New Research Shows Millennials Put in More Extra Hours


Lazy and entitled - just two of the adjectives used to describe the millennial cohort in the workplace. But new research looking into the amount of overtime employees are doing each week suggests otherwise. And lo and behold, it's millennials that make up the greatest segment of that percentage.

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A study by Love Energy Savings found that 8% of UK staff work a staggering 20 extra hours each week, above their contracted hours, and it's millennials who work the hardest.

Their research showed that 40% of 18 to 24-year-olds worked longer than their contracted hours, higher than any other age group. Meanwhile, for slightly older millennials aged between 25 and 34, one in 10 said they worked over 20 hours extra.

And some of the reasons cited do stack up with the younger age group and why they might be putting in the extra hours. 

Firstly, there’s simply too much work on and unpaid extra hours are put in to try and stay on track. Also, office distractions are a big issue and costing productivity, common in the modern open-plan offices that many millennials may find themselves working in.

Email overload and simply discussing projects and work with colleagues online can be eating into valuable time too, including out of hours and weekend email checking.

But likely the two biggest reasons are wanting to get ahead in a career, showing graft and determination to quickly rise up the organisational pyramid. And with rents rising, younger generations are also the most likely to put extra hours in to earn more cash as well.

Recommended reading: 5 Surprising Ways to Motivate Millennials at Work

Why persistently working long hours is harmful - and what employers can do about it

Whilst few bosses are likely to reprimand staff for going the extra mile and putting in more hours to get a job done, when working late into the night becomes a common occurrence, there are serious issues that can occur, for both employee and employer.

First of all, exhaustion and illness can stem from long bouts of overworking, whilst month after month of early starts, rushed lunches and late-night emails can lead to more serious medical issues such as insomnia and high blood pressure.

And on a day-to-day level in and around the office, tired and stressed-out employees are bound to be less creative, less likely to effectively collaborate with colleagues and can withdraw within themselves too.

And for employers, seeing a number of staff sat late into the evening working away at their desks suggests a number of problems.

First, that you’re demanding too much and/or workloads are too great for staff to cope with. Second, it could be that middle managers and team delegators are failing to effectively spread the share of the workload around, possibly relying more heavily on top performers or simply not recognising that some employees are struggling to cope.

As HR head Mike Edwards pointed out: “Even when done with the best of intentions, sacrificing your personal life to put in a few more hours at the office each week can lead to a downward spiral.

“If your team can’t unwind at the end of the day, they won’t be ready for the next day.”

Recommended reading: Tips For Avoiding Burnout at Work

What can managers do?

So what can managers do to reverse this trend, or at least to support staff that feel there’s no alternative but to put in the extra hours?

First of all, you’ve got to communicate with those employees who are persistently working extra hours, try and understand why they’re doing so and if you or the business as a whole can do something to help them out.

Second, re-evaluate the working environment. Are your work-late employees sat in areas that could be more disruptive than others? Could you help by offering to let them work a day from home once every couple of weeks or a change of desks?

And third, make sure you recognise the extra work and show appreciation for the hard graft they’re putting in. Employees that feel appreciated are happy to go the extra mile, but make sure that saying thanks isn’t all you do. Assess how processes could be streamlined, where meetings can be scrapped and, if cash flow allows, look to hire in the areas where staff are struggling to manage their workloads within contracted hours the most.

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