Overwork and burnout bowl over UK IT directors

With 60-hour weeks the norm for many of Britain's IT leaders, is it any wonder that their personal and social lives are suffering?

British IT directors are working longer hours than their counterparts in the rest of Europe and their family life is suffering, according to a brace of studies published on Thursday.

Research conducted by Mercury, the IT software and services company, and the Manchester Business School found that 13 percent of UK IT directors are working more than 60 hours a week, compared to just 3 percent in France and 2 percent in Germany.

One-third said they are working between 48 and 60 hours. This is more than is allowed under the European Union's Working Time Directive, but UK companies can opt out of this directive.

Even though Britain's IT leaders are the worst offenders in Europe for working long hours, UK productivity is still relatively poor. According to Mercury, this is due to the UK government's decision to allow firms to opt out from the Working Time Directive.

"Businesses in the UK are still concerned with employment issues that have been well publicised in the media, such as stress and sick leave, but many are still not aware of the real risks of low productivity that are costing businesses daily," said Elie Kanaan, Mercury's vice-president for strategy.

"Unlike France and Germany, the Working Time Directive in the UK has not been adopted as an opportunity for businesses to become more productive. Chief information officers can't devote time and energy to strategy and they are burning out under the pressure of a 60-hour week," Kanaan added.

One IT director contacted by ZDNet UK confirmed that long hours are often the norm.

"60 hours? Is that all? The lucky, lucky bastards," he said.

Research conducted by Company Barclaycard has shown that many IT professionals are being regularly dragged away from home as part of their marathon work requirements.

Its latest Travel in business survey found that the average person in the IT industry spends 2.8 days per week travelling on business. Three-quarters say their time with their partner has suffered because of business travel, with 49 percent saying that social time with friends has also been hit.