By Daniel Hunter

Three quarters (76%) of employees at Britain’s small-to-medium sized businesses (SMEs) work overtime, clocking an additional 1.9 hours a day on average, according to new research from energy company E.ON.

The research was commissioned to tap into the nation’s culture for long working hours, highlighting the impact this can have on employees’ wellbeing, as well as the additional cost to businesses as a result of this extra energy use.

The average SME employee works overtime three days a week, and almost a quarter (22%) admitted that most or all of the lights are kept on when they are the last person in their workplace.

Responsibility for switching off at the end of the working day is left to individuals in most cases, with only a small number of workplaces operating timer systems for lights (5%), air conditioning (9%) or heating (25%). Most people (62%) believe switching the heating and lighting off is the responsibility of the last person in the office, but a quarter (23%) see it as the specific responsibility of others including office managers, cleaners and security staff.

“At an average of two hours a day, three days a week, it’s clear Britain’s workforce is going significantly beyond the call of duty — and while this can be good for business there are also negative implications," Anthony Ainsworth from E.ON said.

“Working very long hours can impact on employees’ wellbeing and lifestyle, preventing people from achieving a healthy work/life balance, but it can also prove costly. Our results show many businesses remain fully lit, heated and air conditioned after hours — sometimes for just one employee. With the extent of overtime being carried out across the UK on a daily basis, this has the potential to add significantly to energy bills.”

According to the latest Eurostat report on full-time employment, Brits work more hours per week than any over European nation. At an average of 42.2 hours the UK is well above average, outstripping other big economies such as Germany (40.7), France (39.5) and Italy (38.8).

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