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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
Is work taking over your life?
British executives spend a staggering 60 hours a week working, making them the most industrious in Europe after the Germans who put in 70 hours, according to a new survey.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
But they're not spending this extra time in the office.
The arrival of new technology such as email and mobile communications means working from home is much easier. The survey, by office equipment supplier Esselte found managers are increasingly cutting into their leisure time to keep up with their heavy workloads.
Do you feel pressured to put your nose to the grindstone out of hours? Are you spending less time with your family and friends? Is this desire to clock up the hours unique to Germany and the UK? Tell us what you think.
The fact that so many people responded is interesting. Obviously there is a problem here. People are not happy.
Maybe these executives include golfing, sailing and parties as work. If your really working how can they cultivate all the friendships they have all over the country? When I work 60-70 hours I don't even have time to cultivate my family and they live with me!
Have you noticed how many consultants say they have no problem working these hours - I suppose its not such a problem when you're taking home £5000+ a month. Some people get a lot less and work whole weekends for no overtime - they just get to keep their job.
It takes money to have a happy enjoyable life because everything costs. At the minute I am working in a hotel waitressing and cleaning toilets, I don't love this but when you are making £4 an hour a 60 hour week is what it takes to live.
Only people with money say that money isn't everything!
I've seen some of these people doing their so-called overtime and it's not very productive. Maybe if they handled their time better during the normal working week they wouldn't have to do such long hours.
Jan Marie, UK
It has been quite gratifying to read that even all the ambitious, overworked managers that I see at the office and (fail to comprehend) feel deep down that they're missing out on life. You're not your firm, you're you, and you have your own life and happiness to pursue. I always leave on the minute my shift ends and will do whatever I have to not to become a wage slave.
I don't know much about Europe, but my observation working in the 'supposedly' work oriented US is that, people tend to overwork when they don't have much of a life anyways. The modern society has become so isolationist that people tend to feel more connected to work than to people or social activities, and whatever time is left after these 60 hours week is spent in 'solo' activities like individual workout etc. Sad isn't it?
New technology has brought a lot of new time eaters. What do executives do for these 60 or 70 hours? They answer dozens of e-mail messages just because they have to. They use their mobile phones every suitable moment just because they have them. How much useful work do they do for their companies? Sometimes, no-one knows.
I think that we must pay attention on how we use our time on work. We must work hard and wisely to not still working after the established time. If we do not pay attention we will work 24 hours a day!
This question is purely academic to me. I mean, I only work a 32 1/2 hour week but it FEELS like 70!
Executives working 60 hours a week?
Are you counting lunches, dinners and trips to sporting events at the company's expense?
It sounds like the corporate beastie is swallowing us up and spitting out the bones!
If you have to work 60 hrs a week just to keep standing still, then you have bad management, lack of job sharing and/or a pseudo-job that humanity doesn't require. Still, up to you all. No one is chaining you to the PC/phone. They still have off switches. The Matrix is not here yet...
What a fascinating discussion. My own personal feeling is that complaining about long hours and work stress is often a form of boasting - " I'm more stressed than you so I am more important than you ". In my view the problem in the UK goes back to Margaret Thatcher, who destroyed effective trades unions during the eighties.
I've refused both laptop and mobile phone from work because I value my free time (not a lot when you work 50 hours or more every week). My husband wasn't as strong as me, but I confiscate his mobile phone every weekend and we're slowly winning back our lives.
Work to live, not live to work. Life is too short to waste. Working is merely a means (to money) to allow a full and rich life while it can be enjoyed.
This is how it works in the UK. You accept a job offer and sign a contract to work, say, 40 hours a week. As soon as you take up the position, you are expected to work longer than the hours you have contractually agreed on, without pay. Why are employers allowed to do this? Why not be up-front at the start and put 60 hrs in the contract? With the exception of Germany, every other country in Europe has seen a decline in the hours worked each week. That's the way to go!
