UK SME staff working one additional unpaid day every week

New research finds UK SME staff working one additional unpaid day every week, leading to stress and the urge to change career.

Employees of UK small businesses are working an average of eight extra hours unpaid every week at work and home – worth £1.6 billion to the UK’s SMEs – according to new research from Paymentsense. Worryingly, 16 per cent of those surveyed work even more hours, with younger workers (aged 18-24) averaging 11 extra unpaid hours every week.

The main reason for SME workers doing so many extra hours is to keep up with the volume of work (58 per cent), followed by pressure from their manager (30 per cent) and, more positively, 28 per cent wanting the business to do well. However, this is leading to nearly half of people (42 per cent) feeling more stressed, and more than a third (37 per cent) feeling taken for granted by their employer.

Managers might take note that 36 per cent of SME staff say they rarely, or never, got credit from their bosses for putting in the extra hours. What’s more, almost a third of them (29 per cent) have considered leaving for another job or changing career completely as a result of the frequent unpaid overtime. A further quarter (26 per cent) would consider starting their own business, or going freelance (16 per cent), to escape their current roles.

Clare Dimond, a leading business coach and author of ‘Free Choice’ says, ‘With a smaller number of staff, the contribution of every employee in an SME is critical. Employers that value the time, creativity and mental clarity of each individual will see the impact on their bottom line and staff retention rates.

‘Directors can role model good mental health behaviour for their teams. Avoiding stressful thinking, spending time exercising or with family and creating a culture of strong relationships, and individual contributions, make for a healthy, inspired career and home life.’

Guy Moreve, head of marketing at Paymentsense comments, ‘We know from working with over 50,000 of the UK’s small businesses that SMEs are constantly challenged to balance the often-unpredictable demands of growth, with looking after hardworking staff – especially in potentially uncertain economic times.

‘Keeping employees happy should be a priority, given its impact on productivity levels. The good news is that perks don’t have to cost a fortune. Our own research has shown that an early Friday finish, the chance to work flexible hours, and a free day off here and there: for birthdays, duvet days or to help with moving house are the amongst most sought-after benefits.’

‘Can you just…?’ Top eight reasons SME staff work late unexpectedly

Last minute request from client or customer (39 per cent)
Last minute request from boss (37 per cent)
Meetings overrunning at the end of the day (34 per cent)
Keeping up with admin (32 per cent)
Attending meetings at client or customer locations (24 per cent)
Equipment or computers playing up (21 per cent)
Manager’s poor time management (20 per cent)
Their own poor time management (19 per cent)

Further reading on staff working extra hours

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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