Warning: long working hours can damage your health
It’s time to change the way we live and work
The way we work today means many parents don’t eat healthily or take regular exercise. Working long hours also led to increased levels of stress, resulting in irritability, exhaustion and depression.
A new Working Families’ report shows that the way we work today means many parents don’t eat healthily or take regular exercise. Half of the parents surveyed for Time, Health and the Family: What Working Families Want were unhappy with their work and family balance. A majority reported that work dominated their lives, and family life suffered as a result. Working long hours also led to increased levels of stress, resulting in irritability, exhaustion and depression.
Chief Executive of Working Families Sarah Jackson commented: “This disturbing report shows us that binge-working is turning us into a nation of workaholics. This is having a disastrous effect on our health, our family life and our performance at work. We need to work shorter, leaner hours and make time for our families and communities.”
“At Citigroup we have a suite of family friendly policies and practices, including a parents’ network which provides information, support and sessions on topics as far ranging as first aid, nutrition and financial planning."”
Nearly half of the parents interviewed had no flexible working arrangements available in their workplace. A majority of all parents thought that they themselves should take responsibility for improving their work-life balance and their solution was to look for another job that offered more flexibility.
This strong message to employers is backed up by parents blaming heavy workloads and the working culture of their organisations for the long hours they were working. Parents called on their employers to think again about the need for long hours working. They reported that, as their working hours increased, their morale and productivity decreased.
One of the authors of the report, Professor Cary L Cooper of Lancaster University, said: “The clear message to employers from this research is that ‘Time is up on long hours working’. They need to look closely at the culture in their organisations or risk losing the parents who work for them. Far from leading to an effective workforce, working long hours leads to high levels of stress, ill health and decreased morale and productivity. Merely having flexible working policies is not sufficient if the dominant culture does not support their meaningful use. It’s time to work smarter, not longer.
“The current work-home imbalance has consequences for wider society, too. government policy drives to increase the health and fitness of children and adults are unlikely to be assisted by a workforce which is too time-starved to actively participate in such measures.”
Working Families’ Sarah Jackson added: “We call on the government to give a lead by strengthening and extending the right to request flexible working and making maternity and paternity leave more generous and flexible. We call on employers to take time out to look at the culture of their organisations – we know it is possible to change. And we call on all employees to be part of the solution: think about what changes you can make in your own lives and join our campaign to change the way we live and work.”
Dominic Johnson, Director, UK Policy, Employee Relations and Diversity at GlaxoSmithKline, one of the sponsors of the report, said: "At GSK we want employees to work smarter, not longer. This timely report shows just how important this is, by highlighting the corrosive effect of a long hours culture on parents and carers."
Lynne Fisher, Managing Director at Citigroup said: "Dealing with the issues raised in this report should be a priority for all employers. By supporting this research we are delighted to help raise awareness of the difficulties faced by working parents. For any business, creating a supportive environment and working practices that alleviate these difficulties should help attract and retain the best and the brightest individuals. At Citigroup we have a suite of family friendly policies and practices, including a parents’ network which provides information, support and sessions on topics as far ranging as first aid, nutrition and financial planning."