Written by Alex Fleming - Managing Director at Adecco Retail

This week is National Work Life Week in the UK.

We are often known as a nation of workaholics. In fact, a 2011 report suggested that in the EU, only employees in Austria and Greece work longer hours than those in the UK. Clocking up an average of 42.7 hours a week, more than two-thirds of UK employees told the Smith Institute that they were working longer hours than they would have been just two years ago.

However, while the UK’s approach to working patterns is generally accepted as commonplace amongst its workers and businesses alike, this kind of lifestyle is not healthy. Research pooled from 25 studies, involving more than 600,000 individuals, found that working long hours (upwards of 55 hours a week) increases the chance of suffering a stroke and/or heart disease.

Long working hours also contribute to stress and mental health issues: a survey by Business in the Community and YouGov found that 77% of employees have experienced some kind of mental health problem, with 62% identifying work as a contributing factor.

CV-library actually found that bad management is the largest cause of stress for a majority of workers (65.8%), followed by low morale within the workplace (38.1%), unfriendly colleagues (35.7%), heavy workloads (34.1%), long working hours (29.3%)and poor work/life balance (25.5%)

That said, Britons are beginning to recognise the value in reducing time spent at work. In 1997, 26% of employees worked more than 45 hours each week; in 2013 that figure was down to 20%.

Alex Fleming says:
"This is not just an issue about employees’ health; there is a serious business case to be made here. Overworked employees are more prone to making mistakes, less productive and more likely to require sick leave. Employers need to ensure that their workers exhibit high productivity, but that does not necessarily equate to more hours in the office. Many employers in Sweden have recently introduced the six-hour day, where studies show that employees get sick less, have lower stress and actually work harder!”