Would you change your working week?

April 30, 2012, 3:16 PM GMT+0

Finding the 9 ‘til 5 a grind? Want flexi-time or more family time? Or is it longer hours you’re after? We invited panellists to tell us for their thoughts on the working week – and what, if anything, they would do to improve the experience. Read and join the discussion below.

With the UK’s workforce toiling an average of 42.7 hours every week – compared with 41.6 hours across the European Union – we suspected that giving you the space to suggest how to transform your time spent working might prove popular. We were right.

UK working culture has experienced change in many ways over the past few years, with more and more of are finding new ways to structure our working day. Office hours have become more flexible, and the popularity of part-time work and self-employment means that people are getting around the traditional working week.

According to ONS figures, the UK now has the highest percentage of part-time workers in Europe, and we are working slightly shorter weeks than we were 20 years ago.

In Labs, we wanted to know what you thought about the working week. Is it too long or just right? And what, if anything would like to change about your work schedule?

The majority of participants thought the working week too long – arguing that work-life balance needed to be properly addressed. But they were closely followed by a proportion of participants who said the week is just right. In third, a very small number of participants thought the week was too short, and were happy to work longer hours.

What do you think about the working week? Is it too long, or not long enough? How would you improve on the existing system?

Here's what our poll participants had to say...

What do you think about the working week?

Argument 1: It’s too LONG

“There needs to be a more balanced lifestyle between work and supporting family. If people wish to spend more time at work, by all means give them the option, but it should not be the enforced 'norm'” M Jarvis, Maidstone

A shorter week would enable more employment: better for two people to share a 40-hour week, doing 20 hours each than have one working and one unemployed” Anon

“Technology means that people are always contactable, so hours run over into non-work time” Anon

“People are working so many hours that they don't see their children growing upAnon

Life's too short. Time spent at work could be spent with friends or family, which is good for everyone's happiness and well-being”

People are under too much stress anyway

, and long hours make it worse”


“The length of the day – particularly

as many commute (which is not included in the statistics) –

is not conducive to health or family life”


Argument 2: It’s just RIGHT

“I think 40-43 hours is a good working week, it gives you enough money to live on. When you think about it, it’s less than two full daysAnon

“It enables people to do overtime whilst also ensuring that workers cannot be overworked by employers” Adam, Bangor

“There should be an expectation in this country to work for a living, 42 hours is a sensible week and still keeps time for family and leisure” Dave, Sheffield

“I feel that most people are happy to do a 40 hour week and those who choose to work in places/services like NHS/Police/Fire service etc. know that they are basically 24/7 and accept that as the normAnn, Lancashire

“Any longer and it would be too exhausting, any shorter and I feel that you would have to resort to shifts to accomplish the work that is achieved in a normal week” Anon

Argument 3: It’s too SHORT

“When I worked I put in at least 11 hours per day in a job that nominally paid for 8. The work was so interesting that it was not a hardship but an addictive activity, supported by good quality bosses and grateful internal customersRay, Kent

Coming from Zimbabwe, we used to work 6 and a half days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with one hour for lunch. We had no recourse to 'Striking laws' either, so everyone worked and if necessary earned 'overtime' payments” Susan C, West Sussex

“I can earn more if I can work more” Anon

Working hours should lengthen in the summer months for outdoor work, and pay increase to match” Ben H, Derbyshire

“I work 37 paid hours per week, plus about 20 hours per week unpaid work. I am not forced to work the unpaid hours. If you are busy time flies byAnon

Suggestions for changes to the working week

We then asked participants to share with us what they would change about the working week to improve their life in employment. Here are the range of suggestions they proposed. What changes, if any, would you implement, given the power?

Flexible working hours

“As much as possible, ALL jobs should try to offer flexible working (many do already), not least to avoid the senseless 'rush hour traffic jams'” M Jarvis, Maidstone

“Introduce flexible working to encourage people to either spread their day out or work intensively for four days and then take a day off” David, Princes Risborough

“The best system I ever worked with was at the DWP using their flexi-time system. This allowed people to work extra hours and build up hours owed to take an afternoon off or arrive later one morningAnon

Working from home

“More opportunity to work from home or even your nearest office, rather than like me where I am based at an office 18 miles away but there is an office which is only 6 miles away” Salopian

“Companies need to be flexible about working locations and hours. Less commuting would mean less pollution and less money spent on travel and would cut out a large chunk of wasted time each day” S, Buckinghamshire

“Firms should consider employing people to work from home wherever possible. Firms which HAVE to employ people from a central workplace should operate a rotating shift. There is really no reason for so few people to be working from home now thoughPeter T, Leeds

Balancing work with free time more effectively

“I think people should be allowed time off to attend appointments, funerals, etc. This should be a basic right, not just

in the private sector but for public sector workers too” Anon

“I would have a mid-week day off instead of two at the weekendAnon

“Make the weekend just 1 day longer in the summer months, so you can enjoy your break” Jack, Coventry

Enforcing existing working hours properly

Enforce fines for firms where employees go over the limit so the firms themselves have an incentive to prevent long-hours culture” Anon

“There needs to be a drive from the top that any hours outside those contractually agreed should be paid for. A proper system would force managers to look at what their teams are undertaking and whether it's possible to deliver within the paid hours of the employeeAnon

“In some jobs there is an expectation that people work many more hours than they are contracted toAnon

A focus on quality, not quantity

“All people should be paid based on the work that they do, regardless of time. Work should be measured on set deliverables (i.e. sales calls made, patients seen etc.) - following a similar merit system that schools use” Simon H, London

“Accept that new technology enables us to produce more and yet very little has changed about the hours we workJaneI, London

“I would make a cultural change that rewards work done rather than time spent at work. There is a huge difference between the two. There is an over-emphasis on "presentee-ism" in our culture” Peter, Manchester

What do you think about the working week? Is it too long, or not long enough? How, if at all, would you improve on the existing system? Make your comment on Disqus below.

Follow and discuss: @YouGovLabs on Twitter