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The expectation to be available around the clock

An annual study of more than 6,000 people has lifted the lid on relationships in the UK, revealing that over a quarter (28%) of workers aged under 35 believe the ideal employee is available 24 hours a day compared to 22% of over 60s. This comes ahead of Go Home on Time Day on 23rd September which draws attention to the issue of work life balance.

Published by charities Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care, The Way We Are Now 2015 * is one of the largest studies of its kind. It provides a window into some of the most important and personal areas of our lives – from couple relationships and family life to sex, friendships and how we feel about our colleagues and bosses.

Although 71% of people enjoy good relationships with their colleagues (of those who have this relationship), the survey indicates that stress at work is affecting people’s relationships at home, and that family responsibilities can be difficult to juggle with work. A key concern is the 22% of those in work who said they work more hours than they want to and this damages their health.

The study also indicated clear differences between women’s and men’s experiences of work and their attitudes towards it. When asked whether they agree with the view that work should be the primary priority in someone’s life, 61% of women disagreed, compared to only 51% of men. Women were also more likely to agree that taking care of family responsibilities is frowned upon – with 30% saying this compared to 23% of men.

Worryingly, women were also more likely to agree that they feel pressured by their manager to work even if they are ill – 36% said this compared to 28% of men and 32% overall. 

The study also revealed that:

·         Over half (57%) of those with a boss said they have a good relationship with them.

·         Nearly a quarter (24%) who were currently employed tended to agree that stress from home adversely affects them at work.

·         Nearly a third (32%) for people who are disabled or living with long term health conditions tended to agree that stress from home adversely affects them at work.

·         Workers with children aged under 19 were much more likely to agree that attending to caring responsibilities is frowned on at work (35%) than those without children (21%).

·         40% of workers who have children under five agreed it’s assumed the most productive employees put work before their family life, compared to just 33% of workers without children.

·         Respondents in ‘C2DE’ groups (the ‘working class’, particularly including manual and service workers) were less likely to report a good relationship with their boss — 53% said this compared to 60% of those of a higher socio-economic group (‘ABC1’ groups, the ‘middle class’). These figures are based on those who have a boss.

·         In a separate survey for Relate, 94% of relationship support practitioners agreed that being unhappy or under pressure at work can, in turn, have a damaging impact on people’s relationships at home.