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The joy of work?

Nick Isles
Executive Summary 3

Introduction 4

Life and Well being 8

Work and Satisfaction 13

Work and Time 18

Conclusions 23
Executive Summary

The UK has a three-tier labour market. Two thirds of UK workers seem to be

enjoying the good life being satisfied or very satisfied with their work. But over
4 million workers, 15% of the total workforce, are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied
with their jobs. These people tend to work in low skill parts of the economy often
with little or no control over when and where they work and with little say in how
they work. But those suffering most from a well-being deficit are the unemployed
and economically inactive who want a job. Their life satisfaction is only just over
half that of those in work or caring for others.
Working for yourself makes you happy: more than 80% of the self employed are
satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, while 67% of part-timers and 64% of full-
timers say they are satisfied with work. Efforts to make it easier to set up in
business and stay in business, minimising red tape where it harms rather than
helps, are good for peoples well being as well as the economy.
Married workers seem the most satisfied with divorced and separated people the
least satisfied.
Work is very important to well being especially for those who are in control of
what they do. For everyone children and partners are the most important
elements of happiness. But work is as important as spending time with friends or
spending time on leisure.
Hours matter. Despite relatively high levels of satisfaction with their job, a
majority 61% want to work fewer hours 70% of men and 52% of women.
It seems that going down the pub or playing sport is significantly more important
to men (49%) than spending time with their kids (20%), friends (20%) or partners
But over two million people suffer from work-lust. These workophiles far prefer
being at work to being at home. For them work/life balance is for other people
in their world the workophobes.
The UKs long hours problem is a well paid problem. Income follows hours with 1
in 5 of those earning 60,000 working more than 60 hours a week. Those
earning between 46,000 and 51,000 a year have nearly 70% of their number
working up to 60 hours a week and 7.7% working more than that.

However over 400,000 workers are genuine wage slaves earning less than
16,000 a year for working more than 60 hours a week. Tougher enforcement of
the minimum wage legislation is clearly required in many of these cases.
It is also clear that the UK has an aspirations gap with only 53% of respondents
agreeing that job satisfaction is of critical importance to why they do their job. In
addition nearly 50% are very happy with their levels of remuneration which is
good news for organisational pay setters.
Most workers like control over when and where they work. Flexible working
practices that currently cover a fifth of the workforce need to be expanded. The
Governments right to request flexible working should be extended as rapidly as
possible to all workers provided businesses can have some say over whether it
Employers need to re-invent job security. Whilst job tenure has stayed roughly
the same people do not feel secure. When restructuring, the first element should
be to look at how to minimise the effects on the existing workforce, redeploying
and re-training as necessary.

1. Introduction

'All that matters is love and work'

Sigmund Freud

Work gets a bad press. Not a week goes by without some story or another illustrating the
pernicious effects of work on our minds, bodies and souls. The British hate their jobs,
loathe their managers and are so oppressed by their work environments that they long to
flee to elysian fields out of reach of e-mail, mobile phones and the diktats of their
bosses. And despite considerable increases in overall wealth over the last 50 years
there has been no measurable increase in happiness.1 For many this must be down, in
large part, to work and its increasing horridness.

But is work in the UK that bad? It has certainly changed. In just one generation female
participation in the labour market has increased by 30%.2 Now nearly one in two workers

Layard, R. Royal Society of Arts Journal July 2004
Labour Force Survey 1979-2004

are women. 3, meaning that many households can no longer rely on an unpaid carer and
cleaner. 4 The labour market is ageing too: by 2010, only 20% of the workforce will be
made up of white, able-bodied men under 45 years in full time work.5

The type of work we do has also changed. In 1979 over 8 million people largely men
worked in manufacturing and heavy industry. Today the figure stands at around 3.5
million.6 We have lived through the dot-com boom and crash, which for all the smoke
and fire emanating from the stock market bubble when it burst, left us with another verity
ICT is here to stay and has fundamentally changed the way we work and interact. 7
With more than 28 million jobs in the economy an all-time high most of us now work
in the services sector and are enjoying modestly rising incomes. Yet unemployment
remains the great curse. To be unemployed is to create a well being deficit of
considerable proportions. Even though on conventional measures of unemployment we
now enjoy near full employment on other measures of economic inactivity8 over 3 million
people who are not working today would like to do so if there was a job for them in the
future. For all of us, creating a sustainable full employment economy should still remain
an over-riding objective.

