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Burnout risk? UK’s long hours culture revealed from new data

It’s long been proven that British workers put in some of the longest weekly hours at work.

A woman blogs on her computer. - © Digital Journal
A woman blogs on her computer. - © Digital Journal

Quiet quitting’ may be the work term of the year, but it seems that for many the practice has passed them by.

It turns out that, for the U.K., workers contribute a lot of overtime. On top of their contractual hours, British subjects working an extra 163 hours per year. This is equivalent to more than 22 days of extra work every year (or close to one full month’s overtime).

However, reviewing the U.K. government Office for National Statistics data set in further data these figures do differ from region to region. This suggests that some workers are more at risk of burnout than others.

To find out where people are working the most hours, the business finance experts at NerdWallet crunched the current data to reveal where in the U.K. workers are putting in the most effort and the analysis has been shared with Digital Journal.

Workers in Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and the Humber and Wales take the top spot when it comes to overtime, racking up an additional 24 days in overtime. Not far behind are those in the West Midlands, who spend an extra 23 days at work, or working.

At the opposite end of the scale, workers in the Southwest have a better work/life balance in the U.K.; nevertheless, this section of the proletariat work a further 143 hours beyond what is stipulated in their employment contracts (which works out at 19 days per year).

The outcome of the analysis is:

RegionWeekly overtime in (2021)Weekly contractual working hours (2021)Overtime hours per week (2021)Overtime days (2021)Total hours worked (2021)
Yorkshire and The Humber4.937.254.924.121931.7
Northern Ireland4.838.254.824.121978.7
East Midlands4.637.654.622.871941.1
West Midlands4.637.54.623.181936.4
East4.237.54.221.621924.65
North East4.037.254.020.681905.85
North West4.037.254.021.621912.9
Scotland4.037.254.019.741898.8
Wales4.037.254.024.121931.7
London3.737.253.720.991908.2
South West3.537.253.519.111894.1
South East3.437.33.419.421898.8

By gender, men tend to do more overtime than women at just under 26 days per year, as opposed to just over 17.5 days per year for women. Men in the South East work the least overtime, at 21.3 days extra per year, while men in Yorkshire and the Humber clock in more than 30 days in overtime per year.

Women in Wales top the list for the most hours of overtime every year for females. Their counterparts in Scotland, however, tend to clock off earlier, with fewer than 14.5 days in overtime over the course of the year.

All in all, this overtime for the typical full-time worker, added on their contractual hours, is clocking in just under 1,922 hours per year.

Connor Campbell, business expert at NerdWallet explains: “It’s long been proven that British workers put in some of the longest weekly hours at work. Although this has reduced over the years, there’s still a long way to go if we want to really embrace the work/life balance some of our European colleagues have fostered.”

Campbell adds: “The number of hours worked on top of what is contracted is astonishing. A couple of hours here and there may not feel like much at the time, but it evidently all adds up,  and can mean we’re at risk of burning out and getting work fatigue. The worrying thing is, this is also only paid overtime and doesn’t include those unpaid hours spent on the job. Therefore, overtime figures are likely to be much higher.”

In terms of trends, there are signs that, post-pandemic, overtime is becoming less frequent for men. Overtime in 2021 dropped to just under 3.5 hours per week, down from just over 3.5 hours per week, on average between 2014 and 2019. However, women are doing more overtime, on average, post-pandemic than they were pre-pandemic. This is compared to just one region, the East Midlands, for men.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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