91% of UK professionals work beyond their contracted hours

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Only 10% of workers receive compensation for extra hours worked, research finds. Photo: Getty

Some 91% of professionals have reported that they work beyond their contracted hours on a weekly basis.

According to Morgan McKinley’s Working Hours and Flexibility reports, 43% also do not leave the office or take a break at lunchtime. Nearly a fifth said they worked more than 10 hours more than contracted hours on a weekly basis while 31% said they feel it is expected of them to work overtime, yet they are not rewarded.

Only 10% stated that they receive compensation for the extra hours.  

The group surveyed 1,500 professionals, who are mainly employed in professional services, banking, financial services, and commerce and industry — 48% of respondents were male, 51% female, and the remaining 1% selected ‘prefer not to say.’

READ MORE: Bank holiday sparks calls to make every week a four-day week

The highest proportion of these respondents were at mid-management level (39%), followed by operational/executive (25%) and senior management (18%). It’s worth noting that 63% of respondents work in London while 37% are outside London. 

“The way in which we all work has changed dramatically. Employees have increased access to flexible working but end up working a greater number of hours every week. It is becoming a widespread dilemma,” said David Leithead, chief operations officer at Morgan McKinley UK.

“Employees often don’t take any kind of lunch break but feel obligated to work beyond their contracted hours. When they finally leave the office, they feel they should be available on mobile devices. This feeling of ‘not being able to down tools’ can negatively affect an employee’s wellbeing, causing mental burnout.”

Calls grow for a four-day working week

Photo: Getty

The push for four-day working weeks have been hailed in studies as revolutionary for workers’ health and productivity.

Ohio University highlighted how the typical “40-hour working week is not based on the ideal total hours humans can work productively.” It used an example of Sweden, where people work considerably fewer hours than their counterparts in countries such as the US and UK. The average worker clocks only about six hours a day, compared to the average minimum of eight hours a day. Ohio University said that the switch-up in hours resulted in a “marked reduction in absenteeism, [improved] worker health in addition to improved productivity.”

READ MORE: McDonnell sets out Labour plan for 32-hour working week

According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data, people in Germany actually have the shortest working hours compared with all OECD member countries. However, it also has one of the highest productivity levels and employees are 27% more productive than UK staff that work more hours per year.

“[UK opposition party] Labour believes introducing a four-day working week could restore balance in our lives whilst maintaining productivity levels - our survey findings suggest professional workers would support such a policy,” said Leithead.

“Unsurprisingly, business groups are skeptical. Whilst this may not be the best solution, it is crucial that employers recognise the issue of overworking and manage it appropriately.”

Is flexible working hurting workers?

Photo: Getty

Flexible working has been on the rise — allowing employees to work from home more and starting later in the day.

However, the survey showed that 62% of respondents outlined that they are available on mobile devices outside working hours, checking emails first thing in the morning and staying online when commuting home and in the evening.

“Businesses need to ensure they overcome the hurdle of engaging the remote proportion of their workforce and closely monitor whether they are working excessive hours,” said Leithead.

“It’s vital to deploy tools for chat, video and virtual meetings, as well as regularly hosting team time so those flexible workers aren’t forgotten. Strategies have to be put in place that are aimed at both employees and their management in order to harness the benefits of flexible working patterns. ”