But for those in work the changes to the way we live and work over the last generation
have been profound and complex. Perhaps more than we realise, the way we work has
failed to catch up with the way we live and with changing demographics. Work has
become more intense as ICT enables 'anywhere, anytime' contact and the drive for 24/7
service, in the retail, business services and personal services sectors in particular, has
led to more time and task flexibility being asked of workers. Collective representation
over terms and conditions has been replaced with the idea of the individual contract
the so-called psychological contract between worker and employer. Only 1 in 5 private
sector workers now belong to a Trades Union.9 UK workers work the longest average
week of any Europeans. Too many workplaces are not fit-for-purpose and are likely to
increase the chances of workers falling ill. Too many jobs are poorly designed and ask

LFS ibid
LFS ibid
Department of Work & Pensions, cited in Working Capital
LFS ibid
See The Work Foundations I-Society output at www.theworkfoundation.com/isociety (check)
see TUC 2003 Budget submission
Labour Force Survey, ONS

too much of under-skilled individuals. There are a large number of under-productive
workplaces in the UK offering low-paid, low skilled jobs.10 Finally income inequality has
grown rapidly over the same time period. In 1976 incomes at the 90th percentile were 2.9
times those at the 10th percentile. Twenty five years later, the ratio had risen to 4:1. In
the same time period the number of households with incomes below 40% of the media
rose 220%.11 Happiness with income and lifestyle are more often judged relative to
others than in an absolute way.12 Moreover the UK has the highest gender pay gap of
any European country despite having the third highest female employment rate in
Europe.13 Ethnic minorities are also getting a raw deal from the UK labour market with
higher levels of unemployment especially for black men and Pakistani and Bangladeshi
men and women, and average pay two thirds to a half the amount received by the white

On the other hand work is more fun than it ever used to be. Flirting at work is now off the
Richter scale. Nearly one in four of us meet our future long-term partners at work. 15 In
Sex and Business Shere Hite found that 62% of women and 71% of men have had an
affair with a colleague.16 The growth in many types of creative business has meant that
more workers are enjoying the benefits of 'creativity' rooms, chill out areas, meetings in
the local Starbucks and the chance to do the things they'd do anyway for fun. For some
years now some groups of workers have enjoyed the benefits of concierge services as
well as the company car.

More workers are more passionate about what they do. UK firms, aided and abetted by
some smart Government legislation around flexible working, are offering their workforces
different ways to complete their work. The focus of work/life balance initiatives may be
on parents, and mothers in particular, - and not before time - but the messages are
important for all employers and every group of workers. Create a degree of time

The Missing Link 2003, Harding et al, The Work Foundation
Aldridge, Stephen, Life Chances and Social Mobility: An Overview of the Evidence, Prime Minister's
Strategy Unit, Cabinet Office paper
For a full discussion of these and other issues see Donovan, N; Halpern,D, Life Satisfaction: the state of
knowledge and implications for government Cabinet Office Strategy Unit Paper December 2002
Department of Work and Pensions, Households below average income
Fish4jobs opinion poll of 9,000 adults in employment conducted in July 2002
Quoted in Reeves, R, Happy Mondays, Momentum 2001

sovereignty17 for your workers and the reciprocity will be more quality output however
defined. The major studies of the role of people in increasing productivity show, without
room for doubt, that engaged and motivated workforces drive up productivity and
profitability. The point about learning from such a truism is that too many organisations

