United Kingdom

Unhealthy work-life balance harms family life and productivity levels

February 2016


The majority of UK employees are lacking a healthy work-life balance, creating an adverse effect on productivity levels, a new report has revealed.

The report, carried out by Scottish Widows' think tank the Centre for Modern Family, found that whilst just one third of Brits report a healthy work-life balance, the majority are spending a significant amount of time working to the detriment of their family. In particular:

  • Brits spend an average of nine hours per weekday working, compared to just 3.5 hours per weekday with their families
  • Two in five say their work-life balance is 'skewed' towards work with 28 per cent believing they are less productive at work as a result
  • Just 36 per cent said they have a healthy work-life balance

But Matthew Lawrence, Head of Broking & Health and Risk Proposition at Aon Employee Benefits is surprised at the findings: "Flexible working practices are one of the key tactics used by employers as part of their health and wellbeing approach," he said. "Based upon Aon's recent Benefits & Trends survey more than half of all respondents said they offered flexible working, part of which was to try and promote a healthy work-life balance. But whether the impact of such policies is filtering down to the average employee appears to be open to debate."

The Scottish Widows' survey also showed that the lack of work-life balance was found to have an impact on productivity levels and motivation, with 24 per cent admitting to feeling 'resentful' towards their employer and 34 per cent rated their productivity levels as lower due to stress levels and tiredness.

In addition, 26 per cent felt they were letting their family down on family activities and events and 17 per cent said they argued more frequently at home. One in three admitted not having the time to cook or eat family meals whilst 24 per cent found it difficult to switch off from work, even at home.

However, of those who enjoyed a good work-life balance, nearly half reported feeling happier and more focused at work.

Those with dependent children and who reported an unhealthy work-life balance (35 per cent) revealed their own difficulties with spending too much time working: Over half said they were missing out on their children growing up and 42 per cent said either they or their partner did not see their children before work or 'missed out' on putting them to bed.

Worryingly, the skewed work-life balance for working parents has created a lose-lose situation for some, with 8 per cent feeling they are doing a bad job at home and at work.

Lawrence added: "Everyone accepts that employees need a break from the workplace, to re-charge and enjoy their families and non-work related activities. We have always held the view that the inability to do this could ultimately leave employees feeling less engaged and risk damaging either their physical or mental health, or both. The rise of the employee who is in effect always working, or at least is always available to be contacted about work, needs to be monitored closely."



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