Tomorrow’s Business: 12th March 2020

British people work an average of 42 unpaid days a year

  • On average, Brits spend an extra 1008 hours or 42 days a year working outside their contracted hours
  • Media/Marketing/PR named the industry most likely to work overtime

Millions of Brits are spending years of their life working unpaid outside of their standard working hours, new research reveals1.

The poll, conducted by Hitachi Personal Finance, reveals exactly how much time Brits are spending working past their contracted hours and what else the nation could be doing with this time.

The research revealed that nearly half (49%) of British people arrive at work early each day and 48% admit to staying late every day.

Looking more closely at those who are arriving early to work, a third (32%) are working an extra 147 days in their lifetime by getting to the office 20 minutes early each day. Additionally, 15% of Brits are working an extra 330 days – that’s nearly a whole year – by arriving at the office 45 minutes before their shift starts.

What’s more, 2% are tallying up a huge one year and two months’ worth of overtime by getting to work an hour earlier than they are contracted to. In total, this means that Brits are wasting 917 days on unpaid work across their lifetime, just by arriving early to work each day!

And for those working after their shift ends, three in ten Brits (30%) are spending a further 147 days at work in their lifetime, staying late by 20 minutes each day, and 14% are working an extra 330 days in their lifetime by leaving work 45 minutes after they’re supposed to.

Even more shockingly, 5% of Brits rack up an extra one year two months’ overtime in their lifetime by leaving the office an hour or more after they should be going home. Overall this means that Brits are putting in an extra two and a half years work in their lifetime, just by sticking around the office when their shift ends.

In total, these figures show that Brits are working a whopping 1,834 days – or five years – unpaid across their working life, just by starting work early and finishing late. That’s an extra 42 days each year!

With three in five Brits (61%)2 admitting they would rather have a good work-life balance than a high salary, the prospect of a bigger wage packet is potentially not what is keeping UK workers in the office for longer, but perhaps the pressures and workload they are facing in their jobs.

Delving into the industries that are most likely to work overtime, the top five are:

  1. Media/PR/Marketing (68%)
  2. Emergency Services (65%)
  3. Finance and HR (63%)
  4. Sales (61%)
  5. Accounts and Artist/Designer/Creative (60%)

So, what else could Brits be doing with this time? Experts at Hitachi Personal Finance offer five alternative activities UK workers could be doing instead of sticking around the office:

1. Learn a new language

If learning a new language is of interest, research shows that it takes 480 hours to reach basic fluency3. Meaning in the six weeks spent on overtime each year, you could learn at least one new language, maybe even 2!

2. Gain a new habit

It has also been widely reported that it takes just 21 days to form a habit4, so in the same time you spend working overtime each year, you could be making two new habits part of a daily routine that could have a positive impact on your life, such as exercising, quitting smoking or meditation.

3. Take a trip

For Brits who would rather have a more relaxing break from the office, why not use the time to take a family trip somewhere you’ve always wanted to go? On average, it takes 21 hours and 40 minutes to fly to Australia from London5, so in the 42 days Brits spend working overtime each year, they could fly down under and back nearly 24 times.

4. Earn a degree

If you’ve ever wanted to study a degree or add another one to your belt, it could be doable if you skip the extra hours in the office. You can complete a 3-year degree in 108 hours at the Open University6, meaning in the six weeks spent working overtime in a year, you could earn an additional five degrees!

5. Binge watch a box set

If getting your teeth into a good boxset is more your thing and you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you could binge-watch all eight series instead of putting in the extra graft in office, it would take three days and 16 minutes to watch from start to finish7. But in 42 days, you could finish the box set 13 times. Marvel films more your thing? It would take just over two days to watch all 23 movies8, so in the six weeks you’d otherwise be spending working overtime in a year, you could sit down and watch the entire superhero franchise 20 times.

Commenting on the findings, Vincent Reboul, Managing Director of Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance, says: “It’s very interesting to see the sheer amount of people in Britain who are working way past their contracted hours. It’s shocking to see that the hours spent simply by arriving to work early or leaving late adds up to six weeks per year, or over five years in a lifetime.

“Although sometimes putting in the extra hours at work is necessary, our time is precious and we should aim to spend it wisely, whether that’s with our loved ones, focusing on our wellbeing or maybe even learning a new skill or two.”

To find out more, please visit:

1. Survey of 2,000 UK respondents, conducted by TLF

2. Survey of 2,001 UK adults in August 2019, conducted by TLF

3. Data taken from The Linguist

4. Data taken from Brian Tracy

5. Average flight times from London to Sydney taken from Prokerala

6. Information taken from The Open University

7. Data taken from The Sun

8. Data taken from Interbasket

– Ends –

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