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Always on’ work cultures putting British employees at risk

Abby Hubbard

Just 29 percent of employees admit their workplace has an always on culture, but new research from Microsoft UK finds that many more are adopting unhealthy ways of working.; 86 percent of British employees have experienced anxiety due to work pressure in the last year and 30 percent regularly sacrifice their personal life for work and 56 percent answer work calls out of hours. Contributor Abby Hubbard, Co-Founder – Work Well Being.

Despite agreeing that flexible working can improve work life balance, just 17 percent of British employees are actively encouraged to do so and many don’t have the tech to work effectively. Microsoft UK calls on organisations to help employees reclaim their work-life balance with the workplace culture, tools and know-how to make the most of flexible working

British employees are adopting unhealthy ways of working that are having a profound impact on their personal lives, according to new research from Microsoft UK. Asking the views of more than 2,000 British workers, the study found that 30 per cent of Brits regularly sacrifice their personal lives for work, 56 per cent have answered work-related calls out of office and 8 in 10 (80 percent) have struggled to focus at home due to pressure from work. 

These unhealthy ways of working are going unnoticed by many British employees – only 29 per cent of whom admit their workplace has an ‘always on’ culture – but are leaving people struggling to keep their heads above water. 86 per cent of Brits say they have felt anxious due to work pressure in the last year –whilst 87 percent have trouble switching off) and sleeping (86 per cent), as well as feelings of failure (79 per cent). Meanwhile a third (33 percent) don’t have enough time to spend with their family and 41 per cent struggle to make time for health appointments – all due to workload. 

When it comes to addressing the issue, British employees are clear that flexible working can help improve work life balance, spend more time with family and take care of life admin. However, few feel in a position to take advantage of flexible working policies today. Of the 50 per cent of UK workers whose organisations offer flexible working, just 35 per cent are actively encouraged to do so and more than a third (35 percent) say they need an ‘official reason’ such as an appointment to work outside the office. 

Meanwhile, for those that do make it out of the office to work more flexibly, outdated tech is slowing people down and preventing employees from doing their best work. Just 18 percent per cent of Brits have not faced tech difficulties when working remotely and almost half (48 per cent) of British employees wish their organisation invested in better tech so that they could work more efficiently.

The findings also show a lack of support systems available for employees in Britain today. Only 23 per cent of organisations regularly implement initiatives to improve employee wellbeing and 53 per cent disagree that their organisation offers training to help employees embrace a healthy, balanced lifestyle. 

Howard Lewis, Surface Business Group Lead, Microsoft UK said: “UK organisations have a duty of care to their employees and small changes can make a big difference. It’s not just about introducing a flexible working policy and hoping for the best. Organisational leaders must be role models for their employees, equip them with the tools to make flexible working work and, most importantly of all, communicate the value that these kinds of policies can have for an organization – both in terms of employee wellbeing and the bottom line.”

Abby Hubbard, Co-Founder, Work Well Being said: “The success and wellbeing of people and business go hand in hand. Encouraging time to unplug and to invest in re-energising activities is an important part of any thriving business. Organisations that understand and act on this will continue to adapt, innovate and outperform those that don’t.”

Of all employees surveyed, under 35s are putting themselves under extra strain to succeed. 43 per cent say they need to prioritise work over their personal lives in order to be promoted (vs. the national average of 36 per cent). Meanwhile, single parents are struggling to make it work, with just 26 per cent able to prioritise their children because of their work life balance. 

Microsoft urges employers to equip their employees with the workplace culture, tools and know-how to reclaim their work/life balance and make the most of flexible working: Ensure that working from home is seen as business critical, not just an employee benefit. Leadership must set a positive example for employees and actively encourage the workforce to take advantage of flexible working policies

Create a culture of trust amongst your organisation. Empower employees to work when and where works for them, and discourage presenteeism. Equip employees with tools and devices that enable them to work seamlessly and efficiently no matter where they are.

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