How screentime-overtime taking its toll

work stress

A quarter of UK office workers are putting in overtime hours every single day, a new nationwide survey into work life balance has revealed.

The survey looked at workers’ habits towards breaks and computer use, focusing on screen time. It included responses from over 200 business owners, managers and executives. Unsurprisingly, it was the owners who put in the most hours.

This overworking appears to affect employee mental health, as the survey also revealed that 44 per cent either sometimes – or always – experience burnout, according to The Digital Detox survey by Just Eat for Business.

Described as ‘a state of physical and mental exhaustion which can occur when one experiences chronic workplace stress’, burnout was recently classified as a ‘workplace phenomenon’ by the World Health Organisation.

There appears to be a link between those who skip breaks and those who feel burnt out, with 73 per cent of those who report feeling burnout also admitting they don’t take a break until lunch, while 46 per cent don’t stop looking at their screen until the end of the working day.

Asked about excessive screen time, Dr Anneli Gascoyne, Associate Professor in Occupational Psychology at Goldsmiths University, said: “When we’re focusing our attention on our screens, we’re using physical and psychological resources, even if we don’t realise it. Like batteries, these resources aren’t in limitless supply, and need to be recharged.

Regardless of how teams are working – whether it’s in the office, at home, or a hybrid solution – it’s essential to take regular breaks

“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.”

Professor Brad McKenna of the University of East Anglia, said: “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 agreed: “Regardless of how teams are working – whether it’s in the office, at home, or a hybrid solution – it’s essential to take regular breaks. Without these, it’s not surprising that so many workers are feeling more burnt out than before.

“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 – such as weekly catered in-office lunches, or food deliveries for at-home workers.”

Full results from the Digital Detox survey here