I don't mind being at work for more than my contracted 35 hours, since I spend most of my time surfing the web, sending e-mails, and phoning my mates anyway, (but looking seriously overworked whenever the boss is about.) I think it's called effective time management, or "shoofing".
Sorry, too busy working to leave a comment here...
In response to Charles Sviokla, I feel I must point out that many people who are working 60 hours plus per week are not doing the type of job that allows them to "play hard later in life", because they are not well paid e.g. retail jobs. You can easily work 60 hours per week and just have enough to pay a London rent and go out once a week! Long hours in and of themselves are not something to be applauded. Long hours do not necessarily equal success, money and kudos, it is a mistake of someone who is paid well to assume this!
If I have an employee who works long hours, I question whether he/she is capable of doing the job they were employed for. If you are married, and particularly if you have kids, then they are you first priority outside standard working hours. If you don't give your kids your time now, you lose their respect for you faster than you believe! A couple of years ago I snapped out of the slog-your-guts-out mentality when I (a) scheduled free evenings in the diary with my wife that neither of us could overbook at all (b) realised that money isn't everything (c) read an amazing book called "The Sixty Minute Father" by Rob Parsons (go get it!)
I've been reading this for the last 45 minutes and I'm still going home at 5pm (I'm also going to lunch for an hour now).
I once worked on a project for two straight days (a 50 hour shift), making the company something like $150m. My reward? Redundancy.
The moral of this story: Work hard or doss around, it makes no difference in the final analysis.
Mark Kane, UK
Prepare yourselves for a sad truth: many of us feel the need to work long hours because of the "new order" of "downsizing","relayering" and all of the other management-speak excuses for removing half the employees and making the rest work twice as hard, on pain of redundancy.... well, it doesn't make any difference. Despite all your efforts and long hours - and the cost to your family life - if the company wants to get rid of you, it will. Loyalty, commitment and hard work count for nothing any more - the only way to survive is to be a great self-publicist. What a sad world!
Has anyone considered why some people put in long hours at work? Put another way, my view is that people have pictures of their family on their desk to remind them why they are at work!
There is a huge difference between those who start their own firms and work all hours through choice, and those who feel they are forced to work or they'll lose their job. I work for a City bank, and I work a 40-hour week. Adding the 2 hours or so daily on the train still means I have time in the evening to do what I want to do. If an urgent requirement arises, I'll work more hours. If you can't handle flexibility both ways go stack shelves in the supermarket.
Jonathan King, Switzerland (Brit)
Consider this: on your deathbed, will you have wished you had spent more time in the office...I think not!
The Japanese are now dropping dead through overworking - it happens so frequently that they even have a name for it. Get a life, give a fair days work for a fair days pay and go home and have a great life.
Guys, I'm relieved...I thought bad time management at work was an Italian prerogative. Sharing the pain sometimes helps!
The basic rules of capitalism are that bosses try to get as much work out of their workers as possible for as little money as possible and workers try to work as little as possible for as much money as possible. People working sixty-hour weeks are letting the bosses win.
Once you start doing longer hours your productivity will drop, so it's better to work smarter than work longer. That way both employer's and employees benefit. Its also worth noting that no employer can offer long term job security in this day and age. The only gratitude I have ever got for working extra hours is the dole queue.
I work a minimum of 55 hours a week most of which is spent standing. How I would love to work less, but when your wage is barely above the National Minimum Wage, working less is not an option.
Jeff Dray, UK
Work is an integral part of life.
But that's all it is - a part.
Without a healthy, happy home life,
you can't expect to perform at your
best at work. if you're spending all
your time at work, what hope for a
healthy, happy home life!
It's about time employers realised
that the best way to make their
employees productive is to make
sure they're happy.
It's not rocket science, is it?
Some workers such as nurses and social workers have a very different problem - they overwork because otherwise the people they care for would suffer. They feel morally obliged - and they get paid far less than the business/IT types. Employers really take advantage of them.
