The UK workforce has abandoned efforts to maintain a boundary between their professional and personal lives as they face up to the challenges of the always-on culture. New research announced today has revealed employees now live a permanently blurred line, sustaining both a work life and home life at the same time over the course of their careers.
A survey of 6,755 people across the country, commissioned by leading jobs board totaljobs, has discovered the majority (58%) of employees work from home outside of business hours. The average employee will spend 7 hours and 49 minutes per week doing work at home, the equivalent of almost 51 extra working days a year.
A quarter (23%) of employees say they work from home because they don’t have time to do all of their work during business hours, suggesting working from home is a necessity rather than a choice. This is despite less than a tenth (8%) of workers believing career progression and salary is more important than maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Blurred lines: replacing the traditional ‘business hours’
Workers across the UK are adapting to the modern ‘always-on’ culture by rebalancing their work and home lives, increasingly embracing a blur between their professional and personal lives. Indeed, only a quarter (23%) of employees believe it’s important to set hard boundaries between work life and home life and just 8% say their employers encourage them to do so.
The survey has found the workforce is compromising the difficulties involved in maintaining a healthy work-life divide by bringing their personal tasks to work. The average employee spends 6 hours and 4 minutes per week doing personal tasks, such as life admin and trawling through social media, during business hours.
These figures suggest the work-life balance isn’t quite as one-sided as often implied. In fact, 15% of workers say they focus better at home and 12% say they’d rather leave the workplace on time and work from home.
Always-on and never unavailable
As the always-on culture becomes increasingly presumed, employees are expected to make themselves more and more available for work tasks at any time of the day.
The average worker now spends 5 hours and 20 minutes per week communicating with colleagues outside of business hours. Indeed, two-thirds (62%) of employees say they’ve been interrupted by their boss and more than half (59%) have been disturbed by their clients outside of traditional working hours. With the expectation to be increasingly contactable, it has been revealed that half (49%) of workers have been interrupted while on holiday and 43% while they’re in bed or asleep. Remarkably, a tenth (11%) have even been contacted while at a wedding or a funeral
It’s obvious employees are now assumed they should make themselves available for work at practically all times. In a competitive marketplace, there are pressures to meet these expectations and it causes workers to be forever on call. Indeed, half (46%) of employees say they deal with interruptions straight away and only a tenth (13%) feel comfortable ignoring disruptions outside of business hours.
As employees lives become blurred and there are greater pressures on career prospects, the always-on culture can cause friction between professional and personal priorities.
The survey has found the average worker spends just 4 hours and 19 minutes per day with family. This time is no longer precious due to work commitments and intrusions from colleagues. Over a third (37%) of employees are forced to cancel plans with their family at least once per week due to work. A quarter (25%) of employees have either had to miss a wedding or a funeral and 2% have even missed the birth of their child. It is hardly surprising, then, that only a sixth (16%) of workers believe their family and friends are happy with their current work-life balance.
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