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UK workers bottom of league for work-life balance

UK workers bottom of league for work-life balance

UK employees’ work-life balance has been ranked second to worst in a comparison of “good work” among 25 developed countries.



Sad women holding analogue clock

HR professionals’ body the CIPD compared data from 25 of the 36 OECD member countries, producing a league table for each of its seven dimensions of quality jobs.

On the measure of how often job demands interfered with family life, the CIPD’s survey found that the UK was 24th out of the 25 countries.

The CIPD also commissioned a YouGov poll of more than 5,000 UK workers to assess their experiences in more detail.

A quarter (24%) of respondents said they found it difficult to relax in their own time because they think about work, while 26% said their job affects their personal commitments.

Three in five respondents said they work longer hours than they want. Almost one quarter said they overwork by ten or more hours a week. Managerial and professional workers reported the longest hours of overwork.

A third of workers considered themselves to have too much work to complete within their contracted hours. One in twenty said they were completely overloaded.

High workloads were present across all occupational groups, but workers in intermediate managerial, administrative and professional occupations reported higher incidence (37%) of intense working routines

More than two in five (42%) workers in the public sector were overworked compared with around three in ten workers in other sectors.

The UK also fared badly in the international comparisons for the health and wellbeing component of good work, ranking 16th out of 25.

Asked about the impact of work on their mental health, 40% of respondents said it was positive, while 26% said it was negative. Nearly one in three said work negatively affected their physical health, while 30% said it had a positive effect.

Two in three (66%) said they had experienced a work-related health condition in the last 12 months. Anxiety and sleep problems were two of the most common issues reported.

Employees generally reported a supportive working environment, with two-thirds saying their colleagues would not deliberately undermine them. Most were positive about their line manager, with three quarters saying their supervisor showed them respect and treated them fairly.

However, 19% said their manager or supervisor would hold their mistakes against them, and 22% said they had been excluded by managers for being different in some way. 

The UK’s best scoring good work indicator was skills, autonomy and development, for which it ranked seventh.

Overall, the best ranking countries were Switzerland, Norway and Denmark; the UK was in 13th place. The worst were Spain, Japan and France.

 The CIPD’s seven dimensions of good work are:

  • contracts
  • health and wellbeing
  • job design and the nature of work
  • pay and benefits
  • relationships at work
  • voice and representation
  • work-life balance.