Monday, August 22, 2005

To the CBI, Digby Jones and other supporters of long hour culture

This study was done very recently in America of all places, the land where working long hours is seen as a good thing.

Long working hours 'health risk'

Why, when we have repeated studies like this, that people like Digby Jones and others who have the wonderful idea that we should have a long hours culture, not read research which clearly shows the dangers of working long hours, and they even support the initiative for a max of 48 hour week. I am not surprised.

When will companies realise that working people to beyond normal capability isn't good for the staff's health, the good of their business, and the burden on the welfare state, because these people end up very ill, costing a lot of money to the state, through time off, through therapy, and a lack of productivity.

I am very fortunate it seems that I have a 35 hour week, and if I ever decide to move on, I will simply not work for a company that expects a 40-50 hour week, because it doesn't mean more work gets done. Productivity is highest when you have fewer hours, as workers are fresher, on the ball more, and less mistakes are then made as well. The Europeans have got this right, they know the benefits of having their staff not work too many hours.

So hopefully the likes of Digby Jones and others like him, will realise that if an American study says it is bad, and from the land that will do all it can to make people work too many hours, and be detrimental to someone's health, that there is some understanding there is a person in the work process, not a machine.


ian said...

This is one person who doesn't see the long hours as a good thing , despite the 7.45am to 1am hours I've been doing for the last month or so. I'm just finding it required (by me) at the moment.

interestingly enough, I've never actually had any pressure from my company to work longer hours.
Granted, I'm on salary and expected to complete a job, rather than hourly so any overtime is my own problem, but if I shouted about the workload (which I've had to do in the past) it would be cut to something reasonable.

1/2 the reason my hours are shot is that I'm heading a team in the UK, along with my usual US based work so I'm dealing with timezone issues.

Also, while I agree that working 80hrs a week is a bad thing (especially if you have a scalpel in your trainee doctor hands) look at say the French, who have got the art of working as little as possible down to, well, a fine art. Unless you count striking as work I suppose.
Their economy suffers because of it btw. Granted, thats not the only reason but all I seem to hear on BBC world service of late is that the french economy is taking a beating,and, oh, by the way - they're trying to reduce working hours again.
There HAS to be a correlation.

I'd love to work 9-5 with an hour for lunch but the reality is that it doesn't work that way if you have offices overseas. Everyone has to give a bit and take a bit.
The guys in the UK give a bit and take a meeting from 4pm mon-friday with the risk of it running way over 5pm on a friday.
I give a bit by getting up early to check email and make the call at 8am. I also hang around till about 1am so I can catch them in their morning.

If I play golf during the day some weeks I don't feel bad, but thats mainly because I do way over a 9-5 routine if you average it all out.

Swings and roundabouts mate. If the law insisted on a set number of hours per week we wouldn't ship what we ship, with the number of people we have. That meams my bonus wouldn't be what it's been for the last 3 years.
Me? I'd rather have the choice. I like the fact I can work silly hours one week if I want to, then play golf 4 days a week the next. That pattern might be on a month by month or even longer though, so where do you restrict me? per week? per month? per year?

Finally, should work ever INSIST I come in on a saturday.. well thats a different matter ;-)

Speakers Corner said...

You have been doing some seriously nasty hours. But and I say this with not complete knowledge of what you have done recently, it isn't an everyday requirements by default though is it. If you were expected to work 60 hours a week, by default, I think you might baulk at that, heck I know I would.

I am contracted to a 35 hour week, but in the 3 months there, I haven't I think bar one week, done just 35 hours. Most weeks it has been at least a couple of hours extra, be it through meetings, getting the work done, etc. But there is no pressure to do more than 35 hours, and the place does empty out when it should.

Most people at my place work 9-5 basically, but I do 8-4 as it suits me a lot more, they are flexible, and for me part of the flexibility means if meetings run over they do and I stay until they finish which is no hardship.

It is as you say, being flexible, but if you are constantly working 60 hours a week, you have nothing in the tank to be able to be flexible.

It has to be averaged out, and that is what the EU is talking about, averaging it out, they have deemed it over a 3 month period, so you shouldn't work more than 48 hours a week on average over a 3 month period, which allows for especially in software development, for deadlines, shippings, all the other stuff that needs to be done.

One thing that I like about my company is that they have their head screwed on. Just before my holiday we were working out the amount of perfect coding hours in a week. We came to the conclusion that a good week will see 20 or so hours out of 35 will be coding hours, when you take into account meetings, problems,etc.

You make a good point, in that if you have a problem with the workload you can say something and they will listen. We are both fairly fortunate in that we can do that, but many can't because their workplace, doesn't trust the judgement of the employee.

I wouldn't use the french that much in terms of economy and hours, I prefer the germans, because they seem to be better balanced, nothing against the french mind, but they strike way too often, like we did in the 70s.....

But the main reason the european economies are struggling is because they are not propped up like the UK and US economies are by consumer spending, which both the UK and US economies will pay for in the future. In the UK we are feeling it now, when you have 1 trillion debt -

Not a way to prop an economy up, and that figure is a year out of date, it is going to be higher now.

I guess there is never a single answer, but we should be working towards fewer hours, not more. A good worklife balance makes a lot of difference.