It is also clear that work is one of the main ways individuals engage with the world.
Descartes famous definition 'Cogito ergo sum'18 may have drawn a distinction between
what people did and what they really were but Cartesian dualism lives today as strongly
as ever. As The Work Foundation said in its launch report 'Working Capital' in 2002,
'Work is where we act on the world by bringing our skills and our energy to the task in
hand. It is the chief daily means by which we grow and express ourselves.' This is as
true for those engaged in 'unpaid' work such as caring for their own children or elderly
relatives as it is for the highest paid investment banker. The way that our work interacts
with other core variables to create a sense of purpose, well being and status has
become of critical importance to businesses and policymakers alike. As has been
outlined above, Western developed economies comparative advantage is now almost
entirely based on the discretionary elements that surround productivity and value
creation. It is the 'cogito' in Descartes definition that allows western businesses to create
the value that creates the margins of profit that sustain everything from our welfare
systems to our ability to invest in new technologies and forms of innovation. And it is
now not just the few who need the space to cogitate but the many. Adding value in a
service economy is all about intangibles such as customer satisfaction levels, quality of
perceptions of brand, quality of networks, communication skills, flexibility of response,
and so on. This requires a satisfied workforce willing to give their discretionary labour. It
requires such workers to feel a high degree of labour market security. It means greater
investment in human capital and a more sensitive reporting mechanism around such
intangibles, offered to more sophisticated discretionary owners.

In short what the UK needs is a clear line of sight over what a 'quality of working life and
quality work' agenda might look like. Policymakers and corporate leaders need to strip
away the hyperbole and reach down to the facts. How happy are we with our jobs?

See Doyle. J and Reeves.R, .Time Out the case for time sovereignty The Work Foundation 2001
'I think therefore I am' Rene Descartes, Le Discours de la methode 1637

Whose work is making them ill and why? What is the balance between work and other
factors in life that contribute to individual happiness? Can we create a set of distinctive
policies and proposals that will help plot a route map to a happier, more productive
workforce and economy? The Work Foundation decided to investigate some of these
questions and more. We surveyed over 1000 people in June 2004 and what follows tells
their story. 19

2. Life and Well Being

Despite the hype and the unremitting gloom that provides the content of so much of our
public conversations the results of the Work Foundation's survey indicate, with some
important caveats, that at first sight people are happy with their lot. Table one shows the
results of a series of questions about life satisfaction.

Table 1: Happiness and Life Satisfaction percentage responding positively

Life is Good Happy with Satisfied Achieved Wouldnt

% Life % with Life % Goals at Change Life
this Stage %
Male 68.9 75.4 81.2 62.7 66.0
Female 74.0 78.9 81.9 67.5 72.2
Total 71.6 77.3 81.6 65.3 69.4

More than 70% feel that life is good with 69% of men and 74% of women answering
positively. An even higher proportion over three quarters felt they were happy with
their life and 80% were satisfied with their life. While two thirds felt they had achieved
their goals.

Interestingly we are not a nation of Victor Meldrews. Older workers and retired workers
(see table 2) are most satisfied with their lot while 16-24 year olds are the least happy
with their levels of achievement. But on the whole people are perhaps more buoyant
than might have been expected.

See technical annex for details

Table 2: Age, Happiness and Life Satisfaction - percentage agreeing with the
following statements

Life is Good Happy with Satisfied Achieved Wouldnt

% Life % with Life % Goals at Change Life
this Stage %

16-24 72.4 79.7 79.7 62.3 69.1
25-34 75.6 77.4 83.3 67.1 70.6
35-44 71.4 75.0 81.9 64.0 68.9
45-54 70.0 74.3 78.1 61.2 69.7
55-65 68.7 82.1 84.3 71.4 68.3

The group least satisfied with all aspects of life are the unemployed. More than half the
sample did not believe life was good nor that they had achieved their goals. At the other
end, and again in line with many other surveys, the self-employed come out feeling
considerably happier with their lot than all other groups. Those classified as unemployed
but not claiming benefit predominantly women looking after children were also very
happy with life and that they had achieved their goals in life.

