The demise of the 9-5: 75% of employees feel under pressure to respond to work 24/7


Research released from Bupa UK for World Health Day earlier this month reveals that the traditional 9 to 5 is officially no more. The figures show that three-quarters (75%) of Brits feel under pressure to respond to emails outside of work hours which can increase anxiety.  

More than half of Brits (55%) now access their work emails remotely and the findings suggest that emails are replacing loved ones as the first thing working Brits’ think about.

Almost three-quarters of employees check their work emails first thing in the morning and last thing at night with a third of employees feeling as though they have to be available to respond to emails all the time.

Being unable to switch off from work has a negative impact on someone’s wellbeing and can cause stress. Over a longer term period this can even result in anxiety and depression which was the focus of World Health Day (held on 7 April) this year.

Not quite Doctor’s orders

Holidays are supposed to give us the chance to get away from it all, yet over a quarter of employees continue to check their work emails whilst on holiday.

  • Employees in the Midlands (41%) are three times more likely than their peers in the South West (13%) to keep an eye on work emails on annual leave
  • A similar percentage of employees (33%) stay abreast of their emails even when they are on sick leave
  • Looking across the generations, employees aged between 16-24 years old are the most likely to check their emails even when they’re signed off ill

The demise of ‘me-time’

The preoccupation with keeping on top of work emails is having a notable impact on Brits’ life, with two in five male employees and half of female employees stating that they are not getting enough time to themselves.

  • A quarter (24%) of employees feel that work controls their life
  • A similar percentage (23%) of employees feel it is causing them to neglect friends
  • Employees aged 25-34 are most likely to feel that they are neglecting their partner (31%)
  • A quarter (25%) of women feel they are neglecting their children compared with one in five men

Computer says no

A third of employees say that they would feel stressed if they were unable to access their emails remotely.

  • Those aged 45-54 were half as likely (22%) as those ages 16-24 (43%) to feel stressed if they were unable to access their emails
  • Across the UK, employees living in the North East (40%), London (40%) and the North (39%) are the most likely to stress about not being able to read their emails

However, the majority don’t believe that being unable to respond to emails outside of work would impact their job security or chance of a promotion. This suggests that many are putting themselves under unnecessary pressure.

“Like our mobile devices, if we don’t get the opportunity to recharge, we cannot work – at least not very well," said Pablo Vandenabeele, clinical director for Mental Health, Bupa UK. "Technology has transformed the workplace and we no longer need to be at our desks in order to get the job done. However, working remotely means that the majority of us allow work to encroach on our home life," he said.

“It is important that employees that feel ruled by their inbox are encouraged and feel empowered to take a break as a sustained feeling that you are not in control of your life can lead to stress, exhaustion, anxiety and depression.”

Although non-stop use of technology can be harmful, technology can be used by employers to understand individual health and wellbeing goals and empower them to make changes that can improve their lifestyle.   

Bupa created an app which collects anonymous data to help employers understand what is important to different elements of their workforce. Harnessing technology in this way makes it easy for businesses to engage with their employees and ensure that they continue to provide them with the most appropriate wellbeing programme.

In summary:

  • Three-quarters of employees who can check emails from home read them first thing in the morning, and last thing at night
  • A third of employees fail to switch off from work during a holiday, and feel stressed if they can’t access their emails remotely
  • A quarter of employees feel they are neglecting their social life so they can keep on top of their work emails
  • Technology can be used to empower employees to make changes that can improve their lifestyle.

*These findings were based on a survey of 1,099 British employees, conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Bupa UK between 17 and 20 March 2017.  

This article was provided by Bupa.


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