How much work are you doing for free?

We’re working an average of 68 days for free every year - and may be paying a higher price than we realise

Working overtime for free

The average person in the UK works an average of 68 days more than they are contracted to - that's the equivalent of slogging away from the beginning of the year to 9th March. We somehow manage to squeeze in an extra 8.4 hours a day to reach this target - 65% of us without getting paid any extra for this work. We often consider this an expected part of work - and the price we pay to keep our job - but it might be costing us far more than we appreciate.

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A study, by Totallymoney, found that just one in three people in the UK say they typically leave work on time, while four out of five work through their lunch break.

We most commonly work three extra hours a week, but a significant number of people work a jaw-dropping 31 extra hours a week. The most common reason people gave for working the extra hours was that they had too much work to do - way ahead of the 18% of men and 30% of women who said they did it for the money.

The study also identified a gender overtime gap - with 43% of men paid for their overtime, compared to just 30% of women. Conversely, 24% of women feel pressured to work overtime in order to progress their careers whereas only 11% of men feel the same way. Women are also more likely to work when on holiday (24% compared to 13% of men).

The price

We are, however, paying an unacceptable price for all this extra work. Totallymoney has produced a calculator, so you can work out the monetary value of all the extra work you do for free. However, that's just the start. Our overtime is costing us dear in terms of our relationships, health - including our mental health, and even our ability to do our jobs effectively.

Some 60% of people say they don't have a good work/life balance, so our home life is bearing the brunt of our overtime. It means that we are more likely to suffer relationship stress and have issues with family and friends.

The study also found that only 13% of people do overtime for the love of their job - which means we are getting overwhelmed, stressed, and often bored. This can have a knock-on impact on our health (including our mental health), as we feel ground down by long hours and massive workloads, until our mental resilience and immune systems buckle under the pressure.

Both emotional issues and health issues can mean we end up having to take time off work to pick up the pieces - which can quickly erode our paid leave, and threatens to see our income slashed.

If we battle on through, meanwhile, we are unlikely to be at our most effective at work. Ask any employer what they look for in an employee, and you won't find many who answer that they're after someone 'tired, bored, distracted, overwhelmed and sick'.

And while underperforming at work is bad news for everyone, in some instances it can be a matter of life and death. Worryingly, in the healthcare sector, workers are putting in an extra 7.7 hours of overtime a week, with 55% of people not being paid for these hours. We have to ask ourselves how happy we are to be visiting healthcare professionals who are unlikely to be performing at the peak of their abilities as a result.

But what do you think? Are you worried by how much overtime you have to work? Or is this just the price of keeping your job in the current environment? Let us know in the comments.

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