Always on Culture: How Anxiety Affects the Workforce


In today’s working culture, there is almost an expectation that we should always be ‘logged on’. However, this mindset is having a clear impact on the UK’s workforce – the leading cause of sick days is stress and anxiety. A new survey of 2000 workers across various industries by Aviva has delved into the topic of work-related anxiety, to get to the roots of the problem and see how it can be solved.

‘Always On’ Culture

The survey found that 72% of UK workers are checking their emails over the weekend. Looking at SMEs, 62% of SME employees spend between 31-59 minutes checking their work inbox at the weekend. This proves that there is a modern ‘always on’ culture, where employees are feeling like they must be available at every hour. 83% of SME employees are spending between 1-2 hours doing work at the weekend, whilst 93% spend between 3-5 hours thinking about work.

It’s clear from findings that 24/7 connectivity is impacting UK workers. This can put staff at risk of burnout from being constantly on call.

Effects of Workplace Anxiety

With so much time at the weekends spent either thinking about or doing work, the effects cannot be underestimated. The findings of the survey showed that workers are not getting the most out of their time off, with the top four effects being irritability, feelings of tiredness, depressive moods and a lack of sleep. 68% of SME workers said work anxiety was affecting their social lives, leaving them unable to meet up with friends and family.

How can we combat it?

47% of UK workers would like to see an email ban implemented at the weekend. Positively, 23% of SME workers said their organisation already had a weekend email ban or similar in place. A 4-day week is something that the Labour party is currently championing, and it’s clear that it is popular with workers too, with 40% of respondents stating that a shorter working week would be welcomed. Other wellbeing initiatives championed were later starts on a Monday and free gym memberships.

Aviva also worked with workplace wellbeing training providers, 4and20million, to share five actionable ways that employees can reduce work-based anxiety.

-Plan ahead – At the end of the day, write out your tasks for tomorrow. Use your calendar so that it is all accounted for, so you can see when it can be done.

-Biggest thing first – Make daunting tasks the first of the day, when your mind is fresh. The sense of achievement when you’ve finished will lighten the load for the rest of the day.

-Use your ‘out of office’ – Put your out of office alert on when you need uninterrupted time to complete tasks. This allows you to escape the call of your work inbox.

-Have a shutdown ritual – Tell your subconscious ‘work is done for the day’ and it’s ok to switch off.

-Utilise your brain – Ever wondered why you wake up with an ingenious idea or why your creativity sparks in the shower? It’s because downtime is vital for your brain to recharge. Make it an investment, not a luxury!