The latest research from the TUC indicates that we are still working longer hours than every before. The news comes as part of the TUC’s The Return of the Long Hours Culture report that shows that An extra 180,000 people across the UK are working more than 48 hours a week in 2008.
In the first quarter of 2008, the total number of people working long hours increased by 0.5% (180,000 people) to 3.3 million. The sharpest increases in long hours working occurred in the East of England (up 2.1%) and London (up 2%). Between 1998 and 2006, the number of people working more than 48 hours was reduced by 3.7% (707,000) from 3.8 million to 3.1 million.
The TUC report argues that the recent increase in the number of people working long hours is due to the challenging economic climate, which has made employers more reluctant to recruit new staff and instead work existing employees harder.
The analysis also finds that 85% of new long hours workers are male. The TUC believes that this trend, in which senior jobs are increasingly reliant on long hours, could hamper efforts to close the pay gap, as women with childcare responsibilities are likely to be excluded from these roles.
In order to reverse the growth of long hours working, the TUC is calling for a stronger the Working Time Directive (WTD) to protect employees. Since its implementation in 1998, the WTD has helped to reduce excessive long hours, although the UK’s opt-out has meant that this progress, in the TUC’s view, has been too slow.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “After slow but steady progress over the last decade, long hours working is making its way back into Britain’s workplaces. Employees across the UK already work the longest hours in Western Europe and the recent increase will mean lower productivity, more stress and less time to have a life outside the office with friends and family.”
I’ve blogged about long working hours before. All homeworkers seem to work extensive hours as they run their businesses, but homeworkers in the UK in particular seem to put more hours in than anyone else.
Personally I’ve never worked longer hours than after I started my own business and started to work from home. But I think it’s all about perspective. I don’t mind putting in those hours as I know that I am the only person that will ultimately benefit. When I was employed silly hours was the norm, but of course my salary was fixed. These days the more I work, the more I earn.
Many people have blogged about the idea that you need to look at how much money you need to earn each week, and once you’ve achieved that, it’s time to down tools and do something else. I’ve always liked the idea that my standard of living is in direct proportion to how hard I work. It’s very motivational to know that you have to put the hours in to cover your mortgage etc.
But inordinantly long hours can of course be a symptom of a wider problem. Ask yourself if you’re working longer hours because you aren’t working efficiently? The old buzz phrase of working smarter and not longer definitely rings true these days. So take a look at the systems you use to run your business. Look for ways to improve them as in the end you’ll benefit. A four day week could be your ultimate reward.