The manager's long hard slog

If you clocked off a little later than usual last night, rest assured that you weren't the only one.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

According to a new survey, the average British manager now works an extra one hour and 18 minutes over and above their contracted hours every single day. So the good news is that in 2007, you probably managed to get through a praiseworthy 14 months of work – about 40 days more than you were supposed to. The bad news is that you did it entirely for free.

The Chartered Management Institute’s Quality of Working Life report found that 89% of British managers are working more than their contracted hours. This figure has remained virtually unchanged for the best part of a decade – which tells you all you need to know about the success of work/life balance initiatives.

Unpaid overtime was particularly prevalent in transport companies, where more than half of managers worked an extra two hours a day (typical of British transport – even the managers are running late). By contrast, the sector that saw the shortest hours worked was – you guessed it – central and local government, where only 27% worked an extra two hours (and these people were probably just trying to build up their flexi-time).

So what exactly is compelling us to keep our noses to the grindstone like this? Believe it or not, respondents didn’t blame the boss, or even ascribe it to naked ambition. More depressingly, the majority claimed that they worked longer hours just to keep up with their workload. A sign that most companies are under-resourced, or that employees spent too much of their day on Facebook?

Either way it’s not doing us much good. About 40% said long hours were bad for morale, while two-thirds said it damaged their health because it stopped them getting to the gym (or at least: that’s their excuse, and they’re sticking to it). So businesses might be getting plenty of free labour out of their workforce, but it might be counter-productive in the longer term.

Still, never fear – help is close at hand. Our friends at the TUC are running a Work Your Proper Hours day on Friday, which is intended to encourage a bit more clock-watching. And male managers can also take a lead from their female counterparts, who were about half as likely to work long hours.

Essentially, the CMI’s report seems to boil down to one simple premise: you really need to get out more. But let's not get carried away here: a third of respondents said they chose to work longer because they liked their jobs. So it's not necessarily the case that going beyond your 'contracted hours' equates to selling your soul to the Devil..

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