Brexit affecting managers' psychological wellbeing

Managers say the decision to leave the EU is affecting their morale, psychological wellbeing and working hours

The Chartered Management Insitute (CMI)'s survey of 1,037 managers found that 23% feel the UK's decision to leave the EU is affecting their morale, and 22% felt it was affecting their overall psychological wellbeing. Additionally, 14% directly attributed a rise in their working hours to Brexit.

The study found that managers now work an extra 7.5 hours beyond their contracted weekly hours, adding up to an extra 43.8 days a year. This is up from 39.6 days in 2015.

The rising gap between contracted and actual hours is in addition to an ‘always on’ digital culture, the study found, with 59% of managers saying they ‘frequently’ check their emails outside of work – up from 54% in 2015.

This is affecting managers’ health, the study suggested, with one in 10 (9%) taking time off for mental health reasons in the last year. (For those who do take time out, it’s for an average of 12 days.)

Petra Wilton, director of strategy at the CMI, said: “The impact of Brexit and the continuing political uncertainty is clearly contributing to managers’ workplace woes.

“Not only are they facing longer working weeks and the ‘always on’ culture that new technologies enable, but the uncertainties of Brexit are clearly starting to undermine their job security and sense of wellbeing. It’s hardly surprising that mental health problems and workplace stress is rising as a consequence.”

“The UK's long hours culture is detrimental to the wellbeing of managers, and it's bashing national productivity,” added Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School, referencing the fact that UK productivity remains 22.3% lower than France and 25.6% lower than Germany, for example.

“Long office hours combined with the always on expectation to answer emails is eating into home life, leaving managers with little chance of respite and increasing stress levels. Improving the quality of working life for managers will be a major step forward to solving our productivity crisis.”

The CMI offered four tips:

1. Empower your people – Give employees autonomy, recognise values-based behaviour and reward accordingly, and support their personal and professional development. This will promote productivity.

2. Switch off – Avoid developing a culture of digital presenteeism. Encourage staff to switch off, reduce unnecessary emails, and set expectations about working hours.

3. Develop better line managers – You need to develop managers who empower and engage. Ensure they receive colleague feedback on their management style and avoid the accidental manager syndrome – make sure new managers have the appropriate training to learn how to lead.

4. Prioritise wellbeing in work – For many managers long hours and work pressure can affect their personal life. Tackle taboos about discussing health issues and take steps to change the factors that employees identify as causing problems – and don't leave it all to HR.