Quarter of UK professionals unhappy with work-life balance

04 March 2015 -


Significant proportion of British workforce disgruntled with how many hours they have left outside the office – but their own job choices may be to blame

Jermaine Haughton

In 2012, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg famously stated, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s work, and there’s life and there’s no balance.” Her quip seemed to hint that professionals should instinctively know where the barriers are set – but smartphones, cloud platforms and emails have unquestionably broken down them down, turning many of us into workaholics. The ongoing damage from those trends have now been highlighted in a new study, which finds that one quarter of UK workers are at odds with the current state of their priorities.

Based upon survey responses from 2,000 professionals in finance, law, teaching and healthcare, the study from Investec Private Banking suggests that Sandberg is wide of the mark, at least in the UK. Although the employment rate rose to a peak in the final quarter of 2014, 29% of the respondents admitted that their work-life balance has continued to worsen since 2010. Londoners are most likely to be “workaholics”, with 38% saying their friends and family describe them as such. Despite that, 64% of London professionals said they loved working in the city.

On a brighter note, however, one third (33%) felt optimistic about their work-life balance improving in the coming five years.

Investec head of banking Wayne Preston said: “We continue to see high levels of demand being placed on professionals throughout the UK. Advancements in technology make it harder than ever to ‘switch off’ outside the office and achieve an ideal work-life balance. Life doesn’t exist solely between the hours of nine and five, and working in a global marketplace across multiple time zones means the pressure to be ‘always on’ is high.”

The report concluded that the problem is rooted in the job choices people make. Indeed, work-life balance was only ranked third in respondents’ list of major priorities (16%), with career enjoyment placed top (41%) and salary second (23%). However, career starters take a different view. According to Bev White, managing director of Penna Career Services, Generation Y workers are more worried about maintaining a strong work-life balance than their forerunners.

Speaking in City AM, she advised bosses: “Achieving a work-life balance isn’t only an aspiration for those with children. Our research found that Gen Y also think it’s important, even if they are just starting out in their career. But this balance may mean something different, and it’s worthwhile having regular career conversations to identify what’s important to younger workers.”

White’s advice echoes one of the key messages from the recent Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Management 2020 report. A key piece of research cited in its pages argued that a job is “more than just a job” to Gen-Y professionals. According to the report, “The managers who belong to this generation want to work somewhere where there is a positive, values-driven culture, job security, the chance to learn new skills [and] a good work-life balance.”

The report added that there are very important reasons why Gen Y’s thoughts on work should be considered. “By 2025,” it said, “these individuals will comprise 75% of the global workforce, according to Deloitte. They will inevitably play a pivotal role in shaping the future development of management, both in the UK and globally. In order to understand how management is likely to evolve in the future, it is crucial to understand [Gen Y’s] views on, and expectations of, the workplace.”

However, some workplace experts question whether work-life balance is an actual reality. Futurist author Jacob Morgan, for example, explained that the more an individual enjoys their work, the more likely they are to spend more time on it. In a column for Forbes, he wrote: “If you love what you do, those lines [between work and personal life] become less clear cut. Suddenly you don’t mind working later at night or early in the morning; you find yourself having fun while you work and it becomes harder to actually distinguish what work really is. In other words the more you love what you do, the more blurring there is.”

Download a full PDF of CMI’s Management 2020 report.

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