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Happy ‘Go Home on Time’ Day!

Home time clock

How many times have you worked through your lunch break, or been sat at your desk long after hours for no extra pay? Well – today you have an excuse not to, as national ‘Go Home On Time Day’ is launched.

The charity group Working Families has introduced its ‘Go Home On Time Day’, or GHOTD for short, to try and highlight the damage caused to families by working late too often.

This comes on the back of its survey of 1,500 people, which found that six in ten regularly worked late, with around half blaming their companies’ culture. But are those numbers surprising?

When 5pm has come and gone

I have to admit that over my years in employment, I’ve put in hundreds of extra hours work for no extra pay. I did this for a variety of reasons including huge workloads, a genuine interest in what I was working on and, most regrettably, a feeling that if I didn’t – I’d be considered a ‘slacker’, as many of my colleagues consistently stayed late.

Unfortunately, I think this is where the ‘culture’ of many employers comes into play. Putting in extra hours is always going to be necessary at times and largely, I don’t think that’s a problem.

But when employers are giving their employees targets to hit that simply cannot be reached in the working time they’re allotted, working a few extra hours a day becomes an expectation rather than the exception.

Working Families thinks this is a real problem, as it found one in ten of the people they surveyed never had time to sit down with their families during the working week. Many families find this has a detrimental impact on their lives, as well as being very stressful for the overworked individuals.

The British work ethic

To help promote a healthy work-life balance, the charity is asking firms to avoid booking meetings within the last hour of the working day, ban all business travel and encourage staff to leave on time.

I think it’s a brilliant idea, but I can’t imagine many companies across the country embracing GHOTD! After all, a study from the Office for National Statistics last year found that the average Briton works 42.7 hours a week compared to the EU average of 37.4 – so we’ve some way to go to meet our European counterparts.

I’ll be making sure I leave on time tonight – but is your place of work embracing GHOTD? Do you think workers should be expected to put in regular overtime, or have we Brits got the work-life balance all wrong?

What do you think about our work-life balance in the UK?

We do too much unpaid overtime (84%, 108 Votes)

The balance is just right (10%, 13 Votes)

We don't do enough unpaid overtime (6%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 129

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Back in the day I’d be averaging 2 weeks unpaid overtime every 4 weeks, due to too much work and not enough staff around to do it. After several months of doing this and not even getting a thank you. I stopped. Well I actually stopped after attending a management meeting , deputising for my manager who was on holiday and 90% of that meeting was about how to get the staff to do more hours. And the only person who had done more free extra hours in the last 6 months was the department head who was probably earning 2-3 x what I was on. That’s when I stopped.

It took almost a year before all the snide comments stopped, “leaving early”, etc. My standard reply I was “I was in an hour before you and I bet you go within the next hour”.

The thing that upset me the most was management couldn’t even be bothered to say thank you, and that doesnt/wouldnt have cost them anything.

Indeed very frustrating. I always wondered why I bothered staying there for the 21 years I did.

Although this didn’t affect me, it did annoy me, they used to make sure any business flights got booked out of office time, e.g in the evenings or on a Sunday.

And then you’d get the directors bonuses paid based on how little of their yearly budget they’d spend, so they’d always wonder why staff were using software that wasn’t fit for purpose, it would always be several years old, unless ofc course you were a directors secretary then you’d get the newest brightest bit of kit and never have a clue why all the word /excel documents you send out to staff were never read, as we’d never be allowed to upgrade to a compatible version.

And that’s even more annoying when clients would send in documents that the support staff could never read. And said director would still fight you over a purchase order. I never felt comfortable threatening him with “is it OK to go back to the client and get them to resend in a version we can read as you won’t sign off for ONE version that we’d then be able to read it with.”

How I don’t miss those days. NOT

I always regarded the opportunity to work unlimited and unpaid overtime was an academic privilege when I worked in universities. Not all my colleagues exercised this privilege but I wasn’t the only one.

I worked in a university once, always liked the 10:30 and 15:30 alarm bells, it meant that was the start of the enforced 30 minute rest period. The whole department would meet in the coffee room for refreshments. Now that’s how to look after staff and motivate them.

My comments were tongue in cheek to some extent, but I preferred to do a decent job and avoid mistakes rather than hurry to get finished like some people.

Working Families says:
26 September 2012

Great to hear people’s thoughts on the Day – just wanted to say that we’ve been really delighted by the number of employers that have supported the day – really leading from the front. We loved the piece on BBC Breakfast this morning when an employer explained how tired-out workers are not what any business needs, and how he is quite happy to call time in the traditional way when he sees people glued to their desks past finishing time: “Have you no homes to go to??!” Very refreshing! Hope people are enjoying the chance to air the issues and thank you for giving them this space.

I was always happy to work longer hours than strictly necessary and sometimes stayed quite late [after nine occasionally] in order to wrap something up. I had an office job and derived a certain satisfaction from being able to work to a higher quality standard and stay ahead of the in-tray. I confess that sometimes I also managed my time poorly during the day by spending too long on the phone or seeing people, and by attending badly-conducted meetings. My biggest gripe was that my boss used to leave dead on five-thirty and I would be trying to clear up and get away by six-ish when the phone would ring. Stuck in a traffic hold-up he was calling from his car to bother me with some trivial issue so he could sleep soundly that night and I would try to wrangle the problem ready for the morning. I was so vexed that he was progressing homewards – albeit with delays – while I was being kept at my desk [with a head full of bilge] later than I wanted. So I changed my working times – arrive at 7.30 am and leave at 5.30 pm. Same long hours, better productivity, less grief, more satisfaction.

I can identify with what John has said. I preferred to work at my own pace, which was a lot more stressful than trying to get everything done by a certain time. I could never get on with really challenging jobs when I was being disturbed, so I used to look forward to the time when most people went home and I could make progress.

Only once was I ever really keen to leave on time, and that was when I had a boring holiday job as a student. That did more than anything else to convince me that I needed to do well with my degree and get a job that interested me.