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July 11, 2014

Workers under pressure in UK’s overtime culture

Workers under pressure in UK’s overtime cultureAlmost half of all workers typically work one day of overtime per week, according to a new survey conducted 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 38% working weekends.

Nearly half (47%) of employees polled work at least one additional day (7.5 hours or more) of overtime per week, with 13% putting in over 15 hours of overtime on a weekly basis.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of workers in the UK feel under pressure to work extra hours, with 94% working over and above their contracted hours each week, according to the survey. Reasons for working extra hours include catching up on email (78%), reading papers and documents (32%) and dealing with urgent matters (30%).

As a result, only 13% of workers said they have a good work/life balance. More than six in ten workers felt pressure from their organisation to work extra hours, while 44% felt under direct pressure from their boss. However, 60% of respondents admitted the pressure to work extra hours was, in part, self-inflicted.

Charles Elvin, ILM chief executive, 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.”

Excessive hours are not sustainable, he added. “There are only so many times you can burn the midnight oil before your performance, decision-making and wellbeing begin to suffer.”

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