Blogs

Jo Geraghty

Director

Working until we drop

Date added: 14th Jan 2016
Category: Employee Engagement

On average managers are now working an extra one hour unpaid overtime per day on top of their contracted hours. The CMI calculates that this equates to 29 days per year, more than cancelling out the 28 days annual leave to which the average manager is entitled.

Planning anywhere nice for your holidays this year? It’s good to get away isn’t it; luckily in the UK we tend to have a reasonable level of holiday entitlement and that means we have time for a longer break as well as taking some time off throughout the year to rest and unwind.

Of course there is the perennial ‘get ahead before you go, catch up when you come back’ problem but what’s a few extra hours when we are being given holiday time off? Or are we! The latest quality of working life survey from the CMI highlights a disturbing trend. According to the survey, on average managers are now working an extra one hour unpaid overtime per day on top of their contracted hours. The CMI calculates that this equates to 29 days per year, more than cancelling out the 28 days annual leave to which the average manager is entitled.

In our experience the position may be even more serious as in our work with various organisations we regularly encounter managers and other members of staff who check and answer emails, plan and read reports and carry out other activities not only in their own time during the working week but at the weekend as well. It’s one of the downsides of an always-on internet allied to a conscientious workforce but it is one which is becoming even more prevalent as the move towards blended lifestyles transitions from infancy into teenager-hood.

When the internet was young, and in fact even before it was born, work-life balance largely consisted of working in the office and having a private life at home. Sure, there were times when you may have taken reports home to read but in general these were defined activities and the majority of work communications and actions were confined to the office.

But times move on and we are now in the first flush of a new instant contact, instant access world. It’s a time which opens up immense possibilities but it is also a time of great challenge and great change. We are still growing in our understanding of this new world and like teenagers we want it all and we want it now. So we check our emails at the breakfast table because we can and we retype that report from home at the weekend because the information we need is readily available. The net result is that our work-life balance is at the moment very heavily skewed towards work. And the more we ‘just’ spend a few minutes in working at home the less we see it as anything unusual

However, the tide is starting to turn as we grow into internet maturity. Organisations are starting to realise that they cannot continue to take without giving something back in return. Businesses are experimenting with a whole range of measures including offering unlimited holiday entitlement, subject to task completion. At the heart of many of these experiments is the realisation that work has to move from being time-based to being task based and that in a grown-up internet world people have the right to self determine the way in which they best spend their time.

In some ways achieving work life balance is the holy grail for businesses which truly seek to improve employee engagement and employee contribution. When we trust our people to deliver of their best in the way which best suits them then amazing things can happen. When we seek to control then we receive controlled responses; when we seek to empower and enable then our people are free to put themselves into the business and deliver great outcomes. Perhaps it’s time to stop being internet teenagers, taking without reward, and start taking our place in a grown-up world of connectivity in which businesses and employees work side-by-side in a mutually rewarding partnership to create the future.

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