‘Survey finds nearly 1 in 10 UK employees are addicted to work,’ is the heading of a recent article on the BusinessNewsWales website, which discusses a new report from Love Energy Savings.

We can all agree that the word ‘addiction’ carries negative connotations. Even an addiction to health food or exercise would be seen as a bad thing! But the Love Energy Savings survey has unearthed a worrying trend in our approach to work – specifically, the amount of overtime we’re clocking up each week.

According to the study, almost one in ten (8%) UK employees work a whopping 20 hours or more over their contracted hours every week. Meanwhile, 35% claim that they regularly arrive early or stay late.

Split by demographics, more than 40% of 18 to 24-year-olds admit to working over their standard hours each week – the highest of all age groups. One in ten employees aged between 25 and 34 said they worked over 20 hours of overtime each week.

As the article rightly points out, employees risk both mental and physical health problems by failing to maintain a healthy work-life balance. But why do people work overtime? The study sets out four main reasons:

  1. Too much work. Employees feel unable to complete their day’s tasks during regular working hours. This becomes an issue when it becomes a regular occurrence, and when workers feel they need to work (often unpaid) overtime just to stay on track.
  2. Distractions. UC Irvine research claims that employees are interrupted every 11 minutes on average, and it can take up to 23 minutes to get back on track.
  3. Email overload. In our ‘always connected’ culture, many workers feel they have to send or respond to emails in their own time, during evenings and weekends.
  4. Career progression. Many workers, especially young professionals, feel like they need to be seen as ‘going the extra mile’ to progress in their role.

The impact of too much overtime

Working too hard for too long can easily lead to stress, exhaustion and illness among employees. It can even cause more serious issues, like insomnia and high blood pressure.

A study published in the Psychosomatic Medicine journal uncovered that workers with high job demands but lower responsibilities were 45% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

How employers can help

As an employer, you have a duty to make sure your team are happy and safe at work, and that their workloads are manageable. Here are four ways you can prevent your team from overworking:

  1. Communicate. If you notice certain employees regularly working long hours, it’s down to you to investigate and take action. Speak to them about what’s causing the overtime – you can then offer a practical solution, whether that’s re-allocating some of their work or helping them to manage their time more effectively.
  2. Limit meetings and emails. Make sure emails and meetings are kept to a minimum – meetings in particular can be a huge time-waster. Only send emails if you need to (asking someone a question face to face can be twice as quick!) and if you have to hold a meeting, make sure it’s attended only by employees who really need to be there.
  3. Consider your office space. Is your work environment causing too many distractions? Think about creating quiet spaces to help your team remain focused.
  4. Recognise hard work. Schedule in some one-on-one time with your employees to tell them that all their hard work is appreciated. By recognising their commitment and explaining they aren’t expected to work huge amounts of overtime, this will help them understand you value quality over quantity!

If you think your team would benefit from an office redesign, the experts at Kerr can help. We specialise in the design, build and supply of innovative workspaces – get in touch today to find out more.

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