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Research – Press releases

17 March 2005

Working Families

Warning: working long hours can damage your health!

  It’s time to change the way we live and work

  A new Working Families’ report shows that the way we work today means many parents don’t eat healthily or take regular exercise. Half of the parents surveyed for Time, Health and the Family: What Working Families Want were unhappy with their work and family balance. A majority reported that work dominated their lives, and family life suffered as a result. Working long hours also led to increased levels of stress, resulting in irritability, exhaustion and depression.

Chief Executive of Working Families Sarah Jackson commented: "This disturbing report shows us that binge-working is turning us into a nation of workaholics. This is having a disastrous effect on our health, our family life and our performance at work. We need to work shorter, leaner hours and make time for our families and communities."

Nearly half of the parents interviewed had no flexible working arrangements available in their workplace. A majority of all parents thought that they themselves should take responsibility for improving their work-life balance and their solution was to look for another job that offered more flexibility.

This strong message to employers is backed up by parents blaming heavy workloads and the working culture of their organisations for the long hours they were working. Parents called on their employers to think again about the need for long hours working. They reported that, as their working hours increased, their morale and productivity decreased.

One of the authors of the report Professor Cary L Cooper of Lancaster University said: "The clear message to employers from this research is that ‘Time is up on long hours working’. They need to look closely at the culture in their organisations or risk losing the parents who work for them. Far from leading to an effective workforce, working long hours leads to high levels of stress, ill health and decreased morale and productivity. Merely having flexible working policies is not sufficient if the dominant culture does not support their meaningful use. It’s time to work smarter, not longer.

"The current work-home imbalance has consequences for wider society, too. government policy drives to increase the health and fitness of children and adults are unlikely to be assisted by a workforce which is too time-starved to actively participate in such measures."

Working Families’ Sarah Jackson added: "We call on the government to give a lead by strengthening and extending the right to request flexible working and making maternity and paternity leave more generous and flexible. We call on employers to take time out to look at the culture of their organisations – we know it is possible to change. And we call on all employees to be part of the solution: think about what changes you can make in your own lives and join our campaign to change the way we live and work."

Dominic Johnson, Director, UK Policy, Employee Relations and Diversity at GlaxoSmithKline, one of the sponsors of the report, said: "At GSK we want employees to work smarter, not longer.  This timely report shows just how important this is, by highlighting the corrosive effect of a long hours culture on parents and carers."

Lynne Fisher, Managing Director at Citigroup said: "Dealing with the issues raised in this report should be a priority for all employers. By supporting this research we are delighted to help raise awareness of the difficulties faced by working parents. For any business, creating a supportive environment and working practices that alleviate these difficulties should help attract and retain the best and the brightest individuals. At Citigroup we have a suite of family friendly policies and practices, including a parents’ network which provides information, support and sessions on topics as far ranging as first aid, nutrition and financial planning."

Notes for editors:

Time, Health and the Family: What Working Families Want was written by Professor Cary Cooper, Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University, and Working Families’ Jonathan Swan. It uses data drawn from a survey commissioned by Working Families from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Ltd. 646 interviews were completed online in February 2005 – 392 with men and 254 with women – the data has been weighted to give a 50:50 split. The research was sponsored by Citigroup and GlaxoSmithKline.

The report will be launched at the House of Lords on Thursday, 17 March at 6pm. Its findings will be highlighted by Professor Cary Cooper, Cilla Snowball, Chairman of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Ltd and Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families.

Working Families , formerly Parents At Work and New Ways to Work, is a campaigning charity which supports and gives a voice to working parents and carers. It also helps employers create workplaces which encourage work-life balance for everyone. We want to change the working world for the benefit of our families, our communities and business.

For all those parents and carers who want to negotiate better working hours with their employers, we offer a free legal helpline and coaching service on 0800 013 0313. Our free factsheets can be downloaded at www.workingfamilies.org.uk. Our booklet for dads who want to work flexibly – Daddy’s Home! A Life Planner for Fathers can be ordered at https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/asp/family_zone/f_publications.asp

Employers who want to find out how to introduce a culture of well-being and work-life balance in their organisations – and, in so doing reduce absenteeism and sickness – can join us at our In Sickness and in Health conference on Wednesday, 20 April in the City of London. For more details, contact Ali Garfath on 020 7253 7243 or [email protected]

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Ltd is currently in its 9 th year as the UK’s largest advertising agency. AMV is part of the Omnicom Group, a global leader in advertising and marketing communications. AMV employs 300 staff at its offices in Marylebone, London and services 40 international and domestic clients including the government, charity and private sectors. The agency is famous for its advertising for clients including BT, Camelot, Guinness, The BBC, Sainsbury’s, Yellow Pages, The Economist, RSPCA, The Department of Health (tobacco control) and The Department for Transport (Think! Road safety). It is also an agency famous for its people policies and management principles.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is the second largest pharmaceutical research company in the world, holding an estimated seven per cent of the world’s pharmaceutical market.  The company’s 100,000+ employees bring more than 1,200 different brands of medicines and consumer products to people in 191 markets.  GSK is headquartered in London, with key operations and research facilities across the globe.

Citigroup (NYSE: C), the pre-eminent global financial services company with some 200 million customer accounts in more than 100 countries, provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services. With a presence in more than 100 countries, Citigroup is perhaps the most diverse company in the world. Citigroup Parents, part of Citigroup’s diversity network, was formed in March 2003 as an informal network for working parents in Citigroup UK. Over 500 Citigroup parents have registered since that date. The Group is focused on providing an effective network and a source of information for all those with children within their care.

 For more information and parent case studies, contact: Maggy Meade-King on 020 8341 0708 or Jonathan Swan at Working Families on 020 7253 7243 or mobile 07870 177096 or email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Professor Cary Cooper: 01524 592080/592299 or mobiles 07770 347230 or 078419 29642


© Work-Life balance part of The Work Foundation 2005