Research out this week highlights the immense pressure felt by UK employees to prioritise work ahead of relationships. One in three workers (33%) say their boss thinks work should come before family life, and a third (33%) also say their employer thinks the ideal employee should be available 24 hours a day. This is according to a new report from Relate and Relationships Scotland, which concludes that overworked employees’ relationships suffer as the build-up of stress at work takes its toll.
The research also found that:
- 33% of employees say their employer thinks work should be the top priority in their lives.
- 30% of employees say they feel pressured to work by their manager even when they are ill.
- 21% of employees say attending to care responsibilities is frowned upon at work.
- 27% of employees say they work longer hours than they would choose and this is damaging their physical or mental wellbeing.
- 25% of employees agree that stress at home adversely affects them at work.
- 43% of employees say they would like their employer to offer relationship support.
- Relationship counsellors believe work-life balance is the third biggest strain on couple relationships (after affairs and not understanding each other, and ahead of money worries and different sex drives).
Employees struggling to balance work and family are more likely to become ill, perform less well and resign; but those satisfied with work and work-life balance are more likely to perform better and be more productive. The Labour of Love or Love vs Labour report calls for employers to aspire to offer flexible working arrangements as default and to provide free relationship support as part of Employee Assistance Programmes.
Manchester University’s Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE, President of Relate, said: “As this study highlights, work-life balance in this country is shockingly poor and this is hugely damaging for our relationships and overall wellbeing – as well as for productivity. Employers need to take more responsibility for the pressure that stress and lack of work-life balance can put on relationships at home.”
As well as the impact of work pressures on relationships at home, the report also looks at workplace relationships with colleagues and bosses. Worryingly, the study reveals an undercurrent of bullying, with 12% of employees saying that their boss behaves in an intimidating way towards them. But the good news is that 63% of employees say they have a good relationship with their boss and three quarters of employees (75%) reported good relationships with colleagues.
Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE continued: “It’s reassuring that on the whole people have good relationships with their colleagues. However, given the alarming undercurrent of workplace bullying highlighted by the study, we also suggest employers think carefully about how they can better foster good workplace relationships.”
Tracy Roberts, 50, from Newton Abbott, Devon is a carer for her husband, Andrew, 62, who has Asperger’s and her daughter, Nicola, 29, who has autism. Tracy struggled with work life balance in the past due to a lack of flexibility from her previous employer. She said:
“I worked for a large supermarket chain but it caused problems when they expected me to put work before my family and caring responsibilities. Sometimes I’d get a call from my boss at 3am asking me to come in for a shift. My husband worked in the same supermarket and it was often difficult for us to get the time off we needed to care for our daughter, who has autism. It started to affect our relationship because we would bicker about who had to take time off and risk losing their job.
“Now I work as a Teaching Assistant for Devon County Council and they are extremely supportive. They really understand the importance of family and relationships and allow me to swap my days around when I need any time off. My relationship with my husband is much stronger because work isn’t placing that added strain on our relationship.”
Labour of Love or Love vs Labour is the first in a series of reports from a major piece of research by Relate and Relationships Scotland. Over 5000 UK adults were surveyed as part of The Way We Are Now study, providing a unique window into the current state of the nation’s relationships.
Photos courtesy of Relate and Relationships Scotland