Does your working week affect how happy you are?

Posted in Latest News on 25 Jun 2024

We’ve just passed the longest day of the year – but does a longer working week mean you are less happy in your job?  

Data in our Douglas Scott Salary Survey explores how long the market is working, which we felt was worth exploring. In particular, we wanted to look at whether or not having to work more hours in a week could be more likely to affect your levels of happiness, and we found some statistics that tell a very interesting story about this topic…   

Most respondents to our survey said they were contracted to work a 35-hour week, with 30% of people stating this was how many hours they were contracted to work for. However, regarding how many hours people actually worked, there was a slightly wider range of responses. The most common option chosen was 40 hours a week, with 23% of people believing that this was the number of hours they actually worked, above and beyond what they were contracted to do. For comparison, only 17% of people were contracted to work 40 hours – so, are some working more than they are being employed for consistently? Well, it’s not a certainty – after all, some might be working less than their stated hours, but it seems like, for some anyway, there’s a certain amount of overtime going on. To look at other interesting figures surrounding working weeks, around 1% of people worked over 65 hours a week, while 10 hours was the lowest number of hours worked, again coming in at around 1%. Generally, however, for the number of hours worked and the number of hours contracted, most answers fell between 35 and 40 hours, which is around the national average across all sectors for a full-time working week.   

So how do all these numbers affect people's happiness? Well, there are some differences between the two groups, but also some similarities that make for some interesting discussion points. We broke the numbers down into two groups – what the statistics for happiness were for those who worked 40 hours or less and those who worked more than 40 hours. As might be expected, those who worked 40 hours or less were more likely to be happy, but the margin was perhaps narrower than might be expected. 62% of 40-hour or less workers were either somewhat happy or very happy, while 54% of those who worked longer were either somewhat or very happy. These numbers are pretty surprising, especially considering that, as we mentioned earlier, most respondents were contracted to work 35-40 hours a week, and longer working hours have been traditionally associated with a great degree of unhappiness and burnout. Another interesting figure we can look at is whether people are looking to leave their jobs. Neither of these groups had any significant desire to leave their jobs. While people’s reasons for leaving a job are complicated, these figures show that long working weeks aren’t a major contributing factor to people leaving their roles.   

So, while working weeks are clearly an important factor in people’s enjoyment or otherwise of their jobs, according to our salary survey, it isn’t the primary concern. Of course, those who work longer hours are more likely to feel more burned out, but if staff feel satisfaction in their work, it seems that long hours might be acceptable, so long as they are adequately supported. 

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