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A study into workloads reveals Kiwis under high levels of pressure to work long hours

29 May 2023

A study into workloads, conducted by Umbrella, has revealed that 14% of working New Zealanders feel pressured to work long hours at work, 43% feel that they have to neglect some of their work tasks because they have too much to do, and 44% work very intensively to meet work deadlines.

Dr Dougal Sutherland, Umbrella CEO said that because of the intrinsic relationship that exists between workload and well-being, this data paints a concerning picture of our working environments.

“The challenges faced by workers in today's fast-paced and demanding work environments often means there’s pressure to take on more work, work long hours, and neglect some work tasks. This not only affects job performance and organisational productivity but also the physical and mental health of workers.

“While there’s much truth to the saying: “if you want something done, ask a busy person”, burdening our employees with too much work, or conversely not giving them enough, can have negative consequences including decreased job satisfaction, increased stress and burnout, and decreased productivity,” said Dr Sutherland.

According to the information gathered from over 7,000 workers, people who reported having high workloads have two times greater odds of experiencing psychological distress and three times greater odds of intending to leave their jobs in the next 6 months.

Dr Sutherland adds “What’s even more worrying is that working long hours (more than 55 hours per week), heightens the risk of stroke or heart disease. While it’s estimated that 1 in 10 adults globally work these hours, on average Kiwis generally work longer hours compared to other OECD countries. Consequently, our rates of workload-induced deaths from stroke or heart disease are higher than in many other Western countries, including Australia, the UK, USA, and Canada.

“Considering how many of our workers feel pressured to work long hours, as organisations we need to be asking how long we can accept this level of risk and whether overwork should be normalised in our society.”

“We know balancing an employee’s workload with business goals to achieve a healthy workplace can be really challenging, but this information shows it’s one challenge that’s too important to get wrong.

“We all remember the term ‘quiet quitting’, which became a popular term in 2022. This sentiment exemplifies what we’ve called The Great Reprioritisation – rather than outright quitting, employees re-evaluate how work fits into their lives so that it complements, not sacrifices, their well-being.

“For business leaders and decision-makers, addressing workload management can lead to a positive work environment, increased employee retention, and a more productive workforce. Importantly, overwork is not the same as ‘working hard’ – we know people generally thrive with some degree of challenge and engagement, but it can’t come at the expense of well-being, said Dr Sutherland.

The report can be downloaded here: Umbrella Wellbeing Report


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