Survey into UK culture of overwork highlights need for better worklife balance

UK culture of overwork highlights need for better worklife balance

A new study is published today which reveals how the UK’s long hour-culture is damaging family life, causing high stress levels, cutting time spent with loved ones and creating an inability to switch off from work. A survey of more than 1,000 working parents throughout the UK, commissioned by health cash plan provider Medicash, found that 83 per cent of working parents feel guilty about the amount of time they spend working, with 50 per cent saying it has a negative impact on relationships with their children, and almost half (45.9%), saying it caused problems in their relationship with their partner and caused them to neglect friends (25%).

Commenting on the findings, Professor Cary Cooper, Distinguished Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University & Director of Robertson Cooper Ltd, said: “The fact that many people feel guilty about how they spend their time is hugely significant – it shows how important it is to maintain work-life balance.  The evidence shows that flexible working delivers to the business’ bottom line, with employees feeling less guilty about how they spend their time and achieving a better balance between work and home commitments.”

When asked how they thought it affected family life, over 50 per cent of respondents admitted to missing their child’s sports day, school play or parents’ evenings due to work commitments, 42.9 per cent said they had worked through family holidays, and 58.8 per cent admitted their children had complained about the amount of time they spent working.

Parents also said that work had caused issues with childcare, with just over 30 per cent (30.4%) having to organise for someone to collect the offspring at the last minute because they had to work, whilst 46 per cent of parents admitted to dropping children off at school or nursery when they were ill because they had to work and could not find a childsitter at short notice.

Professor Cooper added: “If we are slaves to work, our family life seems to suffer by default. We need the joint responsibility to promote a healthier, happier lifestyle; organisations must actively promote flexible working and employees need to take advantage of that opportunity – work smarter, not longer, should be our mantra. Increasingly we are seeing employees turning up to work ill and delivering little added value, presenteeism does not enhance but undermines productivity.”

The study also revealed that heavy workloads were responsible for increased stress levels, with over 60 per cent (60.1%) of respondents saying they found it difficult to switch off from work when at home.

The UK has some of the longest working hours in Europe, with average UK workers spending 1,625 hours a year at work, and more than 3 million UK employees (1 in 8) working more than 48 hours a week.

Professor Cooper said: “We all need a certain level of financial security, but past a certain point it’s our personal relationships which are by far the most important aspect of our quality of life. The fact that more than 1 in 10 feel threatened with redundancy shows that the economy is a clear pressure but there is a wider cultural problem of overwork, and not just at executive levels.”

He added: “The health implications of excessive working are very serious and should not be overlooked, often being associated with the development of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, stress and depression, which is not only damaging for personal relationships, but also the UK economy, leading to workplace absenteeism, which amounts to 10.4 million lost working days per year, costing UK businesses an average of £3.7bn each year. Keeping a good work-life balance helps both workers and businesses.”

View the infographic here