04/08/2014 06:24 BST | Updated 01/10/2014 06:59 BST

A Timely Issue

Charles Elvin, Chief Executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), explains why putting in lots of extra hours doesn't always add up to a productive workforce

It goes without saying that businesses are concerned about getting the most from their workforce but, it's important that employees are working smart, not just working hard. There's a very important distinction to be made between the number of hours employees work and the productivity of the workforce.

A recent ILM report uncovered that 94 per cent of UK employees work more than their contracted hours, with almost half working at least a day extra (7.5 hours) per week. While there are times in any organisation when people may have to work longer hours, this should be the exception not the rule. Without sufficient breaks and effective rest periods, a workforce is likely to become much less effective and this can have negative impact on everything from productivity and quality of service to reputation and staff retention.

Overtime culture is widespread throughout the UK but it can often go unnoticed. Our survey found that 76 per cent of workers routinely work in the evenings, both in the office and later at home, while almost half work through their lunch break. Although this can be necessary during busy periods, it's not sustainable for employees to work this way for long periods of time. Also, unfortunately, extended working days in the week are not the end of the story; nearly two fifths of respondents reported working weekends on a regular basis, another behaviour that can easily go under the radar.

There are of course, many factors that contribute to this culture. Three in five of those surveyed admitted that the pressure to work more hours was at least partly self-inflicted; those who are hoping for a promotion or to stand out from their colleagues, or perhaps those who are new to an organisation may want to make a good impression or demonstrate their commitment. However, with 60 percent citing pressure from their organisation, and 44 percent citing pressure directly from their manager to work extra hours, it is important that organisations look at the culture within their own organisations and what could be done to mitigate this.

Thankfully there are some simple ways that managers can help to lessen the pressure on their workforce. Training in areas such as time management and planning skills can make all the difference between heavy overtime and a healthy work-life balance. Also leading from the front, as with many workplace issues, can really help to spread the message. Nothing makes the importance of a healthy work-life balance more clear than a manager leaving on time and encouraging others to do the same.

Overall it's about managers and employees working together to make sure that the job gets done, on time and to a high standard whilst maintaining a good quality of life outside of the workplace. If staff have time for rest, relaxation and quality time with their loved ones then they are more likely to be happy healthy and engaged which leads to a productive and loyal workforce and better outputs for the business. It's a win-win for everyone.