Work overload | UK staff receive up to 10 out-of-hours emails every day

UK staff receive up to 10 out-of-hours emails every day

British employees receive five to ten work-related emails out of office hours every single day, a new poll has revealed.

Technology provider Fasthosts polled 2,000 employees, and the shocking results reveal that office workers are finding it difficult to strike a work-life balance with almost half of respondents (49.2%) receiving five to ten work emails outside their normal working hours.

What’s more, 20% of those surveyed admitted that they reply to these out-of-hours emails, with 60% of respondents saying that this impacts their personal life.

A further one in eight admits to saying it takes up to three hours replying to these emails – which comes at a serious cost to their personal lives.

It’s unsurprising, then, that a Statistica report found that almost half (46%) of Brits felt that they were on the edge of burnout in 2021.

The findings also show that women receive more out-of-work emails than men – with studies also showing that working from home during the pandemic has disproportionately affected women’s mental health. Women are also 43% more likely to have increasing their hours beyond a standard working week that men, the Metro reports.

Furthermore, the Fasthosts data also revealed that out-of-work emails make 19.4% of those receiving them feel as though they’re always at work. However, one in ten (11.3%) are worried that if they don’t reply, it could affect their career.

It’s been widely reported that, since the pandemic saw an explosion in remote and home working, many people have found it difficult to strike a sensible work-life balance. Although digital technology has helped keep us all safe, working from home, for some, has become “sleeping in the office”, with employees struggling to set boundaries and fully switch off from their work lives outside working hours.

In France, much of this is prohibited under the “right to disconnect”, where companies are asked to agree “set hours” for “teleworkers”. And in Ireland, employers have to include reminders in their emails to employees that there’s no requirement to reply to emails outside their contracted hours. Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and the Philippines have similar rules in place, the Metro reports.

At the moment, there’s no equivalent law in the UK. However, last August we reported here at HR Grapevine that trade union Prospect and thinktank Autonomy have been calling for a “right to disconnect” for British workers. Research by Prospect found that more than half (59%) of workers were in favour of a “right to disconnect” - a number that rose to 66% among new remote workers.

The proposed new legislation would require two new amendments to the Employment Rights Act 1996 – and any breach of the legislation would give employees the right to take their employer to an employment tribunal.

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As reported by HR Grapevine, Will Stronge, Director of Research at Autonomy, told the BBC that the COVID pandemic has “accelerated the need to create much clearer boundaries between work-life and home-life”.

And Deputy Leader of the Labour party, Angela Rayner, supported the proposal, saying: “In the modern workplace, we cannot find ourselves in a place where workers are expected to compromise their families, responsibilities or hobbies in order to meet employer expectations. It’s not a sustainable way to run an economy. Many good businesses want to see these sorts of protections guaranteed to workers across the board.”

As yet, there is no indication that the British government intends to adopt the “right to disconnect” proposal. But, with mental health increasingly on the agenda for British workers, it’s an issue that’s unlikely to go away.

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