Monday, 22 October 2012

Too little time with our children?

(Image from dreamstime.com)
This is a worrying development that has been on the news and in the newspapers today.  Apparently parents lack time with their children (see the Telegraph report) says the Family and Parenting Institute (who?).


"When parents were polled, one in 10 of those with children aged six to 10 said that they only gave their child their full attention “once or twice a week or less.  As children get older, parents spend even less quality time with them, with one in five parents of 10-year-olds admitting they only gave their child full attention once or twice a week."

But what is causing this?  The ‘long-hours culture’ that we have in the UK, particularly around London where the problem is at its worst.

Hang on a moment.  I would like to think about this.  If you go to work and perform your duties in your working day, why do you need to work any longer than your hours?  Whether you have children or not, one of the biggest issues I have with employers is that employees are expected to put in more hours to show they are dedicated staff.  For what though?  If an employer hires someone for a position, they need to ensure that the workload is sensible. If an employee needs to stay on excessive hours to complete their work, then surely the employer has made a fundamental mistake and rather than expecting someone to work beyond their hours (or a little extra, which I am sure is perfectly acceptable), they need to considering re-evaluating the workload or hiring a new person.

This is nothing new and has nothing to do with an ‘economic downturn’.

Ten years ago I worked for a company where the culture was very much (a) that your ‘working hours’ meant nothing and (b) your own time meant equally little.  For example, it was positively frowned upon if you worked your ‘hours’ (9am – 5.30pm).  If you left on time other people in the office would say things like “half day then?”  Ridiculous.  Most people were in (me included) by 7am and didn’t leave until at least 6pm.  What did I do then?  Well, I took my laptop home and continued to work until around 9-10pm.  My bosses would expect an answer from me if they emailed in the evening.  I would be asked to fly at weekends (so they could get better air fares) and yet I was never offered time off in lieu.  Often I was asked to stay on when overseas so that they could, again, fly me home at a weekend.  Charming.

So, you’re keen to know how this enhanced my career aren’t you.  You want to know that I marched up the ladder of success and did really well in the job.

Sorry to disappoint you.

It wrecked my marriage due to the long hours and arguments about me “never putting that bloody laptop down” and I missed out a huge amount of time with my, now, teenage daughter who was just 18 months when I started the role.  Why?  Well, I was at work before she woke in the mornings and home from work after she was asleep at night. 

So, what benefit did this give me within the company and for my career?  I can tell you.  It came to the first round of redundancies due to the company being over-valued by the Stock Market and I, along with 100 other people (out of 800 in the company) were made redundant.  Thanks for nothing. 

Would I ever work like that again?  Not a hope in hell. 

Would I ever sacrifice my family (which it was my choice to have remember) for a job.  No, never.   

Am I naive to say this?  Maybe from an employer’s point of view, yes but do you know what, I think if more people said enough is enough, then this culture would stop.  However, in the UK we are well known as sheep aren’t we.  We just follow what the rest of the herd does. 

People say they have to work long hours to keep on top of their workload or to ensure that their job is safe with all the competition just waiting to sit at their desk. Really?  There is job security out there?  Please tell me where it is as I’ve not seen it and I can provide you with a very long list of people I know who worked their socks off doing ridiculous hours for companies to just be cast aside when the cutbacks came. 

Your children are only young once.  Life is short.  Forget the emails for an extra evening.  Get home on time a few nights a week and spend time with them.  There is no point working yourself into an early grave if the outcome of that is that your own family hardly know you.

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