•  Social care workers are UK’s most overstretched staff
  • 43% of UK staff say they ‘cannot work any harder’
  • 22% of employees have the workload of two or more people
  • But hard workers are getting their rewards from the ‘Career Progression Recession’
  • 47% of people say a heavy workload has benefited their career

Spread-thin British staff are working harder than they were twelve months ago, but their careers have benefited as a result, according to detailed research released this morning by Randstad, the UK sector specialist recruiter

In a study of 2,000 British employees working in businesses of all sizes, Randstad found that 40% of people are working harder than one year ago. This time last year, just 30% of people said they were working harder than twelve months previously – indicating people are working harder despite the economy beginning to turn a corner.

43% of UK employees are now working hard and say they cannot work any harder, compared to just 30% this time last year, suggesting over two in five people are working close to breaking point.

On top of that, over half of UK employees (53%) admitted they have to do the job of more than one person, up from 45% twelve months ago. The average UK employee has to do the job of 1.4 people – the equivalent of a seven day working week.

And the research revealed there is a block of severely overstretched workers who are doing the equivalent job of two or more people. Over a fifth (22%) of UK employees say their workload should be covered by two people or more, and 6% do the job of at least 2.5 ordinary workers.

The Career Progression Recession

But heavier workloads have brought rewards for high-fliers in financial services. It has allowed the most capable workers to progress quicker, develop their skill set rapidly, and gain financial rewards. 43% of financial services professionals say a heavier workload has benefited their career in some way.

23% say a heavy workload has helped them secure a promotion, 13% believe it has helped them get a pay rise, and 28% think it has improved their skill set. 34% say their workload has increased because they’ve been given more responsibility or higher targets.

Mark Bull, CEO of Randstad UK and Middle East, explains: “There is little doubt UK employees services are working harder than ever. Spread-thin Britain is being stretched even thinner. Up until recently, firms were reluctant to take on staff because they were concerned the nascent economic recovery could be easily derailed. As a result, existing staff have taken on increasingly large workloads, particularly as the recovery has gained momentum and demand has increased.

“The downturn has been a progression recession, spawning a new breed of ‘super-worker’ that grafts extremely hard and has flown up the career ladder as a result. It has left the UK labour market in good shape. The workforce has been battle-hardened by the recession, which has left the UK with a core of highly-skilled high-fliers who can be the driving force behind the economic recovery.”

Men benefiting more from heavier workloads

Despite the workloads of men and woman being broadly similar, just two-fifths of women (39%) say their heavier workload has benefited their career, compared to 53% of men.

Mark Bull comments: “Unfortunately for women, various studies have shown that men tend to be better at asking for what they want. Men and women have roughly similar workloads, and their targets and responsibilities are also roughly equal. But men are often better at asking for that promotion or that pay rise – and are more likely to get it. As a society we need to do more to vanquish this blatant inequality.”

The productivity puzzle

If people are working harder than ever, then why is productivity per worker in the UK so low compared to other G7 countries? Output per worker per hour in the UK is 19 percentage points lower than the average among G7 countries, and 2 percentage points lower than it was in 2007 .

Mark Bull explains: “The low level of output per worker does not mean people aren’t working hard. In fact, they are arguably working harder than ever. The productivity problem is due to capital and human capital being stuck in less productive areas of the economy. The UK has been slow to reallocate capital away from declining sectors towards high productivity ones – – like the creative industries, high-tech manufacturing, IT and construction – with the potential for rapid growth. It has left too many workers stuck in sectors where productivity is low, when they should be in high-growth sectors where productivity per worker is much higher.

“Finding the right person for the right job is ever more important. The economy is becoming more about human factors and services, which means the success of a business is increasingly determined by the calibre of talent it employs. But roles are becoming more specialised, so require the right sort of person as well as the right sort of skills. It is a challenge that employers need to do more to address, otherwise they risk losing the war for talent.”

Social care workers spread the thinnest

Social care workers are the most-spread thin employees in the UK. Over (54%) say they work hard already and cannot work any harder. Employees in the legal profession are the second most stretched (49%), closely followed by IT and technology professionals (49%).

IT and Technology employees have seen the biggest increase in their workloads over the past twelve months. 54% saying their workload has increased since this time last year.

Mark Bull comments: “IT and Technology is one of the most dynamic and rapidly expanding sectors in the UK. It is a high-growth area which is vital to the long-term health of the UK economy. Demand has increased in the sector, and employees now have to work harder than ever while their employers hire new staff to cope with the increase in new business.”