An embedded culture of overwork and unpaid overtime is taking a severe toll on business and workers across the UK, according to new research released by Protime UK.

The research, conducted among 2,000 UK employees, found excessive workloads and unrealistic expectations from managers are driving a work environment that undermines employee, motivation, productivity, retention and overall business performance.

The study found that half (54%) of UK employees put in between half a day and four days per month of unpaid overtime each month equating to 19 million days of uncompensated work.

One in five employees said they want to leave their current job in next six months to escape overwork while just under half (49%) say they won’t take on additional work or pursue management responsibility (42%) citing the same reason.

The other key findings of the research were:

  • Hybrid workers are more vulnerable to overwork:33% of employees say they are more likely to work additional unpaid hours if they are working out of the office.
  • Unrealistic workloads are routinely given to UK workers: 28% report being unable to get their job done in the working day and have to work additional hours as a result.
  • Managers aren’t doing enough to prevent overwork: 27% of employees want managers to proactively ensure work is more evenly spread in the team while 20% say the work they are delegated is unrealistic for the time available.
  • Overwork damages business performance and employee engagement: 38% of workers say they are less productive with 29% saying the quality of their work is impacted. 28% say it harms the relationship with their manager.
  • Employee wellbeing is also undermined by overwork:53% experience increased stress and anxiety, 41% of employees feel burnout and 25% don’t take holidays as a result of overwork.

Commenting on the research Simon Garrity, Country Manager for Protime UK said:

The UK’s widespread culture of overwork is a ticking time bomb that business and HR leaders can’t afford to ignore. Excessive workloads and unrealistic expectations are burning employees out, killing motivation and productivity, and driving away top talent from organisations. Our data reveals a vicious cycle for employees, as lack of manager support and boundaries enables overwork, which in turn harms well-being, retention and the bottom line.

Simon Garrity, Country Manager for Protime UK

Garrity believes employers need to understand unpaid work and missed holidays aren’t a sign of dedication, they are symptoms of a system which has to work better. It’s only by creating a culture that respects employee time, prioritises workload management, and encourages healthy work-life balance, businesses can reap the benefits of a happier, more productive workforce.

The findings are available in the research report, which can be downloaded by visiting this link: “The True Cost of Overtime: How overwork impacts employee performance”

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.