick leave for musculoskeletal problems such as a bad back, with this rising to one in six in East Midlands.

With recruitment currently a challenge for many industries, it is interesting to see that 40 percent of workers would consider leaving their job due to stress or burnout, with a further 39 percent citing a poor work/life balance as a motivator for change.

Some workplaces are doing what they can to address the challenges faced by their employees. Almost half (49 percent) of UK businesses offer mental health support, 27 percent provide gym memberships or discounts, a third provide free fruit and snacks for workers, and more than half (51 percent) offer a generous annual leave policy of more than 28 days per year.  Despite this, 17 percent of Brits believe their workplace limits their ability to exercise, and one in seven feel that it causes irregular or unhealthy eating patterns.