Ken Beach, Germany
I think the Government should make it a legal requirement to pay overtime. That way it would make employers think before they put pressure on people to work long hours. If it was compulsory to pay an overtime rate higher than the standard rate of pay then it would automatically become more cost effective for companies to employ the right number of people for the job instead of overworking those already under pressure.
My work hours are 9.00am until 5.30pm. I am excellent at managing my own workload but unfortunately my boss is not. Sometimes I can be bored for hours on end but I can guarantee that he will give me something really urgent at 5.25pm and I end up doing unpaid overtime for his time mismanagement.
Andy, USA/ UK
There is a certain culture in the IT industry where you are obliged (or are pressured) into working to get a project live. This results in staff working 15 hour days and over weekends but due to peer pressure and politics we have no other choice.
I'm too greedy to work fewer hours. The longer and harder I work, the more I'll get. A peaceful and quiet life is a dream for the future after doing the hard work now.
Working through lunch breaks is another issue. I'll do it if the need arises but most people where I work do it nearly every day without questioning, which is so unhealthy.
I'm leaving them for another firm with a more enlightened attitude.
I work hard but most of the time, my work is never used. I feel that work is mostly an organised waste of time. People can work much less if our work is not wasted on doomed projects.
I work at least 70 hours per week from home via ISDN, for an international non-profit organisation. I enjoy my job, so I don't mind long working hours at all. However, I might feel differently if I worked for a commercial enterprise where I would be exploited to make someone else a profit.
Justin Preece, Texas, USA
I agree with all the comments about inefficiency being the result of too many hours in the office. However, let's not forget that work has a big social side. I don't like to think of some sort of complete division between "work" and "life". They are both part of the same thing, enjoy both if you possibly can!
Work is what I do in order to afford my life. It is most decidedly not my life and no job is worth cutting heavily into my ever-dwindling supply of time in the world.
I started my own business last year, and usually work 90-100 hours per week. I'm not complaining, it was my choice, and I'm doing it for my family's (eventual and hopeful) benefit.
However, quite soon after I took the plunge and committed myself financially to this, my wife became pregnant, and we now have a wonderful little girl. My biggest regret now is that I see so little of my family but I made my choice, so I must see it through.
In the modern American economy, your boss is not at all loyal to you so why should you be so loyal to him as to work 60 hours a week (and incidentally lower your salary value by 50%)?
Ray Auchterlounie, UK
As someone once wisely said - no one ever lay on their deathbed saying: "Oh, how I wish I'd spent more time at the office".
I work long hours in Germany and get paid for it! The other option is flexitime and taking the overtime as holidays.
My Mother used to say that "drink" was the curse of the "working classes". Since that time I have learned that it is the other way around.
"Work" is the curse of the "drinking" classes.
I am one of the extremely fortunate workers who has found an "enlightened" company to work for. They believe in hiring the right number and type of staff to get the job done during work hours. Only during very busy times of the year, do we put in as much over-time as it takes to get the job done. However, I know many friends who work 60 or more hours per week, at home and at work. This seems to be a global problem. Either companies need to set realistic goals for management and staff alike, or they should hire enough people to get the job done in a reasonable amount of time.
Phil W, UK
I think the situation has improved a little bit in the US as compared with the late 80's and early 90's. I think many businesses are realising that even if they don't pay their employees for overtime, there is a cost for it. Burnout is one form of cost. We still work hard but I see more of my work mates saying "no" when it gets to a certain level. Low unemployment figures tend to make employees a little bolder about sticking up for their rights. If their bosses don't like it, there are plenty of jobs.
When everyone in your office is as smart as or smarter than you are, the only way you can distinguish yourself is by working harder. That's the sad truth.
It would be great if we could all "put our feet down" and not work unpaid overtime, but when the corporate culture requires it, and promotion relies on dependability and effort, what choice is there for those who want career progress? Frankly, I'd love to be able to walk away after 35 hours, but my job title includes the word "manager" and it seems despite the technological advances, that responsibility means more hours - worse luck!
