A new nationwide survey from Just Eat for Business has revealed that with one in five office workers putting in overtime every single day, over two fifths (44%) report sometimes or always experiencing feeling burnt out while at work.
The Digital Detox survey uncovers workers’ habits towards breaks and computer use, focusing on screen time. The study also includes expert comments on the mental impact of skipping breaks, and offers advice on how to combat this.
The survey included responses from over 200 UK workers, segmented by job role (business owners/C-suite, management team and executive).
It describes burnout as ‘a state of physical and mental exhaustion which can occur when one experiences chronic workplace stress’. When asked whether they’ve ever felt burnout – 44% of UK workers responded affirmatively, suggesting two fifths of workers need a break from work.
Workers’ experiences of burnout differ from role to role, with those working in management accounting for the highest proportion (46%) of those who’ve suffered from the burnout ‘occupational phenomenon’ (defined by the World Health Organization).
While those in management positions account for the highest proportion of workers who’ve experienced burnout overall, those working at an executive level have seen the biggest increase of late – reporting a 21% rise in feeling burnt out over the last year.
The impact of missing breaks
According to the survey, there appears to be a correlation between those who skip breaks and those who feel burnt out. 73% of workers who report feeling burnout also admit they don’t take a break until lunch, while 46% don’t stop looking at their screen until the end of the working day.
And with work from home advice now at employers’ discretion, the focus is on them to encourage regular screen breaks to avoid mental health repercussions.
Dr Anneli Gascoyne, Associate Professor in Occupational Psychology at Goldsmiths University, commented on the impact of excessive screen time, both at work and home:
‘When we’re focusing our attention on our screens, we’re using physical and psychological resources (including energy, motivation and concentration) even if we don’t realise it. Like batteries, these resources aren’t in limitless supply, and need to be recharged.
“Yet, we often find ourselves taking breaks from our computer screens by scrolling on another screen, via our phones, and then in the evening we take a break from our phones by watching telly (or perhaps attempting both at the same time!)
“These aren’t the restorative activities we might think they are. They might feel pretty mindless, but they’re still hooking our attention. And we then find that, when we put our head on the pillow at night, all the concerns and ideas of the day start to flood into our awareness, when we should be sleeping.”
What employers can do to help
Dr Brad McKenna (University of East Anglia) and Dr Wenjie Cai (University of Greenwich), offer some solutions that both employers could implement in order to promote breaks, and reduce screen time:
- “Employers could create new organisational policies and implementations such as requiring digital wellbeing to be integrated into operational strategies. These could be pitched as “take a break” strategies which should be supported by senior management and implemented throughout the organisation.
- There could also be messages put into company IT systems, for example, a message might pop up saying “remember to take a break” and companies could consider alternative ways of working away from the screen.”
Rosie Hyam, People Partner at Just Eat for Business added:
“Given the emphasis currently being placed on health and wellbeing, it’s important that employers and employees prioritise sustainable and healthy working habits – including taking more regular screen breaks, and setting time aside to socialise with colleagues.
“Organisations may want to consider organising regular events that encourage time away from screens, and offer opportunities for team bonding.
Given Just Eat for Businesses offering, it is not surprising that Hyam suggest these these kind of events could include catered in-office lunches, or food deliveries for at-home workers.
Other key findings of the survey included how often workers put in overtime per week, and why employees may feel pressured to check work notifications outside of office hours.
To see the full results from the Digital Detox survey, please visit https://business.just–eat.co.
When looking at these findings, it’s important to take into consideration that to decrease the likelihood of burnout, employers also need to consider job demands, job design and overall workplace culture.
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