UK employees are doing an extra 5.5 hours of unpaid work every month

Woman working late in the office. (Getty Images)
87% of employees are doing an extra 5.5 hours of unpaid work every month. (Getty Images)

It's 5.30pm and though that officially marks the end of your working day you know you've got at least an hour's graft before you can even think of switching off your laptop.

If all that sounds achingly familiar, you're certainly not alone as new figures have thrown a light on the extent of the UK's overworking with employees clocking up (or should we say clocking on?) a whopping 19 million extra days of unpaid overtime each and every month.

Research of 2,000 employees found that 87% work an average of five and a half hours more every month than their contracted agreement.

Of course for most this over time is totally unpaid and tots up to UK workers putting in 153 cumulative hours of work each month for absolutely nothing.

When it comes to why we're feeling obliged to stay at our desk, more than a quarter (26%) end up working more because they haven’t completed their to-do list for the day, and a fifth say they have "unrealistic" workloads for their contracted hours.

As a result, 29% want their manager to take some of their work off them, while 27% want it to be more evenly distributed between the team.

Interestingly, only 6% of workers say they aren’t very productive during their working day, while 3% admit to being bad at managing their time effectively.

Woman working hard and feeling stressed. (Getty Images)
UK employees are struggling with their workloads. (Getty Images)

However, distraction (56%), lack of focus (48%) and spending too much time on unimportant tasks (46%) contributed to the extra work and were cited as the main causes of flawed time management.

As well as working extra hours, the average worker isn't using all their holiday either, with 25% not taking the full number of days they are entitled to due to the amount of work they had to do.

But for 35% all this overwork is having a negative impact on wellbeing for 35%, with 53% suffering with increased stress and anxiety and 41% feeling tired and burnt out.

The research, carried out via OnePoll, also found 42% have given up their hobbies due to work taking over, and 36% have missed important events like birthdays or a child’s nativity play thanks to a busy workload..

Commenting on the findings, Simon Garrity, UK country manager for ProTime, which commissioned the research and has compiled it into a report, The True cost of Overtime: How overwork impacts employee performance, says: “The UK’s widespread culture of overwork is a ticking time bomb that is a bad deal for both bosses and workers.

“Excessive workloads and unrealistic expectations are burning employees out, killing motivation and productivity, and driving away top talent from organisations.

“Workers then get stuck in negative cycle, as a lack of support from managers causes overwork, which in turn harms their well-being, willingness to stay on in the job and how effectively they do their work.

“It’s important for bosses to understand unpaid work and missed holidays aren’t a sign of dedication, they are symptoms of a system which has to work better.

“Companies need to find ways to give their people fair amounts of work and make sure they have time for their families and hobbies. This will help everyone feel happier and work better.”

Dr Mansoor Soomro, future of work lead at Teesside University International Business School, adds: “Unrealistic workloads and overtime culture is a productivity killer.

"There is a clear negative and diminishing impact on productivity after a certain number of hours. Beyond that, mental fatigue sets in, leading to errors, decreased focus, and slower work.

“Exhausted employees become less efficient, negating the gains from extra hours."

Woman feeling stressed at work. (Getty Images)
Overworking is taking a toll on employees' wellbeing. (Getty Images)

Dr Soomro added that overtime effectively reduces innovation.

“Creativity thrives in a well-rested and balanced mind," he explains.

“Overworked employees have less mental energy for brainstorming new ideas or problem-solving creatively.

“This stifles innovation and the company's ability to adapt and grow.”

Garrity says he is "concerned" about the high percentage of adults working unpaid overtime, often due to unrealistic workloads or uncompleted tasks.

“Employers should prioritise workload management and ensure that employees' time is valued and respected," he adds.

1. To complete their to-do list for the day

2. The amount of work they are delegated is unrealistic for their contracted hours

3. There is a culture of working unpaid overtime at their workplace

4. They have to fix mistakes they have made

5. They feel pressured by my manager

6. They have to fix a mistake one of their colleagues has made

7. They feel pressured by colleagues

8. They struggle to manage their time effectively

9. They’re hoping it will help them get promoted

10. They have nothing else to do

Additional reporting SWNS.