The whole “work should be fabulous” debate trudges on and I have blogged about it more than once, as I feel it is an important topic in our increasingly busy world. Whilst there have been MANY improvements in UK businesses with regard to employee welfare, all the gyms, healthy eating programmes or wellness options won’t counteract the damage done when employees continue to work 10-12 hours a day, 5 days a week and sometimes even weekends. Quite recently Jeremy Hunt, our Health Secretary, gave a speech on tax credit cuts encouraging lower-paid and part-time workers in the UK to work harder to emulate the US and Chinese business models, in which he equated working longer hours to earning self-respect and dignity. According to Mr Hunt, those on low wages would feel better about themselves, if they just worked longer hours and earned a bit a more money. Since when did money buy happiness?
Surely we should be running full speed away from such a business mind set, especially since the US and China rank much lower in international life expectancy charts than Britain? China remains ‘on the hot seat’ for having their workers doing punishing hours, often for low pay, and the US has a corporate culture of living in the office that is partnered by increasing obesity and depression statistics. As a massage therapist, all of my regular on-site massage clients come to me to combat the physical and mentral stress that is the result of long hours in the office, so I see this cause and effect pattern constantly.
This ‘live to work’ message is a bitter tablet that we must refuse to swallow point blank – not only because the UK already works some of the longest hours in Europe, nor because it has been proven that longer working hours is unhealthy for us both mentally and physically – but because there is another, better way of working.
If we are going to emulate other countries, why not embrace ‘the Nordic model’ where, on principle, they don’t work long hours, insist on a healthy work-life balance and encourage people to enjoy life – as a result, they are amongst the healthiest nations on earth. In fact, Sweden has just started to introduce a six-hour working day after business trials showed that working fewer hours increased productivity and staff well-being.
So, with all the stats and models before out there for all to read, why is our government and our employers encouraging us to work more when it’s been proven that working less makes us happier and more productive?