How much work are you doing for free?

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.

The UK's 10 best-paid jobs
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The UK's 10 best-paid jobs

Flying high literally as well as metaphorically, pilots top the salary scale this year. There are various routes into the job, from university courses to airlines' own training schemes; private training will set you back as much as £50,000 to £60,000.

"I most enjoy the variety of the job, working as a team, to a schedule, with the responsibility of safely transporting hundreds of people to their destination. I would advise aspiring pilots to thoroughly research training routes, understand the serious financial outlay required with no guarantee of a job after training and to consider other routes such as flight instruction."

Not all CEOs are making millions - but they're doing pretty nicely on average. There's no clear route into the job; an MBA can help, but many bosses have worked their way up from the bottom and many simply started their own firm.

"There is an old saying, it's very lonely at the top, which is usually the case for a CEO. You're the leader and you're responsible for everything, meaning you take the credit for the successes and feel the most pain for the companies' failures."

Most air traffic controllers train through National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which has programmes for college leavers who have studied at BTEC ND/HNC/HND level, university students on a sandwich year and graduates. NATS says the most important attribute for acceptance on a course is natural aptitude.

"Much of the time, the job is routine and capable of being done by many people. What you are paid for, however, is your ability to make the right choices and decisions under extreme pressure."

The high pay reflects both the heavy workload and the length of training required - a five-year degree course in medicine, a two-year foundation programme of general training and then another three years specialist training.

"You will get paid well and (despite recent changes!) you will get a very good pension. You will, however, work hard for your money with less recognition than previous years."

This is a job where most people work their way up, although qualifications like the Chartered Institute of Marketing's Professional Diploma in Marketing or the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing's Diploma in Direct and Interactive Marketing can help. You'll probably need three or four years' experience before you can move into management.

"It's great working in such a varied job - there's something new every day. I enjoy the travel, too. But it's fast-paced, very hard work, and there's a lot of technical data analysis work involved."

It's not surprising that IT and telecoms directors earn good money. The job requires both business and technical skills, and the stakes are high: smoothly-running IT systems are crucial for most businesses and the cost of getting things wrong is high.

"It's a high-pressure job, and the hours can be unbelievably long, but it's extremely rewarding when a project goes well. The biggest problems are staying on top of changes in technology and being clear about what's actually achievable within a budget."

Financial managers and directors need to be qualified accountants and, particularly in larger organisations, have strong general business skills. And the job carries huge levels of responsibility, from keeping the company in good health financially to making sure it complies with the law.

"What I enjoy about the job is the way it's central to the business, the way I'm involved in creating long-term business plans. Compliance [with regulations] can be a bit of a pain; it takes a lot of hard work."

Until recently, the only way to become a senior officer was to work your way up through the ranks. Each police force sets its own recruitment process and selection policy, though there's a basic national framework for evaluating competency. This year, though, the College of Policing has started appointing superintendents from outside the force - so you might be in with a chance.

"I love the opportunity to take on a vast array of roles which would never be possible in a civilian organisation and to progress through a clearly defined promotion structure, should I prove to be good enough. The training I have received has been quite brilliant, enhancing my life skills as well as my ability to do my job well."

If your vision of a bank manager is of a middle-aged man in a panelled office dictating stern letters to his secretary, think again. It's now about managing a team and, especially, attracting new customers and monitoring branch performance. There are two ways to get to be one: either through a bank's graduate scheme, or by starting off in a customer service role and working your way up.

"For me, what's great about working in a branch is that anyone could be a branch manager, you don't have to have a certain skill set. Having a background in customer service, whether it's in a bank or with another retailer, certainly helps. Some other skills that would help are organisation, patience, tolerance and empathy. After 27 years I can genuinely say that that not only do I love coming to work every day, I have also made lifelong friends here. For me, it's not just a nine-to-five job."

Once you're qualified as a teacher, it's a question of working your way up by gaining extra responsibilities - by becoming a head of department, a head of year, or a specialist in something like special educational needs. At head teacher level, the job is far less about teaching itself, and far more about managing staff and budgets and creating a productive, disciplined learning environment.

"It's a common complaint that teaching is all about performance targets these days, and there is some truth in that. It's a question of balance, though. The most rewarding part of the job is knowing that you're bringing the best out of every single child by creating an environment where they feel safe and motivated to learn."


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