Table 3: Employment Status, Happiness and Life Satisfaction percentage

agreeing with the following statements

Life is Happy with Satisfied Achieved Wouldnt

Good % Life % with Life % Goals at Change
this Stage Life %
Full-time 73.8 77.4 82.3 61.4 69.3
Part-time 71.6 78.4 83.1 68.2 69.4
Self- 75.0 81.3 87.5 72.6 70.5
Inactive 69.8 79.1 79.1 69.8 76.7
Unemployed 43.4 54.6 61.8 52.7 58.7
on benefit
Unemployed 80.3 84.6 83.3 69.2 77.3
no benefit
Retired 70.2 87.2 89.4 87.2 76.1
Student 79.2 79.2 81.3 68.1 60.4

Table 4 shows that married people are happier than co-habitees, while divorced or
separated people are far less happy, and whether youre dating or single doesn't seem
to make that much difference to overall levels of satisfaction with life.

Table 4: Marital Status, Happiness and Life Satisfaction percentage agreeing

with the following statements

Life is Good Happy with Satisfied Achieved Wouldnt

% Life % with Life % Goals at Change Life
this Stage %
Married 80.9 85.0 87.1 74.0 74.2
Co-habiting 76.9 80.6 82.4 68.5 71.3
Divorced / 50.8 62.2 66.7 49.2 55.9
In 66.7 75.0 83.3 58.3 63.6
Single 64.9 69.9 78.9 55.5 64.8

As Table 5 indicates jobs are important to those who feel happy and satisfied with life
along with partners, children, family and friends.

Table 5: Important Life Characteristics by Gender percentage of positive

responses to different variables that contribute to well-being

Total Male Female

Job 68.6 69.4 67.9
Partner 93.6 95.3 92.4
Kids 95.0 91.7 97.2
Close Family 80.7 75.5 85.2
Wider Family 53.0 45.2 59.9
Socialising at Work 34.3 34.0 34.6
Mates 77.0 74.1 79.6
Leisure 72.8 76.7 69.5

Women value children, all types of family and friends more than men while men value
time for their own interests and leisure more. Socialising with workmates is more
important the younger you are (see table 6 below), so perhaps all those team bonding
sessions are more important than most people think.

Table 6: Important Life Characteristics by Age percentage of positive responses
to different variables that contribute to well-being

16-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-65

Job 67.1 65.3 69.2 68.4 74.5
Partner 93.5 96.8 92.8 90.9 94.6
Kids 94.4 96.2 94.3 94.9 100.0
Close 82.9 82.4 76.5 80.6 83.2
Wider 52.5 47.3 47.5 59.1 61.5
Socialising 59.5 38.2 27.4 33.5 24.7
at Work
Mates 86.2 80.1 75.9 71.3 75.4
Leisure 78.9 72.4 68.1 71.6 77.3

Part-time workers perhaps unsurprisingly value work less than full-time workers and
those who are inactive and some unemployed clearly value looking after children more
than paid work. This is important to recognise for a range of policies, as is the fact that
many households make choices about paid work as a household i.e. the mother may
agree to stay closer to home, whilst the father works further away to increase income.20
It is probable that we need a new set of responses to this type of choice, which focus
more on household income levels and require more sophisticated types of flexible
working arrangements.

Helen Jarvis,

Table 7: Important Life Characteristics by Labour Market Status percentage of
positive responses to different variables that contribute to well-being


Job 70.1 58.5 77.9 83.3 n.a n.a n.a 42.9
Partner 94.3 92.5 93.4 97.1 87.5 89.4 100.0 90.9
Kids 92.3 98.7 94.4 100.0 100.0 97.1 75.0
Close 77.9 89.8 79.2 86.1 76.3 84.6 83.0 77.1
Wider 51.4 59.6 43.2 63.4 44.7 59.1 66.0 52.1
Socialising 34.8 32.4 33.3 50.0 n.a n.a n.a 28.6
at Work
Mates 78.9 82.4 74.0 76.2 57.1 73.9 76.6 85.4
Leisure 74.0 73.0 72.9 62.8 66.2 80.9 80.9 81.3
Notes: FT=full-time, PT=part-time, SE=self-employment, IN=inactive, UNB=unemployed on
benefits, UNNB = unemployed no benefits, RET= retired, STUD = students.

