New research suggests that in the past year, offices workloads have increased markedly around the UK, leading to heightened stress levels as employees work longer hours and have less time for their families and holidays.
So what are the reasons for increased workload? Staff shortages, reduced ability to take time-off, and long hours are the main factors. Fifty-eight per cent felt that their workload had gone up to some extent, with a fifth stating it had gone up ‘significantly.’
By far the biggest perceived contributor to this is that staffing does not match the amount of work coming in. Companies are either not hiring more staff to cover additional work coming in, or have had to cut their workforce. Handling increased responsibilities was the third most frequent cause, likely due to the existing staff having to pick up the slack.
The knock-on effect of changing workloads is that UK employees across all sectors polled work longer hours to get the job done (47%) than a year ago, 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.
The biggest impact of this changing workload culturally was an increase in perceived stress levels: nearly two thirds of respondents concerned stated that they were feeling more stressed compared to a year ago (62%). This put the UK second only to Germany, where two-thirds felt their stress level had increased, and slightly ahead of France (60%).
All this extra workload and expectation of working longer hours has a dramatic effect on time available for family and holidays. It shows that close to a third (31%) of those affected now spend less time with their family than a year ago, 28% have less time available to take for holidays and a quarter now work more at weekends than they used to. This is not only an issue for office workers, as Britain's self-employed aren't jet setting abroad either: 30% of new business owners admit they haven’t had a holiday in over two years.
Part-time working is a pipe dream for most. Taken together, only a mere fifth of UK workers think their working hours are fine, and three in five (59%) would work fewer hours – either if they could afford it financially or their workloads could be adjusted accordingly.
Technology is perceived by the majority as being key to helping workers stay abreast of their expanding task list, making it easier to work remotely, share information, and increase productivity. In fact, in spite of rising workloads, more than a quarter of workers felt they and their teams had become more productive over the last year.
Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike, commented: “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."