Some of the concerns voiced about current working practices are as follows:
- Flexible working is making the distinction between overtime and contracted hours less clear and increasingly more flexible working is a requirement not an option
- Contractual hours are 9.00 am till 5.00 pm but it is expected that people will be available to attend meetings from 8.00 am and into the evening. Some regular meetings are held at 8.30 am and telephone conferences are frequently held at 7.30 pm. It is also expected that people will be available to work over weekends when necessary
- I don’t think technology always helps people regarding out of hours working – the availability of email, mobile phone, etc. means that people are never allowed to switch off out of work hours.
When questioned as to the type of work people tend to do outside normal working hours, 52% said that they work on a variety of different tasks, for example working on projects, checking emails, attending meetings and taking part in teleconferences. Some 34% said that they worked out of hours on projects, with one respondent commenting that ‘We tend to do what’s needed to get the project done. I encourage my team to take some time in lieu when they’ve worked long hours but that’s not always possible.’ Another confessed that ‘if projects require it then evenings, weekends, whatever are accommodated.’
Many respondents believe that working overtime does not improve productivity, with 54% saying that it doesn’t and only 27% thinking that it does. One respondent notes that more is ‘done in total but not necessarily more efficiently’ and another suggests that ‘Productivity isn’t improved, it’s more a case of working through the volume of work that needs to be completed.’ What is more, only 3% of respondents receive paid overtime, with time off in lieu given to 16%, predominantly on an informal basis.
According to Peter Swabey, Policy and Research Director at ICSA: ‘It is clear that some employers expect company secretaries to work unpaid overtime on a regular basis and that company secretaries by their very nature will work the hours in order to get the job done. However, working long hours is not always matched by an increase in productivity. All evidence suggests that people become less efficient and more prone to making mistakes when working long hours. Working overtime or putting in extra hours at home on a regular basis generally means that there is too much work to achieve with the staffing levels in place. In the long term this is exhausting and demotivating; stress levels rise and morale falls. Sufficient rest is necessary to support high-quality work and this needs to be taken far more seriously as an issue.’
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