How high workloads are denting your staff's personal lives

05 December 2016 -


The work-life balance of UK employees is under threat as workforces come under increasing demands and stress levels rocket

Jermaine Haughton

Spending time with your loved ones, going on holidays and participating in new hobbies are common ways for employees to relax outside of the office. But new research reveals a recent increase in staff workloads is limiting the personal lives of employees.

Commissioned by collaboration and work management platform Wrike, the study reporting on the impact of the digital working culture on the lives of office workers in the UK, France and Germany found that family time and holidays is being eroded for many individuals, as they are forced to put in extra hours at work.

Most workers now admit that they would rather work fewer hours if they could afford to do so financially, the report stated.

With many organisations guilty of not ensuring the level of staffing matches the amount of work coming in on a daily basis, nearly six in ten (58%) UK respondents to the survey have felt a rise in the amount of tasks they are expected to do - compared to 72% in Germany and 77% in France.

One fifth of employees say the workload increase has grown ‘significantly’.

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The substantial cost-cutting many employers have done, and a lack of investment in new hires, has led existing staff having to take on additional duties, which would have been previous completed by a colleague.

As such, UK employees polled across all sectors work longer hours to get the job done (47%) than a year ago, compared to 56% in France and 61% in Germany, with a third of managers confirming that they expect workers to put in extra time and take fewer breaks to tick off their growing task lists.

A series of studies over the past five years have shown lunch and other work breaks as incredibly important to performance and wellbeing of employees, however. Failing to take sufficient breaks eventually impedes your ability to remain concentrated on one task and breaks help you retain information and be more creative, allowing our minds to wander and make connections with the work you’re confronted with.

Similarly, employees who enjoy a healthy balance of work time and personal time are less likely to suffer from emotional and health problems such as stress, burnout and heart disease.

UK employees report that close to a third (31%) now spend less time with their family than a year ago, 28% have less time available to take for holidays and a quarter (25%) now work more at weekends than they used to due to their increased workload.

By contrast, 51% of respondents in Germany and 41% in France stated that their family time had decreased.

Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike, said: “Much has been made of the blurring of lines between work and private life. Our study shows that it’s not so much a blurring of those worlds but a progressive decline of personal time in favour of work time.

“The problem is that workloads are growing exponentially, but the systems and processes we have are not keeping up - and that is taking a toll on workers. They need better ways of managing the sheer volume of work requests and demands. At the same time, business leaders need a clear view of workloads – and realistic expectations as to the amount of work staff can handle at once, without burning out.

“You wouldn't overload a piece of machinery and expect it to last long without failure. The same principles apply to humans, especially if you expect them to produce high quality work on a consistent basis."

Only a fifth of UK workers are happy with their working hours, and three in five (59%) would work fewer hours – either if they could afford it financially or their workloads could be adjusted accordingly.

However, this perception from staff seems to differ from that of employers, with only 40% of managers saying they now expect their employees to work longer hours and 33% saying they need to take fewer breaks to meet that increase in demands on them.

Regardless, the changing workload correlates to an increase in perceived stress levels, with nearly two thirds (62%) of respondents concerned stated that they were feeling more stressed compared to a year ago. By contrast, two-thirds of German workers have seen their stress levels surge, as well as 60% of French staff.

Despite the growing stress among employees, the Wrike survey found more than a quarter of workers felt they and their teams had become more productive over the last year, which was largely attributed to technology.

Access to sophisticated and highly connected software, hardware and electronics is perceived by the majority of respondents as being key to helping workers stay abreast of their expanding task list, making it easier to work remotely, share information, and increase productivity.

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