Latest Public Sector News

24.08.17

Is weekend working dragging you down? You’re not alone

Carl Fillery, chief executive of Boundless, says public sector overtime could be damaging if employees can’t take control. 

Boundless recently conducted a study comparing weekend working habits in the public and private sector, which made for enlightening reading. Results pointed to acute pressure on public sector staff to stay on top of increasing workloads, which is affecting their work-life balance. 

Is this this a common trend in the UK workplace more broadly, or are there certain issues within the public sector that deserve specific attention? 

Although roughly the same proportion (a third) of employees across both sectors say they struggle with workload and so work weekends as a result, a much greater proportion of public sector workers cited understaffing as a cause for having to give up their hard-earned free time. 

Conversely, private sector workers were more inclined to view weekend work as an opportunity to further their careers or enhance job security (supporting this notion, twice as many private sector employees said they had lied to managers about working weekends than their public sector counterparts – but that’s another debate entirely). 

What then, is the scale of the problem? The study shows that, on average, public sectors employees have worked five weekends in the past six months, and feel they need to work between four and five extra hours each week to get the job done. 

The vast majority of this is the bread and butter checking and sending of emails, but a surprising amount – two in five – use their rest days to create or work on documents, and over a third for planning and time management. Exactly a quarter aren’t paid for overtime or get time back in lieu, which means over a million public sector employees are working significant additional hours for free. 

The overtime is putting a huge strain on people’s work-life balance. The study showed that just under half of public sector workers feel like their work-life balance is all wrong – a greater number than in the private sector, and a third say work takes over their lives.

Most chose to spend their spare time with friends and family, which is great to see, but many admitted that their family or partner complains that they never switch off from work. Stress is the number one cause of absenteeism in the public sector, so it’s vital for people to maximise their spare time and make the most of it, or we risk work dictating our lives.

(c. Uberimages)

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