Did you do more than 40 hours last week?
Is that the norm for your company?
Are you constantly getting to work early yet still getting home too late to have dinner with your partner, or have a meaningful family or social life?
If you’re nodding in agreement, you’re not alone. Best Companies research shows that thousands are working far longer than is good for their health or their company’s productivity. Unfortunately, it’s a very British bad habit.
In the foreword to Flexible Working – The Business Case, published by The Department of Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, then Secretary of State says: “…there are still too many organisations where an old-fashioned long hours culture still prevails. This is costly – although British companies work the longest hours in Europe, our productivity levels are one of the lowest, and stress-related sickness costs British business around £12 billion every year. No surprise then, that according to this year’s Best Companies research, nearly two thirds of managers and four-fifths of senior managers work overtime. On top of that, more than 1 in 10 workers are putting in between 10 and 20 hours of overtime a week, just over 20% of employees do between 20 and 30 hours over their contracted weekly hours and the numbers putting in more than 30 hours extra has increased to 0.5%. Dr Pete Bradon, head of research at Best Companies Ltd comments: “This data is very worrying when you consider the effects of overtime on people’s lives.” He believes that putting in long hours should only ever be a short-term solution, otherwise it runs the risk of damaging families as well as health. It’s a vicious circle too. Continually missing family time or a social life undermines relationships. “lf you disinvest in these outside relationships, you can’t turn to them in times of stress, and then your stress feeds back to work,” says Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the Lancaster University Management School. But being productive at work does not have to mean being absent in the rest of your life. Here are some ways to share with your employees about how they (or you?) could achieve that holy grail: the work/life balance:
- Ask and ye shall receive (perhaps). If starting an hour later or working from home one day a week would help, ask. Legally, as a manager, you are obliged to consider it (though not to agree to it).
- Self-discipline. Be strict: do you really spend 12 hours working solidly or are some of them spent chatting or on not-strictly-necessary emailing, for instance? Keep a work diary and check.
- Don’t stay late for the sake of it. You may well be able to complete work in 35 hours that takes your colleague 50.
- Take a break. A lunchtime break for a walk or a gym session will revitalise you and prevent the 3 o’clock slump.
- Don’t let stress grow. The moment you start to become stressed, say something. Don’t wait until your work is suffering.
- Know your limits. There’s an important difference between being busy and being stressed. You set the limits. You may choose to work 50 hour weeks but never work weekends, for example.