'Always on' culture leading to managers working an extra 44 days a year

17 January 2018 -

Stressed manager

Latest CMI research reveals UK managers are working longer hours and feel stressed throughout the year

Matt Scott

Blue Monday, the second Monday of January, is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, but research from CMI has found that the uncertainty of Brexit and the ‘always on’ culture is having an increasingly negative impact on the workplace throughout the year.

Of the 1,037 managers surveyed for the research, the average boss puts in an extra 7.5 hours beyond their contracted weekly hours, equivalent to an extra day at work each week.

In total, this adds up to an extra 43.8 days over the course of a year.

Mobile Devices Blur Lines Between Work And Leisure Time

In addition, the ‘always on’ culture means 59% of managers now constantly check their emails outside of normal working hours. This helps explain why one in 10 UK managers say they take at least one day of sick leave a year because of stress, depression or a mental health issue, with the average period off work totaling 12 days.

This loss of working days could cost the UK economy as much as £3.3bn every year.

Read more: Find out what else is getting UK managers down

The OECD has previously estimated the total cost of mental health to the UK economy as £70bn, or 4.5% of GDP in lost productivity, benefits and business costs.

At a time when UK productivity remains 22.3% lower than France and 25.6% lower than Germany, CMI is calling on employers to do far more in 2018 to manage the impact of rising hours and digital technology.

“Despite the jump in hours, we remain a lot less productive than our European counterparts in France and Germany, where they work shorter weeks,” says CMI director of strategy Petra Wilton. “Improving managers’ quality of working life should be every employer’s New Year’s resolution to boost productivity.

“This means encouraging managers to switch-off, helping them to deal with the pressure, and giving them the training and support they need to perform.”

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School, says businesses need to rethink the ‘lean and mean’ style of business that is all too prevalent in UK Plc.

"The UK's long hours culture is detrimental to the wellbeing of managers, and it's bashing national productivity,” he says. “The lean and mean structure of business means there are too few workers to deal with mounting workloads.

“Long office hours combined with the always-on expectation to answer emails is eating into home life, leaving managers with little chance of respite and increasing stress levels.

“Improving the quality of working life for managers will be a major step forward to solving our productivity crisis,” he adds.

Brexit Blues Increase Workplace Woes

The survey also reveals that the lead-up to Brexit is causing work-related headaches for a significant number of managers, with 25% reporting that it has decreased their sense of job security.

Similarly high numbers highlight a decrease in morale and overall psychological wellbeing (23% and 22% respectively), with 14% directly attributing a rise in working hours to Brexit, and saying that it has reduced their motivation at work.

“The impact of Brexit and the continuing political uncertainty is clearly contributing to managers’ workplace woes,” says Wilton. “Not only are they facing longer working weeks and the ‘always-on’ culture that new technologies enable, but the uncertainties of Brexit are clearly starting to undermine their job security and sense of well-being.

“It’s hardly surprising that mental health problems and workplace stress is rising as a consequence.”

CMI’s Top 4 Ways To Improve Working Life

1. Empower your people

Give employees autonomy, recognise values-based behaviour and reward accordingly, and support their personal and professional development. This will promote productivity.

2. Switch off

Avoid developing a culture of digital presenteeism. Encourage staff to switch off, reduce unnecessary emails and set expectations about working hours.

3. Develop better line managers

You need to develop managers who empower and engage. Ensure they receive colleague feedback on their management style and avoid the accidental manager syndrome – make sure new managers have the appropriate training to learn how to lead.

4. Prioritise wellbeing in work

For many managers, long hours and work pressure can affect their personal life. Tackle taboos about the discussion of health issues and take steps to change the factors that employees identify as causing problems - and don't leave it all to HR.

For more information on improving quality of working life visit: www.managers.org.uk/qualityofworkinglife or follow @cmi_managers #FutureForecast