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Married to the job?

5 March 2001 - The partners of a third of people who work longer than 48 hours in a typical week reported that the long hours culture had a negative effect on their relationships. More than half of the partners interviewed by Taylor Nelson Sofres for the CIPD said that their sex life suffered as a result of the `long hours' worker's tiredness. 43% agreed that they were fed up with having to take responsibility for most of the domestic burden.

These were some of the findings reported by the CIPD in Married to the job? a report which looks at the impact of long working hours on relationships with family, friends and fellow workers. The report was based on two pieces of research conducted by Taylor Nelson Sofres for the CIPD. 486 people were interviewed by telephone in August 2000, including 291 people working over 48 hours and 139 partners of 'long hours' workers. The other telephone survey involved interviews with 589 people in paid work - part of a nationally representative survey of UK workers conducted between 15-17 December 2000.

Main findings:

* Of partners with school-age or younger children, 29% said that the time the `long hours' worker spends at work has either a quite or a very negative effect on his/her relationship with their children. More than a third report that the children have complained that they don't see enough of the parent who works more than 48 hours a week (36%).

* 27% of partners say that the 'long hours' worker does not always arrive home before their children have gone to bed or have the time to help the kids with their homework.

* Most of the `long hours' workers admitted feeling that they had struck the wrong work/life balance, and 56% conceded that they were spending too much time at work.

* Two-fifths of 'long hours' workers say that their work pattern has caused arguments with their partner in the last year - a similar proportion admit to feeling guilty about not doing their fair share of domestic work. Almost one third concede that their sex life is suffering because of work-related tiredness and 14% report a reduction in sex drive or even a loss of libido in the previous twelve months.

* Long hours can also have a negative effect on job performance and cause accidents. A third of the 'long hours' sample said they had made mistakes, including fatigue-related mismanagement of people and projects to property damage and personal injury.

According to the report's author, Melissa Compton-Edwards: "While working long hours doesn't necessarily lead to marriage breakdown, it can put a strain on relationships with partners, children and friends. Long-suffering spouses and cohabiting partners tend to tolerate the situation and try to curb their criticism of their absentee other half. The Faustian pact seems to be that while they would rather their 'long hours' partner worked shorter hours, this is considered a price worth paying if it guarantees a decent standard of living."

She added: "What should not be overlooked is that excessive hours can have a negative effect on job performance and cause costly or reputation-damaging mistakes. Fatigue-related accidents are potentially life-threatening. Employers need to ensure that they do everything in their power to improve productivity through efficiency improvements rather than by overloading their staff."

Related articles:

Managers find it hard to care

Danger of the desk

Married to the job?

Stress is a taboo subject

Evaluating stress measurement questionnaires

Bad publicity causes more concern than stress payouts

- Bad publicity from large pay settlements won by the victims of work-related stress are a greater cause of concern to employers than the actual sum awarded says Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology at the Manchester School of Management in the book `Stress and Employer Liability' published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).


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