Work Your Proper Hours Day
Workforce management expert Simon Macpherson calls time on the UKs long-hours culture and looks at ways that retailers can improve employee health and retention
Have you noticed an ever-increasing number of National Awareness Days over the last few years? The month of March brings us National Pig Day, British Pie Week and National Skipping Day, to name but three.
There’s one day though that catches the eye of Simon Macpherson, senior operations director for workforce management provider Kronosin Europe, Middle East and Africa, each year and that is 'Work Your Proper Hours Day' – celebrated this year on 1 March. It’s the day every year when the average person who works unpaid overtime finishes the unpaid days they do every year and starts earning for themselves.
Working longer for free
It’s estimated that a staggering five million people at work in the UK regularly do unpaid overtime, giving their employers approximately £29 billion of free work. “It’s surprising how the hours add up – just half an hour a day in additional hours adds up to 16 extra days per year of unpaid time – and there are many people working far in excess of this,”’ Macpherson said. “I’m constantly reminded of my own additional hours each time I log into our internal workforce management system so, if you’re feeling brave, take a look at the overtime calculator on the TUC Worksmart website to see how much unpaid time you too have worked over the year.”
He continued: “We have a long hours-culture here in the UK – particularly prevalent among those in their 30s and 40s in management roles. And the biggest rise in people working unpaid hours has been among those in their 50s and 60s. The TUC suggests that this reflects the fact that many people are working past retirement age amid concerns about income in later life. And while many people have no objection to working a few extra hours to cover the occasional busy period, an entrenched long-hours culture causes stress health problems, low morale and low productivity – particularly in customer-facing business like retail. Which in turn lead to lower levels of customer service if you have a frontline role.”
Combatting a long-hours culture
So what’s the answer? Macpherson said that, if the culture in your organisation is one of long hours, then a change in culture needs to come from the top. “An employee-wide survey would be useful to pinpoint how employees see their work life,” he suggested. “Do they feel under pressure to work more than their contracted hours? Do they skip lunch and eat on the go? Do they regularly take work home and find it difficult to leave the office behind? How often are they working longer hours?
“Another solution would be to nip the problem in the bud, in which case a workforce management solution might be the answer – offering real-time updates on excess hours worked. Employees who regularly work longer than contracted hours will be identified well before the hours become excessive. And early intervention has been proven to reduce sickness and absence levels and at the same time improve morale.”
Work Your Proper Hours Day concentrates on unpaid overtime. However, the problems of ill health, stress, and low morale don’t actually go away when the overtime is paid, Macpherson added. “A long-hours culture, paid or unpaid is an unhealthy way to run a business and whichever means we use to identify and assess the problem, the bigger challenge is in how to manage it.”
So today make sure you take your breaks, pause, and have a think about work-life balance – remember high levels of productivity aren’t always down to working long hours and can be counterproductive to your health and well-being.