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Research shows workers unable to 'switch-off'

20 June 2022

NEW RESEARCH published by Business in the Community (BITC), The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, has found that only 45% of employees feel that they can switch off from work, with the other 55% stating they feel pressured to respond to calls or check emails after working hours.

Of the employees who worked from home, 49% said they feel they can switch off from work, compared to 45% of employees who travel to and from work each day.

The research also found that over the last two years, four in 10 people (41%) have had to work overtime and struggled to take annual leave due to workload. Findings also showed that:

  • 54% of employees said that they had too many priorities/targets, up from 51% in 2020
  • Less than a third of employees (29%) have the flexibility to alter the start and finish times of their working day
  • 56% of workers on temporary and zero hours contracts are less likely to be able to take their annual leave, compared to 79% of employees on fixed and permanent contracts 

As employers take learnings from the pandemic and re-think ways of working, this report comes at a time when businesses are reacting to the cost of living crisis and reevaluating their workplace policies to better support employees’ mental health. The report makes six recommendations for employers to support employees’ wellbeing and promote a healthy work-life balance.

Actions for employers include:

  •       Ensure that employees can switch off outside of their agreed working hours
  •       Give employees the right to request flexible working from their first day of work
  •       Balance business and employee needs by providing flexibility in how, where, and when people work

The recommendations in this report come as businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and face new challenges, including the cost of living crisis, which is causing further worry, anxiety and stress on people throughout the UK. BITC is urging employers to consider how the external crises are affecting their employees and ensure that they are taking the necessary steps to support them during this time.

Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community said, “It’s clear from these findings that the mental health trends for employees who are unable to switch off from work are going in the wrong direction. Employees, at the very minimum, should not be constantly working additional hours, struggling to take annual leave or feel like they have to always be available to answer emails at all hours of the day. Boundaries must be set to ensure that employers are able to switch off outside of their core working hours and it’s up to senior leaders to ensure that those boundaries are in place. 

“Businesses need their teams to be their absolute best at work, and employees must have the flexibility to do their jobs that balance with their lives outside of the workplace. Our research found that 65% of employees say that work-life balance is extremely important to them, so employers either need to offer that flexibility or else risk losing talented people to organisations that do.”

* The survey included views 4,225 workers across the UK to better understand current workplace practices and pressures that employees experience across the business sector.