‘Binge-working’ damages health

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Half of parents are unhappy with their work life balance and according to charity and report authors; Working Families long hours are damaging our health.

The result of ‘binge-working’ is that parents don’t eat healthily or take regular exercise, according to the report.

Forty-five per cent of the sample said there was no flexibility in their current working arrangements and admitted that this was a cause of resentment towards their current employer. This group believe that bosses should take on more of the onus for improving things.

However, the majority of parents see the burden of responsibility for change lying with themselves but believe the only way to do this is to find employment with a company that supports work-life balance options.

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.”

Professor Cary L Cooper of Lancaster University, one of the report authors said the ‘time is up on long hours working,’ warning employers to look at their internal cultures or risk losing the parents that 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.”

Despite 21% of the sample being contracted to work more than 40 hours a week, 56% admitted they regularly did so.

According to the report families today comprise of:

  • 73% are made up of a married or cohabiting couple, down from 92% in 1971
  • lone parents - numbers have increased from 8% in 1971 to 27% today
  • the most common model for a working family today is the 1.5 worker family (sometimes referred to as the dual earner family), where both parents work, often one full-time, and the other part-time – two thirds of families fall into this pattern

Working Families are calling upon the government to extend the right to request flexible working and make maternity and paternity leave more generous and flexible.

Workers, they say should also form part of the solution by making changes in their lives and support the campaign while employers are urged to review their organisational culture.

In the recent Budget, Chancellor Gordon Brown announced measures to improve the plight of working parents with improvements in Child Tax Credits and maternity leave and pay.

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