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Brits give their employers over 1,000 hours of free overtime on average each year

Many employees are arriving early at work and leaving late, according to a survey. (Tyler Franta/Unsplash)

Millions of Brits are spending years of their life working unpaid outside of their standard working hours, a new study reveals.

A survey of 2,000 Brits by Hitachi Personal Finance has revealed how much time Brits are spending working past their contracted hours and what else the nation could be doing with this time.

The research found nearly half (49%) of British people arrive at work early each day, and 48% admitted to staying late every day.

Read more: How does overworking affect your health?

Looking more closely at those who are arriving early to work, a third (32%) are working an extra 147 days in their lifetime by getting to the office 20 minutes early each day. Additionally, 15% of Brits are working an extra 330 days — that’s nearly a year — by arriving at the office 45 minutes before their shift starts.

What’s more, 2% are tallying up a one year and two months’ worth of overtime by getting to work an hour earlier than they are contracted to. In total, this means that Brits are wasting 917 days on unpaid work across their lifetime, just by arriving early to work each day.

And for those working after their shift ends, three in 10 Brits (30%) are spending a further 147 days at work in their lifetime, staying late by 20 minutes each day, and 14% are working an extra 330 days in their lifetime by leaving work 45 minutes after they’re supposed to.

READ MORE: Why leaving work on time is good for your career

Even more shockingly, 5% of Brits rack up an extra one year two months’ overtime in their lifetime by leaving the office an hour or more after they should be going home. Overall this means that Brits are putting in an extra two-and-a-half-years work in their lifetime, just by sticking around the office when their shift ends.

In total, these figures show that Brits are working 1,834 days — or five years — unpaid across their working lives, just by starting work early and finishing late. That’s an extra 42 days each year.

With three in five Brits (61%) saying they would rather have a good work-life balance than a high salary, the prospect of a bigger wage packet is potentially not what is keeping UK workers in the office for longer, but perhaps the pressures and workload they are facing in their jobs.

READ MORE: Cash-strapped Brits work longer hours but struggle to make ends meet

Delving into the industries that are most likely to work overtime, the top five are media/PR/marketing (68%), emergency services (65%), finance and HR (63%), sales (61%), accounts and artist/designer/creative (60%).

Vincent Reboul, managing director of Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance, said: “It’s very interesting to see the sheer amount of people in Britain who are working way past their contracted hours. It’s shocking to see that the hours spent simply by arriving to work early or leaving late adds up to six weeks per year, or over five years in a lifetime.

“Although sometimes putting in the extra hours at work is necessary, our time is precious and we should aim to spend it wisely, whether that's with our loved ones, focusing on our wellbeing or maybe even learning a new skill or two.”