Britons in the workplace: The figures that lay bare the life of an average British employee


During an average working life Mr or Miss Average will rack up 9,024 hours of unpaid overtime, take 94 days off sick and work for six different employers

The Association of Accounting Technicians commissioned the study into our working lives Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

A new study which polled 2,000 adults on their work life so far, has estimated lifetime figures based on starting work at 18 and retiring at 65.

Experts who examined in detail every aspect of a standard 47 years in the working world found the average worker will start on around £8,000 a year in their first job and will work for six different companies on their journey to job satisfaction.

The survey also found that 46 per cent will quit and re-train completely after deciding their career isn’t for them, they will take 94 days off sick and be late 141 times and they will make an estimated 29,328 cups of tea.

The average worker will also miss out on £153,000 in unpaid overtime, get nine pay rises, have six jobs, one office romance and have three fights with a co-worker.

Working for free

Britons will rack up an astonishing 9,024 hours of unpaid overtime over their life’s career – equating to four extra hours a week at a loss of £153,408. On the plus side the average worker will enjoy nine pay rises across their years of work. The average worker bee believes their time is worth around £17 an hour.

Unpaid overtime 2010-2014 (TUC)

Year Employees working unpaid overtimePercentage of employees working unpaid overtimeAverage hours of weekly unpaid overtime
2010:5,225,00021.0 7.2
2011:5,132,00020.1 7.4
2012:5,087,00020.2 7.6
2013:5,418,00021.3 7.8
2014:5,287,000 20.3 7.7

No more jobs for life

There will be six different job roles for the typical Briton from the moment they start work, which will span across six different companies.

45 per cent of those polled claimed to have been made redundant at least once, enduring two periods of serious financial worry.

Fittingly they will also make their way out of two bouts of unemployment before getting back on their feet in the job market.

In fact, when seeking ‘pastures new’ they will endure an average of ten job interviews – but an unlucky one in ten will plough through the interview process over 25 times.

Workplace relationships

Mr or Mrs Average will have three major bust-ups over the years, either with clients, colleagues or the boss; but small disagreements in the workplace will raise their ugly head more frequently at 15 times a year.

And though the typical employee will enjoy one office romance, a busy 6 per cent will rack up to five or more.

With this in mind it’s no surprise that the average worker will hear six pieces of juicy gossip through the rumour mill.

Climbing the ladder

British noses can be too close to the grindstone it seems, as over half (54 per cent) said they believe their commitment to work has impacted how their relationships and personal lives have turned out.

Over two thirds said trying overly hard to progress has disrupted their work-life balance, with 39 per cent who admitted to changing jobs completely purely to restore it.

In fact 46 per cent said they’d quit a job they’d had for years for better job satisfaction, even if it meant re-training or gaining new qualifications.

A lifetime of work includes

  • 1 office romance
  • 2 bad bosses
  • 3 heavy bust-ups/arguments
  • 6 job roles
  • 6 different companies
  • 9 pay rises
  • 94 sick days
  • Late for work 141 times
  • 705 minor disagreements
  • 9,024 hours of overtime
  • 29,328 cups of tea

Mark Farrar, Chief Executive of AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians), which commissioned the study said, “Our working lives see many ups and downs as we move up the ladder, deal with new challenges, or change job completely.

“It’s revealing to see that the average person will work for at least six different companies over a lifetime, proving that the traditional ‘job for life’ may well be a thing of the past. People should always ensure they take up training opportunities and their skills are up to date so they can be ready if they need to change job.

“It’s more common now to seek a sense of worth at work rather than see a job as just a way to pay the bills.

“Our surroundings, fellow colleagues and day-to-day tasks also have a huge influence on our job satisfaction.”

Mr Farrar said, “A huge number of adults reach a career point where they feel a change is needed.

“As the years go by we learn more and more about what makes us happiest in our working life and the kind of roles and challenges that suit us best.

“Whether that means entering a whole new field, or aiming for a promotion in your company, there are options which can help your lifetime of employment work for you.