It has become the norm in the UK for many people to have to work late every night, raising the question – will we ever be able to create an environment where it is ok to leave on time?
For the majority, the reason for putting in these extra hours is all about pressure and expectations from:
- Volume of work and deadlines – getting the job done
- To attend onsite / offsite meetings – scheduled out of hours
- Excessive meetings – spending half the day in meetings leaves little time to carry out a long list of actions that each meeting creates
- To fit in with the company culture – eg if everyone stays late until 7.00pm each night it is hard for one person to leave at 5.30pm for fear of giving the impression that they are not pulling their weight or have enough to do
- Habit – once into a routine of staying an extra hour every day, it is hard to break this
The want and need to leave work on time often becomes most apparent when a worker becomes a parent; after years of staying late, new mothers and fathers can find themselves in unchartered territory when they have no choice but to leave on time to pick up their child from nursery. This can lead to additional pressure during the day and the need to bring work home in the evening.
For parents who are not necessarily responsible for collecting their children, they may well be keen to get away on time in order to eat together as a family and read their child a story before bed. Many articles in recent months have reported on life regrets and a one of the most commons responses is having not spent enough time with their children when they were young.
An article in HR Grapevine on 21st September 2015 explained how: “despite the statutory right to request flexible working and Shared Parental Leave, 60% of working parents are still putting in extra hours just to get the job done, indicating that employers still value workplace presence above employee wellbeing.
Fathers are more likely to work longer hours than mothers, with men aged 36 to 45 least likely to leave work on time. Additionally, 40% of parents are worried about caring for their parents as well as their children.
49% of respondents stated their main reason for working late is the company culture, with 43% saying their employer sees it as mandatory. Over half (58%) said their only way of coping with the pressure was by staying late, and 47% said it was the only way of ensuring their work is done properly.
Working Families’ CEO, Sarah Jackson, says: “Going home on time should be the norm, not a novelty, but for many families that’s just not happening.”
Go Home on Time Day
The organisation ‘Working Families’ are championing a ‘Go Home on Time Day’, where managers schedule in their diaries to leave on time and encourage their staff accordingly with no after hours meetings or travel. This initiative is a great idea to help drive a cultural shift to enable employees to feel comfortable about leaving punctually, even if not every day. It could lead to improved time management in the day and the extra time is a great opportunity for all staff to relax, join a club or do sports and spend time with friends and family.
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