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Tag: working hours

As Eric Cantona didn’t quite say, just as seagulls follow the trawler, every major sporting event attracts its own retinue of surveys warning about their potential to distract people from work. Wimbledon is no different of course and in the time honoured tradition the Chartered institute of Personnel and Development has produced its own research into how employees will be making choices between Pimm’s and PDA during this fortnight and what employers should do about it, if anything.

The conundrum for employers is invariably the same: given the potential for Wimbledon / World Cup / Olympics to distract employees, do they police the amount of time they divert or do they just give in to it all?

According to the latest survey by the CIPD, the majority of workers won’t be given time off to watch the tennis. It found that 86 per cent of organisations were not intending to let staff watch but also warns that people may watch anyway and so flexibility around the time of important matches during working hours could boost employee morale.

In other words, employers should accept that this is not a battle they will win and they should aim to strike a balance and communicate a policy to staff. It has been estimated that around half of the UK population watched Wimbledon at some point last year, with 6.8 million viewing the action online.

The issue will become more acute if Andy Murray does well again this year. Murray’s appearance in last year’s semi-final attracted the tournament’s largest UK audience of 7.1 million even though it was screened during normal working hours. A repeat may be the time to break out the Pimm’s and strawberries and let the work wait for a couple of hours.

We Brits work the longest hours in Europe. Nearly 46 per cent of men and 32 per cent of women work more hours than they are contracted for. At the top end of the labour market, 40 per cent of managers and 30 per cent of professionals work over 50 hours a week. We work an average of 8.7 hours per day compared to around 8 hours a day for the French and Germans. You can complain about this but at least it means we’re more productive than our indolent European brothers and sisters, aren’t we?

Well, no.

In fact, UK workers remain less productive than their counterparts in Germany and France. Output per hour worked is almost 20 per cent below that of France and Germany according to a recent report from by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

There are many explanations given for this apparent dichotomy, including the argument that the UK suffers from a poorer skills base. However one obvious difference lies in our willingness to work long, often unpaid overtime. Little wonder then that the average British lunch ‘hour’ is now a mere 27 minutes long. We seem to be perfectly aware that this is counterproductive. Nearly three quarters of people working over forty-eight hours a week claim that their work takes them longer and their performance suffers as a result. People working in creative jobs can only maintain a high level of performance for around 32 hours a week.

No wonder we have decreasing levels of job satisfaction. Over the nineties the number of men reporting that they were very happy with their hours fell from 35 per cent to 20 per cent and for women from 51 per cent to 29 per cent.

One of the most curious aspects of all this is that we work in ways we know to be ineffective even when we have increasing control of our working time. According to the European Working Conditions Survey, the UK enjoys Europe’s fourth highest level of autonomy in working hours (just behind Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands and well ahead of France and Germany).

The puzzle is that we know it’s wrong, we know it doesn’t work, we know it makes us feel bad and yet we still do it even when we have control over our own working time. ?