The demise of the 9-5: employees feel pressure to work 24/7

New research shows that three quarters of British workers are feeling pressure to work 24/7, neglecting their own health to stay on top of their work.

Research from Bupa UK for World Health Day reveals that the traditional 9 to 5 is officially no more. The figures show that three-quarters (75 per cent) of Brits feel under pressure to respond to emails outside of work hours which can increase anxiety.

More than half of Brits (55 per cent) now access their work emails remotely and the findings suggest that emails are replacing loved ones as the first thing working Brits think about. Almost three-quarters of employees check their work emails first thing in the morning and last thing at night with a third of employees feeling as though they have to be available to respond to emails all the time.

Being unable to switch off from work has a negative impact on someone’s wellbeing and can cause stress. Over a longer term period this can even result in anxiety and depression which is the focus of World Health Day this year.

Not quite Doctor’s orders

Holidays are supposed to give us the chance to get away from it all, yet more than a quarter of employees continue to check their work emails whilst on holiday.

· Employees in the Midlands (41 per cent) are three times more likely than their peers in the South West (13 per cent) to keep an eye on work emails on annual leave
· A similar percentage of employees (33 per cent) stay abreast of their emails even when they are on sick leave
· Looking across the generations, employees aged between 16-24 years old are the most likely to check their emails even when they’re signed off ill

The demise of ‘me-time’

The preoccupation with keeping on top of work emails is having a notable impact on Brits’ life, two in five male employees and half of female employees state that they are not getting enough time to themselves.

  • A quarter (24 per cent) of employees feel that work controls their life
  • A similar percentage (23 per cent) of employees feel it is causing them to neglect friends
  • Employees aged 25-34 are most likely to feel that they are neglecting their partner (31 per cent)
  • A quarter (25 per cent) of women feel they are neglecting their children compared with one in five men
  • A third of employees say that they would feel stressed if they were unable to access their emails remotely
  • Those aged 45-54 are half as likely (22 per cent) as those ages 16-24 (43 per cent) to feel pressure if they were unable to access their emails
  • Across the UK, employees living in the North East (40 per cent), London (40 per cent) and the North (39 per cent) are the most likely to stress about not being able to read their emails

However, the majority don’t believe that being unable to respond to emails outside of work would impact their job security or chance of a promotion. This suggests that many are putting themselves under unnecessary pressure.

Pablo Vandenabeele, clinical director for mental health, Bupa UK says, ‘Like our mobile devices, if we don’t get the opportunity to recharge, we cannot work – at least not very well. Technology has transformed the workplace and we no longer need to be at our desks in order to get the job done. However, working remotely means that the majority of us allow work to encroach on our home life.

‘The focus of this year’s World Health Day is depression – a topic that is now being openly discussed and considered within the workplace. It is important that employees that feel ruled by their inbox are encouraged and feel empowered to take a break as a sustained feeling that you are not in control of your life can lead to stress, exhaustion, anxiety and depression.’

Although non-stop use of technology can be harmful, technology can be used by employers to understand individual health and wellbeing goals and empower them to make changes that can improve their lifestyle.

Bupa created Bupa Boost – an app which collects anonymous data to help employers understand what is important to different elements of their workforce. Harnessing technology in this way makes it easy for businesses to engage with their employees and ensure that they continue to provide them with the most appropriate wellbeing programme.

Further reading on pressure to work

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Freddie Halvorson

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the Smallbusiness.co.uk and Growthbusiness.co.uk titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the Express.co.uk.

Related Topics

Employees