WFH leads to UK employees working £4.2bn in free labour every week

·2-min read
26% of UK employees are giving away more than 10 hours per week for free to their employers. Photo: Getty Images
26% of UK employees are giving away more than 10 hours per week for free to their employers. Photo: Getty Images

UK employees are working almost eight hours a week for free as the pandemic has meant most people log in from home, blurring the line between office and personal life. This essentially means they are giving away up to £4.2bn ($5.8bn) in free labour every week to employers. 

This figure could rise as workplaces consider a hybrid working model.

A new report by ADP Research Institute shows that the amount of unpaid overtime that workers are doing has soared globally. In the UK it has risen from six hours in 2019 to 7.8 hours in 2021, almost a full hour more than the European average of 6.7.

Monetarily this works out to over £8,000 in free labour annually per employee, and £219bn a year across the country.

Those working from home estimate they are putting in more unpaid overtime than those based in the workplace or on-site, at 8.1 hours per week on average, compared with 7.1 hours.

Those taking a hybrid approach believe they are working 9.21 hours extra.

"Stagnating productivity is a huge challenge in the UK, yet employers are still fostering a culture of long hours and presenteeism, despite evidence that it doesn't work," said Jeff Phipps, managing director of ADP UK.

"High levels of unpaid overtime will only leave employees at risk of burnout, with negative long-term impacts for both productivity and performance."

Read more: Brits sick of working from home as vast majority want partial return to office

Reasons for extra hours include ending up working during breaks, starting early or working late, or regularly putting in several hours of extra work each day for no additional pay.

The study also said that given the demanding nature of their jobs, essential workers put in more unpaid overtime than non-essential ones – at 8.9 hours per week on average.

ADP warned that a hybrid model where employees combine remote and on-site working could mean they find maintaining productivity challenging, and end up working over 9 hours per week in free labour.

The research also showed that 26% of UK employees are giving away more than 10 hours per week for free to their employers.

The highest figures are reported by those in the media and information industries, who reported an average of 13.5 hours per week unpaid.

"Action is needed to shift the focus from quantity of hours worked to quality of output while giving staff sufficient downtime to recharge and spend time with their families," said Phipps.

"And if overtime is essential, employers must ensure that the additional hours are both rewarded and recognised effectively.”

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