Charities call for employers to offer flexible working and relationship support

break up

A new report from Relate and Relationships Scotland highlights the immense pressure felt by UK employees to prioritise work ahead of relationships. It found that one in three workers (33%) say their boss thinks work should come before family life, and a third (33%) also say their employer thinks the ideal employee should be available 24 hours a day.

Employees struggling to balance work and family are more likely to become ill, perform less well and resign; but those satisfied with work-life balance are more likely to perform better and be more productive. The survey found that 30% of employees say they feel pressured to work by their manager even when they are ill. Additionally, 25% of employees agree that stress at home adversely affects them at work and 27% say they work longer hours than they would choose and this is damaging their physical or mental wellbeing.

Manchester University’s Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE, president of Relate, said: “As this study highlights, work-life balance in this country is shockingly poor and this is hugely damaging for our relationships and overall wellbeing – as well as for productivity. Employers need to take more responsibility for the pressure that stress and lack of work-life balance can put on relationships at home.”

The study also revealed that 21% of employees say attending to care responsibilities is frowned upon at work. 43% of employees say they would like their employer to offer relationship support. The Labour of Love or Love vs Labour report calls for employers to aspire to offer flexible working arrangements as default and to provide free relationship support as part of Employee Assistance Programmes. Relationship counsellors believe work-life balance is the third biggest strain on couple relationships. The research concludes that overworked employees’ relationships suffer as the build-up of stress at work takes its toll.

As well as the impact of work pressures on relationships at home, the report also looks at workplace relationships with colleagues and bosses.  Worryingly, the study reveals an undercurrent of bullying, with 12% of employees saying that their boss behaves in an intimidating way towards them. However, 63% of employees still say they have a good relationship with their boss and three quarters of employees (75%) reported good relationships with colleagues.

Professor Cooper added:  “It’s reassuring that on the whole people have good relationships with their colleagues.  However, given the alarming undercurrent of workplace bullying highlighted by the study, we also suggest employers think carefully about how they can better foster good workplace relationships.”