SME staff stressed because of unpaid overtime

New research has found that employees at UK small businesses are working an average of eight extra hours every week - and it's unpaid.

The study by Paymentsense reveals that heavy workloads and demands from managers and clients are putting pressure on staff to work overtime. As a result, employees of UK small businesses are working an average of eight extra hours unpaid every week at work and home - worth £1.6bn to the UK's SMEs.

And 16% 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%), followed by pressure from their manager (30%) and, more positively, 28% wanting the business to do well. However, 42% of those polled said it is causing them stress and 37% say they feel taken for granted by their employer.

In fact, 36% of SME staff said they rarely, or never, get credit from their bosses for putting in the extra hours. As a result, almost a third (29%) have considered leaving for another job or changing career because they've had enough of the frequent unpaid overtime. One in four (26%) would consider starting their own business and 16% say they would like to go freelance.

The top reasons that staff in small firms work overtime are:

  • Last minute request from client or customer (39%);
  • Last minute request from boss (37%);
  • Meetings over-running at the end of the day (34%);
  • Keeping up with admin tasks (32%);
  • Attending meetings at customer locations (24%);
  • Equipment or computers playing up (21%);
  • Manager's poor time management (20%);
  • Their own poor time management (19%).

Clare Dimond, a business coach and author of Free Choice said: "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, she said. "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."

  • Prompt, efficient and clear communication, helped provide a clear understanding of the issues and situation