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Long hours take toll on personal and working relationships


A new report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has thrown some light onto the lives of people who habitually work long hours. The survey report “Married to the job?” explores the impact of working long hours on relationships with family, friends and work colleagues. It is based on two research projects. One is a follow-up survey of 486 people who originally worked more than 48 hours a week in a nationwide survey conducted in July 1998. The 291 people who are still working more than 48 hours a week two years on have been re-interviewed for this report. The other research project is a nationally representative survey of UK workers, which looks at how ‘workaholics’ and other people who work long hours are perceived in the workplace.

Nearly a quarter of self-confessed workaholics (22%) do not take a single paid day’s holiday each year. Meanwhile, over one in ten “long hours workers” – which include those who do not describe themselves as workaholic but who work more than 48 hours – do not take a single paid day’s holiday each year. One in five long hours workers (22%) take 10 days holiday or less.

Commenting on the survey findings, Mike Emmott, Employee Relations Adviser at the CIPD said: “Workers should take holiday and avoid working excessively long hours both from a personal and career perspective as this can put a strain on relationships with partners, children and friends. Long-suffering spouses and cohabiting partners tend to consider it a price worth paying if it guarantees a decent standard of living.”

Emmott continued: “What should also not be overlooked is that excessive hours can have a negative effect on job performance and cause costly or reputation-damaging mistakes. Employers need therefore to ensure that they do everything in their power to improve productivity through efficiency improvements rather than by overloading their staff.”

Key findings:

– More than a quarter (29%) of partners with children of school age or younger say that the time the ‘long hours’ worker spends at work has either a quite or a very negative effect on his/her relationship with their children. More than a third report that the children have complained that they don’t see enough of the parent who works more than 48 hours a week (36%).

– Twenty-seven percent of partners say that the ‘long hours’ parent hasn’t always seen the children before they go to bed and a similar number state that he/she hasn’t always had enough time to help the children with their homework.

– Most ‘long hours’ workers themselves feel that they have struck the wrong work/life balance, with 56% saying that they have dedicated too much of their life to work.

– Two-fifths of those working more than 48 hours a week report that working long hours has resulted in arguments with their spouse or partner in the last year and the same proportion feel guilty that they are failing to pull their weight on the domestic front. Nearly a third admit that work-related tiredness is causing their sex life to suffer and 14% report a loss of, or reduced, libido or sex drive in the last twelve months.

– When asked to give an average score on a 10-point scale, “long hours workers” reported a fairly high degree of satisfaction with their relationships with their children (8.82) and spouse or partner (8.78).

– The vast majority of long hours workers are male (82%), married or cohabiting (82%) and have children (79%).

The CIPD survey report, Married to the Job?, is available in PDF format: [email protected] / 020 8263 3240 . Members of the public can get free copies by sending a self-addressed envelope to Mark Buckley, CIPD House, Camp Road, London, SW19 4UX

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