Softworks Blog

All work and no play is damaging family life

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Mon, May 20, 2013

According to new research a culture of 'all work and no play' is damaging family life in the UK, causing high stress levels, cutting time spent with loved ones and creating an inability to switch off from work.

The study was commissioned by health cash plan provider Medicash found that 83 per cent of working parents feel guilty about the amount of time they spend working, with 50 per cent saying it has a negative impact on relationships with their children, and almost half (45.9%), saying it caused problems in their relationship with their partner and caused them to neglect friends (25%).

Professor Cary Cooper, Distinguished Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University & Director of Robertson Cooper Ltd, said: 

"The fact that many people feel guilty about how they spend their time is hugely significant - it shows how important it is to maintain work-life balance.  The evidence shows that flexible working delivers to the business' bottom line, with employees feeling less guilty about how they spend their time and achieving a better balance between work and home commitments."

When asked how they thought it affected family life, over 50 per cent of respondents admitted to missing their child's sports day, school play or parents' evenings due to work commitments, 42.9% said they had worked through family holidays, and 58.8% admitted their children had complained about the amount of time they spent working.

Parents also said that work had caused issues with childcare, with just over 30 per cent (30.4%) having to organise for someone to collect the offspring at the last minute because they had to work, whilst 46 per cent of parents admitted to dropping children off at school or nursery when they were ill because they had to work and could not find a childsitter at short notice. Professor Cooper added:

"If we are slaves to work, our family life seems to suffer by default. We need the joint responsibility to promote a healthier, happier lifestyle; organisations must actively promote flexible working and employees need to take advantage of that opportunity - work smarter, not longer should be our mantra. Increasingly we are seeing employees turning up to work ill and delivering little added value, presenteeism does not enhance but undermines productivity."

The study also revealed that heavy workloads were responsible for increased stress levels, with over 60 per cent (60.1%) of respondents saying they found it difficult to switch off from work when at home.

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According to results, those most likely to feel guilty about working long hours are in professional services (29.3%), who were also the most likely to work on a family holiday (56.1%), and have children complain about their overworking (22%). They were followed closely by those working in finance, who were the most likely to suffer Sunday night blues (63.4%) and worry about work during the weekend (46.3%). 

"Given the pressures on people with increasing workloads, the demands by clients for the completion of work instantaneously and the ability to interface with people 24/7 through new technologies means that it is vital that people find time for their family during the weekends, family holidays and at least 2-3 nights a week - or they and their families will suffer and ultimately so will the organisation," explained Professor Cooper.

"The health implications of excessive working are very serious and should not be overlooked, often being associated with the development of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, stress and depression, which is not only damaging for personal relationships, but also the UK economy, leading to workplace absenteeism, which amounts to 10.4 million lost working days per year, costing UK businesses an average of £3.7bn each year. Keeping a good work-life balance helps both workers and businesses."

You can view the full report here


Topics: Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Absenteeism, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working