Excess hours worked cancel out holiday entitlement, finds CMI study

Managers are working longer than ever and suffering rising levels of stress according to the latest Quality of Working Life study from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). 

Of the 1,574 managers surveyed for the report, the majority (77 per cent) work for at least an additional hour each day, adding up to an extra 29 days over the course of a year. With average holiday entitlement only 28 days, this extra time cancels out managers’ annual leave. Up to 10 per cent put in more than three extra hours each day, the equivalent of working a 15-month year.

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Ann Francke, CEO of CMI, commented: “There’s nothing wrong with hard graft, but only if you’re well supported. Accidental managers who lack the professional skills to deal with the causes of burnout are a threat to their health and others’ at work. Productivity will also continue to suffer unless employers train their managers to prevent overwork and strike the necessary work/life balance.”

CMI’s long-established report, carried out with Sir Professor Cary Cooper and Professor Les Worrall, has catalogued the changing face of working life in the UK since 1997. It reveals that since the recession the proportion of managers working over their contracted hours has risen steadily, reaching 92 per cent in 2015. 

In addition to poor line management, the report finds that mobile technology raises stress levels, with 61 per cent stating that mobile technology makes it hard to switch off from work. Over half of managers (54 per cent) frequently check their emails outside normal working hours, with 21 per cent checking it ‘all the time’. A significant minority (39 per cent) want their organisation to restrict out-of-hours access to email systems to provide a chance to escape the pressures of work. 

Francke continues: “Most of us are comfortable with the idea that a modern workplace requires us to occasionally pitch in out of hours. But the ‘always on’ culture must be switched off, with line managers encouraged to support an ‘always willing’ mindset that reflects the give and take necessary for a higher quality of working life.”

Not surprisingly, those working long hours are more than three times as likely to report they feel stressed than those working no additional hours. 54 per cent of managers agree that long working hours are leading to elevated levels of stress. 

Over half of managers (61 per cent) blame technology for their increased hours as they find it harder to switch off, with one in five managers reporting that they are ‘always on’ and check emails all the time. Those struggling to switch off report lower personal productivity levels and experience more stress.

The report shows that by eating into the time available to relax, exercise and socialise, long-hours prevent managers being able to unwind. Managers surveyed for the study report a link between working longer hours and suffering from increased headaches, irritability and insomnia, early symptoms of mental health problems and potential burn out.

Effective management is found to be a key factor in handling stress in the work place. The worst management styles are shown to generate up to four times more stress than the best with 28 per cent of those reporting that their line managers are “secretive” or “suspicious” feel stressed, compared to just 7 per cent of those who believe their managers empower them to take their own decisions.

Innovative, entrepreneurial and empowering management styles were found to drive job satisfaction levels up to 2.5 times higher than ‘command and control’ styles. 

Sir Cary Cooper CBE, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School, has led CMI’s research into the quality of working life over the last seven years. 

He commented:“Businesses should be on alert for signs of burnout. Stress is a natural reaction to challenging conditions, and while it can raise motivation and help individuals meet deadlines in the short-term over longer periods is extremely damaging. Festering resentment at our long-hours culture risks boiling over and hurting UK productivity.

Striking the right balance is crucial, requiring managers to act equitably and with empathy.”

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