Are we a nation unable to switch off? Almost 3 in 4 workers confess to checking emails over the weekend

A new survey by Aviva reveals that the UK’s workforce is at risk of burnout due to being unable to switch off from work, even at the weekends. The research found that 72% of workers are checking their emails outside of work hours in what should be downtime.

Spending free time engaging in work is leaving employees with a case of ‘Sunday dread’, with three quarters stating they dread work at the weekend. On average, respondents spend 2 hours 29 minutes a week working outside of their usual hours – equating to 119 hours per year, or 16 extra days at work.

How long does it take to switch off, and how are we trying to relax?

According to the survey, it takes 1 hour 49 minutes to switch off at the end of a working week. There are different ways that workers are using to shut down from work, such as watching TV/movies (55%) and spending time with friends and family (47%) – but concerningly, one in three are turning to alcohol to switch off.

Workplace anxiety has a lasting effect on staff throughout the weekend, too – with employees not making the most of their time off, due to feelings of tiredness, increased irritability, depressive moods and a lack of sleep some of the top knock-on effects. Although spending time with friends and family proving to be a valuable way to distract from the stress of the working week, anxiety is affecting social lives, with one in six respondents unmotivated to meet up with friends at the weekend.

How would employees combat workplace anxiety?

Almost half of employees surveyed (47%) would like an email ban implemented at the weekend. However, with flexible working on the rise -over 3.2 million people were estimated to be working flexitime in 2016 – 54% of business owners did not want to take this action, as some employees prefer working weekends to spare some time during the week.

There are some methods suggested by employees to combat the feeling of dreading work over the weekend. Later starts on a Monday and free gym memberships were welcomed. Another more investment-heavy solution was to introduce a four-day week – with 40% of workers stating that they’d like to see this. A shorter working week is a hot topic at the moment, with the Labour party making it part of their policy recently. For those who have made the switch, some have experienced increased levels of productivity, thanks to a happier workforce. A 2019 white paper published by Henley Business School found that two thirds of UK businesses operating a four-day week reported improvements in productivity, and the research concluded that a shorter working week with full pay could add to businesses’ bottom lines, with an uplift in employee’s physical and mental health, with the additional benefit of a cleaner environmental footprint.

Advice from 4and20million:

With stress and anxiety, the single biggest cause of sick days in the UK, Aviva have worked with workplace wellbeing experts 4and20million to share five simple ways that employees can reduce their workplace anxiety.

  • Plan ahead – At the end of the day, write out your tasks for tomorrow.
  • Biggest thing first – Make daunting tasks the first of the day.
  • Use your ‘out of office’ – Put your out of office alert on when you need uninterrupted time to complete tasks.
  • Have a shutdown ritual – Tell yourself work is finished for the day.
  • Utilise your brain – Downtime is vital to recharge.

The survey used for this article was conducted by Aviva of 2000 workers from a variety of industries, in a number of locations throughout the UK.  Further business advice can be found on the Aviva website –

Author: Editorial Team

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