It's disgraceful when one group of people takes all that work (and the associated wages) while others have to go without. The French idea of a 35-hour working week is spot-on, and ensures that everyone gets a fair slice of the cake.
Roger Motle, England
The reason these people are working for so long is simply due to poor time management. I work my 37.5 hours per week, occasionally a couple more to help out others, but certainly don't allow it to rule my life. I probably spend almost as long in the pub!!
We have to work longer hours because of a few rich people who want to keep their way of life. Do the directors of big corporations work 60hr weeks? I think not. What we need is a balance of power and money NOT a balance of work time and leisure time. Life is for living and the sooner people get back to relying on themselves, and not a wage, the better off everyone will be. Capitalism is now out of control
When I moved from the UK, to work for the same employer in the US, I was told that the working week was 40 hours (i.e. 8 hours a day, vs. 7.5 in the UK)
This made my friends and I (who were all moving over) think, gosh these Americans are hard-working.
The reality, meanwhile, is that most of us here (in the US) work about 7 hours a day, and that includes time spent sitting around gossiping. We are all software developers, and people do stay late when there's a deadline coming up, but that's not constant as your report suggests.
Why stop at the 60-hour week? The 35-hour one is bad enough. Work takes up the best hours of the day, the best days of the week, the best weeks of the year, and the best years of your life. You get whatever time is left over after you have sold your life in order to live, by which time you are probably too brain dead to do much with it, anyway.
In my experience, the official line has always been that you go home when your workload is finished, which I think is common to most corporate bodies these days; - if you finish at four in the afternoon, then that's fine; if its eleven at night, well, tough luck. This is all well and good if managers remain realistic about the amount of work someone can actually get done in a day, but the trend seems to be towards taking advantage of this and saying yes to tighter deadlines because they know they can pile on the work.
A "staggering 60 hours a week?" Staggering? No wonder the US has a staggering lead in information technology and related business sectors. I know people for whom 60 hours is a short working week. We choose to work very hard now so that we may play hard later in life.
A recent edict from my company states that regular company meetings can no longer be held on Friday afternoons and will now take place on Saturday mornings. This ruins the entire weekend, of course, and reduces even further the time that can be spent with family and friends. With house prices forcing people to commute long distances to work, those without the 'telecommuting' option are increasingly forced to sacrifice quality time for work. It's definitely a worrying trend and is yet another addition to our already stressful lives.
John Barry, Germany
I wonder if there is a correlation between the extra hours now being worked and the increasing divorce rate? Senior managers should be using technology to increase the length and quality of their leisure time. Instead they are letting the technology use them.
I work about 60 hours a week just to keep up with the cost of living. There should be a 35hour week with out loss of pay - this could also end unemployment.
Life is short and its here to be lived. We all need to earn a living but its important to find a balance between work and play. I find it helps to think of my boss on the loo to help regain a better sense of perspective. The longer hours you work the less productive you actually become. Seize the day!
Jennifer Cole, England
I just can't understand why anyone would work 60 hours. Anyone who finds themselves in this situation has surely got their priorities all wrong.
Working hard has its rewards, but any office culture where the expectation is to work this amount of hours is a flawed one.
You've only got one life - don't waste it in an office!
If only these people put as much effort and commitment into doing something more productive, there are hundreds of good causes out there crying out for volunteers. Instead they seem to prefer spending their time, taking from the people who need help the most to line their own pockets and the pockets of their shareholders
By the time I've dealt with voicemail and e mail it's time for last posting.
Haven't got time to do any work at work.
My husband is a paving contractor and work from 7a.m. to 11pm , 6 days a week. We have 3 young daughters and they never get to see their dad, ALL FOR THE ALMIGHTY DOLLAR!!!!!!!!!
Personally I will go to *any lengths* to remove the causes of stress from my life and I'd advise others to do the same. This is particularly true when it comes to people trying to hassle me into doing unpaid overtime.
