The UK workforce has abandoned efforts to maintain a boundary between their professional and personal lives as they face up to the challenges of the always-on culture. New research announced today has revealed employees now live a permanently blurred line, sustaining both a work life and home life at the same time over the course of their careers.

A survey of 6,755 people across the country, commissioned by leading jobs board totaljobs, has discovered the majority (58%) of employees work from home outside of business hours. The average employee will spend 7 hours and 49 minutes per week doing work at home, the equivalent of almost 51 extra working days a year.

A quarter (23%) of employees say they work from home because they don’t have time to do all of their work during business hours, suggesting working from home is a necessity rather than a choice. This is despite less than a tenth (8%) of workers believing career progression and salary is more important than maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Blurred lines: replacing the traditional ‘business hours’

Workers across the UK are adapting to the modern ‘always-on’ culture by rebalancing their work and home lives, increasingly embracing a blur between their professional and personal lives. Indeed, only a quarter (23%) of employees believe it’s important to set hard boundaries between work life and home life and just 8% say their employers encourage them to do so.

The survey has found the workforce is compromising the difficulties involved in maintaining a healthy work-life divide by bringing their personal tasks to work. The average employee spends 6 hours and 4 minutes per week doing personal tasks, such as life admin and trawling through social media, during business hours.

These figures suggest the work-life balance isn’t quite as one sided as often implied. In fact, 15% of workers say they focus better at home and 12% say they’d rather leave the workplace on time and work from home.

Always-on and never unavailable

As the always-on culture becomes increasingly presumed, employees are expected to make themselves more and more available for work tasks at any time of the day.

The average worker now spends 5 hours and 20 minutes per week communicating with colleagues outside of business hours. Indeed, two-thirds (62%) of employees say they’ve been interrupted by their boss and more than half (59%) have been disturbed by their clients outside of traditional working hours. With the expectation to be increasingly contactable, it has been revealed that half (49%) of workers have been interrupted while on holiday and 43% while they’re in bed or asleep. Remarkably, a tenth (11%) have even been contacted while at a wedding or a funeral

It’s obvious employees are now assumed they should make themselves available for work at practically all times. In a competitive marketplace, there are pressures to meet these expectations and it causes workers to be forever on call. Indeed, half (46%) of employees say they deal with interruptions straight away and only a tenth (13%) feel comfortable ignoring disruptions outside of business hours.

Work-life (un)balance

As employees lives become blurred and there are greater pressures on career prospects, the always-on culture can cause friction between professional and personal priorities.

The survey has found the average worker spends just 4 hours and 19 minutes per day with family. This time is no longer precious due to work commitments and intrusions from colleagues. Over a third (37%) of employees are forced to cancel plans with their family at least once per week due to work. A quarter (25%) of employees have either had to miss a wedding or a funeral and 2% have even missed the birth of their child. It is hardly surprising, then, that only a sixth (16%) of workers believe their family and friends are happy with their current work-life balance.

Martin Talbot, Group Marketing Director, at totaljobs, said: “This study has highlighted the stresses the always-on culture has on employees’ work-life balance, revealing a new trend that the workforce is currently living a permanent blur between their professional and personal lives.

While the research has discovered that employees are increasingly working from home, it’s interesting that the workforce is abandoning a strict distinction between their work and home lives by completing personal tasks during business hours. Employers need to be mindful of this developing trend if they see their staff completing life admin and browsing social media while at work. “