Britain’s overtime culture ‘putting lives at risk at the wheel’

A survey of British workers has exposed how the UK’s overtime culture is putting drivers at risk at the wheel, owing to poor sleep, pressure to respond quickly and stress and distraction. 

The research1 by business insurer NFU Mutual found that more than a third of people who work full or part time in the UK are expected to work outside of their contracted hours (35%).

It also found that 30% are expected to respond to calls and emails out of hours, and sometimes slog away late into the night (46%). 

Nearly one in ten who also drive for work have actually fallen asleep or nearly fallen asleep at the wheel as a direct result of work pressure (8%), while a quarter have driven tired specifically due to out-of-hours work demands.

Some even combine the two and work while driving – 16% admitted to being on a work call or conference call, while driving and one in twenty people (5%) have actually responded to work emails while at the wheel.

NFU asserts that more than a quarter of all UK road traffic incidents involve someone who is driving as part of their work, according the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Recent figures from Eurostat, the EU’s statistics arm, also showed Britons work more hours than anyone else in Europe – an average of 42 hours a week3.

Rebecca Richards, Business Insurance Specialist at insurer NFU Mutual, said: “Brits work longer hours than any other European country. If businesses focus on increasing productivity and reducing costs, staff could feel the need to put extra hours in to climb the ladder or even keep their job. This can cause fatigue which is one of the biggest killers on UK roads.”4

“In a digital world, bosses should be aware that employees might also feel pressure to respond immediately – it’s alarming that some people even respond to emails while driving. Motorists should always follow the law and park up in a safe, legal place if making a call, using hands-free technology. Companies can help look after their staff on the road by making sure their culture is distraction-free, excusing them from calls if they are travelling.”

28% of workers who drive had been asked by bosses to get to a location at the last minute. For 27%, work pressures have directly caused them stress and distraction behind the wheel.

One anonymous company highlighted in the research had a stark wakeup call when a high-performing young employee suffered a near-fatal crash. She fell asleep at the wheel during a 280 mile-round trip to a presentation after working through the night. The impact didn’t even wake her.

Only 38% of respondents agreed that their employer has a suitable culture to help workers drive safely. 

Richards concluded: “Positive workplaces mean more engaged and productive employees. Companies which introduce safe driving policies and encourage a culture where employees can speak up about workloads, might just save a life.”

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