Another contender for our annual Not Remotely Self-serving Employee Survey Award popped up this week on the website of hotel chain Travelodge.
Based on its review of 2000 workers across the UK, the Travelodge site offers the breathless reader a wealth of statistics aimed at showing how hard British employees work, and just how many of their down-time aspirations could be satisfied for just £19 by, surprise!, a night in a Travelodge.
The statistics include the suggestion that the amount of unremunerated time worked above and beyond contractual hours is equivalent to a £142bn boost to the UK economy. 70% of full time works put in a gratuitous 10 hours per week or more and 55% have missed a vital family event (child’s birthday, school play, etc.). One in 10 male workers missed the birth of his child “due to a work commitment”, using inverted commas advisedly. From those statistics and more in the same vein, the Travelodge commentary leaps to “soaring stress levels” (66%) and news that a full third of Britons find it “difficult to get through their average working week”, though they clearly manage one way or the other. Just a third? Where do the rest work?
“Workaholic Britons were also quizzed to find out what really helps them to switch off from the daily grind of working life”, says the website. Some 45% (what we experts call “a minority”) favoured “a romantic night away with a loved one”, while 66% just wanted a good night’s sleep, which is presumably also a romantic night away but without a loved one. Either way, the 952-spring Travelodge Dreamer king-size bed (“the Rolls Royce of beds” says a spokesman with no sense of proportion) waits to fold you in its embrace.
It is hard to tell if there is a serious message here or not. If your employees are working such long hours as to cause them “soaring stress”, then your providing support and assistance with their workload will almost certainly be more welcome and helpful than the suggestion that they spend £19 of their own money on a night away, 952 springs notwithstanding.
But let us keep a sense of perspective here. Excessive working time can do many worse things to you than missing a school play – heart disease, diabetes, depression and reduced time for self-advancement through training, etc. As an employer, it is your obligation to keep an eye on these risks. So we should look at what counts as “excessive”. The Working Time Regulations set that threshold (somewhat arbitrarily) at 48 hours per week over a 4 month reference period. According to a Guardian report in 2012, the UK full-time working hour average is among the highest in Europe, but still only reaches 42.7.
With all due respect to Travelodge and its very gallant attempt to make capital out of its own survey, the reality would seem rather more prosaic. Denmark’s average sits proudly at the foot of the EU table at just 39.1 hours per week, the very model of health and efficiency. Adding 3.6 hours per week to that scarcely seems like the stuff of impending catastrophe, let alone as requiring a restorative night on a Travelodge Dreamer.