Is the ideal employee available 24 hours a day?

24 September 2015

As part of National Work Life Week which draws attention to the issue of work life balance, research has been published that finds over a quarter of under 35s believe that the ideal employee is available 24 hours a day.

A survey of the nation's Relationships, jointly commissioned with Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care represents the views of over 6,000 people and over 450 relationship support practitioners. The annual study reveals that over a quarter (28%) of workers aged under 35 believe the ideal employee is available 24 hours a day compared to 22% of over 60s.

Published by charities Relate, The Way We Are Now 2015 is one of the largest studies of its kind. It provides a window into some of the most important and personal areas of our lives - from couple relationships and family life to sex, friendships and how we feel about our colleagues and bosses.

Although 71% of people enjoy good relationships with their colleagues (of those who have this relationship), the survey indicates that stress at work is affecting people's relationships at home, and that family responsibilities can be difficult to juggle with work. A key concern is the 22% of those in work who said they work more hours than they want to and this damages their health.

The study also indicated clear differences between women's and men's experiences of work and their attitudes towards it. When asked whether they agree with the view that work should be the primary priority in someone's life, 61% of women disagreed, compared to only 51% of men. Women were also more likely to agree that taking care of family responsibilities is frowned upon - with 30% saying this compared to 23% of men. Worryingly, women were also more likely to agree that they feel pressured by their manager to work even if they are ill - 36% said this compared to 28% of men and 32% overall.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE, President of Relate (and Professor of Organisational Psychology & Health and Pro Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University), said:

"These statistics suggest that younger workers feel under pressure to live to work, rather than working to live. Women in particular are feeling the strain of striving for that all-important work-life balance. One contributing factor here is the rapid advance in technology we've seen, blurring the line between work and home as our smart phones buzz throughout the evening and even on holiday. For some this offers flexibility of working patterns and locations, but for others it's a constant worry.

A workforce feeling under pressure is likely to be unhappier and less productive. Instilling the right culture and setting an example from the top will help managers and workers to be clear on what's expected of each other, improving relationships and ultimately productivity. What business wouldn't want that?"

The study also revealed that:

· Over half (57%) of those with a boss said they have a good relationship with them.

· Nearly a quarter (24%) who were currently employed tended to agree that stress from home adversely affects them at work.

· Nearly a third (32%) for people who are disabled or living with long term health conditions tended to agree that stress from home adversely affects them at work.

· Workers with children aged under 19 were much more likely to agree that attending to caring responsibilities is frowned on at work (35%) than those without children (21%).

· 40% of workers who have children under five agreed it's assumed the most productive employees put work before their family life, compared to just 33% of workers without children.