Opinion

Why you should definitely go home on time today

It’s national Work Your Proper Hours Day today (Friday 26 February) and there’s lots of excellent reasons why the Trades Union Congress (TUC) felt the need to start this national awareness day 11 years ago, with the aim of supporting employers as well as employees.

The reason this awareness day takes place today is because, according to TUC research, if all the people in the UK who do unpaid overtime added it all up at the start of the year, today would be the first day they would start to get paid.

The TUC campaign for proper working hours aims to highlight the amount of unpaid work carried out by employees and the negative impact of a poor work/life balance, as tired and burnt out staff are bad for business. From a recruitment point of view a culture of long hours makes it difficult to attract and retain top talent and to be seen as a good employer.

While it is occasionally necessary for employees to put in extra hours, this should be the exception rather than the norm. If it becomes a regular pattern it can lead to low morale, exhaustion and stress. These are all known to decrease productivity and are often the causes of long-term absence, both of which have a significant impact on the bottom line.

People work long hours for many reasons and employers need to try and uncover the mentality behind it. It could be because they are unable to cope with their workload, or because tasks are not being delegated efficiently enough for them to be able manage their time.

It may be that there is a historical culture of presenteeism, and bosses can help to address this by leading by example. So make a start today and take a proper lunchbreak and then leave work on time to enjoy your Friday evening.

If you’re tempted to stay longer, here’s three reminders of the serious impact of regularly working long hours.  

1. Poor physical health

Working excessive hours leads to exhaustion and a lack of concentration. This impacts on your well-being by increasing the risk of headaches, digestive problems and even heart disease. Overworking can also cause people to smoke and drink more. A recent study also showed that working long hours can significantly increase your risk of suffering a stroke. Those who worked 55 hours or more a week were 33% more likely to have an attack than those clocking up the standard 40 hours.

2. Mental health problems

A recent study found that workers clocking at least 11 hours a day have a higher risk of depression than people working a standard seven or eight hour day. Longer work hours can make you more stressed and means less time to invest in your own self-care. Everyone needs time to relax, remember, even Winston Churchill supposedly took a nap every afternoon.

3. Strained relationships

Long hours make caring for children and dependents more difficult. They can also cause personal relationships to suffer as a result of not being able to spend time with loved ones. According to Axa, 27% of people have cancelled time with family and friends due to work constraints, while 18% of parents have missed a school play or parents’ evening.