A long hours culture is an inevitable consequence of a mode of economic organisation which places higher value on profit, productivity and competitive advantage than on people. Technology should be used to free us from the need to work hard all our lives.
It's been shown many times that people who regularly work more than 8 hours a day are no more productive than those who work normal hours. The extra time is usually spent catching up on errands that would normally be done in their own time.
In my experience (of the IT industry), no one does any work after 7pm anyway - they are too busy playing games or getting food delivered!
Let me quote my boss; "anybody leaving the office at 6pm is not doing a proper job". Of course, he doesn't pay overtime either. I get in at 9am and leave at 6pm and put that down to perfect time management. I get done what I have to get done in the time allotted. What doesn't get done will wait until tomorrow.
However, mono-people should not give up hope. By spending some of their misguided effort at improving the quality of their life outside of work, they will find their brains function more effectively. Their productivity (in all areas) will increase, thus facilitating less work hours. They will encounter less stress, live longer, be happier and will be nicer people. Trust me on this one, and don't take the cell phone to the beach!
Neil Hastings, USA
I once sat in a conference where a member of the senior management of one of the largest city institutions said that 60 hours was now seen as the norm. Up against that type of institutionalised myopia no wonder the UK's figures are so high. No one in my organisation works hours in that order. If I found someone working those types of hours I would infer that either a) their area is under-resourced, or b) they do not know how to do their jobs properly. Working long hours for sake of it is a waste of everybody's time.
Isn't there a European work directive limiting this sort of thing? Of course no one will actually take any notice as greed and shareholder value is more important¿
I believe there is a culture in the UK (and possibly the US) where to be seen to work long hours and hence demonstrate dedication to the employer or task leads to promotion, bonuses etc. Do managers really believe that the length of time spent behind a desk is an indication of productivity and therefore deserves reward? If so I might bring my tent into work next week!
Most of the people I know who work late into the evening and start early in the morning also have long business lunches and spend the rest of the afternoon struggling with a lack of sobriety.
Many bosses want people in the office all the time. They are labouring under the misapprehension that more work actually gets done!
Let's face it: Anyone really working 60 hours plus a week isn't going to have time to send in comments are they?
I work in the industry that everyone expects will be full of people working really long hours - IT. In fact, as a System Administrator (geek) I should be the most obvious person to be burning the midnight oil. But, I work my contracted hours (9 - 5.30) and no more. If people choose to work longer than they have to, that is up to them, but you don't have to.
I remember reading a report a few years ago from a Swedish University
that said if you have to work past 5 O'clock you are incapable of doing your job.
I took this to heart and now must be too good for my job because I leave at 4pm regardless
I feel the world should relax its working hours because it only produces a lot more stress. So put simply, less hours = less stress.
Modern technology helps us to be more productive but be like me, when you walk out the office, turn off that work mobile
Vishal Vashisht, UK
Love to comment - but I haven't got the time!
I'm leaving my current job because of the workload, and I have no idea where I'm heading. My boss is a pseudo-workaholic. She spends long days at the office talking on the phone to her family and friends. She favours those who do exactly the same thing, instead of rewarding those of us who are productive. She's like a teacher who only grades on attendance.
My issue is that people before me have set a precedent of "over hours". To achieve the same success as they, I feel that I need to do the same. Compounding this, my employers have no regard for my personal life and assume that I am driven by their best interests. The result is a formula for burn-out, which I feel is around the corner (and I am only 30).
However, I have yet to make the decision to leave this job for one more relaxing, probably due to self-greed. Therefore, it is my own fault for not taking control of my own situation.
I have never heard of anyone on their death-bed saying, "I WISH I HAD SPENT MORE TIME AT THE OFFICE".
Complaining that one puts in too may hours is an old, tired out cliché in the country - Quit gossiping by the coffee machines and get some work done - You'll be able to leave by 5:00pm then!!!!
How much 'work' is really being done in the extra 20 or 30 hours a week. Why haven't these people been promoted every six months for outstanding achievement.
Chris Nall-Evans, UK
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