Finally some characteristics describing what people do as hobbies or for relaxation help
illustrate the type of actions that lead to higher levels of overall satisfaction with life. The
first lesson is don't smoke but do take a drink in moderation. Exercise makes you feel
better but Class A and B drug users feel they have lower levels of achievement than all
other groups.

Table 8: Hobbies and Life Satisfaction percentage agreeing with the following
Life is Happy with Satisfied Achieved Wouldnt
Good % Life % with Life % Goals at Change
this Stage Life %
Non Smoker 74.2 80.2 84.8 68.4 70.5
Smoker 64.4 68.8 71.9 56.1 66.1

T-total 68.7 75.1 79.3 64.3 66.8

Drinker 73.9 79.0 83.2 66.0 71.3

Slob 69.3 72.6 76.4 60.9 66.5

Jogger 72.2 78.4 82.9 66.4 70.2

Clean 72.1 77.7 81.9 66.4 69.6

Drug user 65.2 71.0 76.8 49.3 66.2

Notes: smoker, drinker and jogger all refer to moderate or higher use. Drug user refers to any
substance taking.

3. Work and Satisfaction
At first glance people seem relatively satisfied with their jobs. Over two thirds of
respondents (67.3%) felt satisfied or very satisfied with their work or job. Women were
slightly more satisfied than men. Fifteen per cent of men and women were dissatisfied
with their lot with 1.6% fewer women than men dissatisfied. These figures seem
encouraging until the numbers dissatisfied or very dissatisfied are translated from
percentages into numbers. In stark terms this means over 4.2 million workers are pretty
unhappy with their work or job. The effects of such dissatisfaction are being felt in higher
rates of absence, higher rates of turnover, lower levels of customer satisfaction and
ultimately lower levels of productivity. This is bad news for UK organisations and bad
news for UK plc.

Table 9: Overall satisfaction with work or job at the moment

% respondents
Total Men Women
Very dissatisfied 4.8 4.4 5.2
Dissatisfied 10.2 11.4 9.0
Neutral 17.7 18.3 17.2
Satisfied 45.2 44.5 45.9
Very satisfied 22.1 21.4 22.7

To quote Helen Fieldings fictional creation Bridget Jones, 'smug marrieds' are less
dissatisfied than most other groups while those in relationships seem to be most
dissatisfied, perhaps because certainty has been replaced with uncertainty.

Table 10: overall satisfaction by marital status

% respondents
Married Partner Divorced In Single

Very 2.8 3.6 9.6 16.7 6.5

Dissatisfied 10.6 12.5 3.8 16.7 10.6
Neutral 16.2 17.9 25.0 33.3 16.3
Satisfied 46.3 46.4 44.2 16.7 43.9
Very Satisfied 24.1 19.6 17.3 16.7 22.8

As table 11 shows full timers are the least happy while the self-employed are the most
satisfied. Only 6.3% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their work and 46.9% were
very satisfied with what they were doing. This could be attributed to the control that the
self-employed have over their work: whilst many work very long hours, their ability to
determine when, where and how they work may contribute to their high levels of
satisfaction. The results certainly suggest that the Government's attempts to encourage
more entrepreneurialism and make it easier to start a business will help create a happier
workforce as well. Since self employment is only 13.7% of the overall labour market21 an
increase in the number of people running their own businesses could improve job
satisfaction levels considerably.

Table 11: responses by employment status

% of respondents
Full time Part time Self employed
Very dissatisfied 5.8 3.2 1.6
Dissatisfied 11.2 10.5 4.7
Neutral 18.7 18.9 12.5
Satisfied 46.9 48.4 34.4
Very satisfied 17.3 18.9 46.9

Table 12 shows anticipated turnover and breaks down levels of satisfaction and
dissatisfaction by intention to change current status. Worryingly for employers over a
third of the UK workforce seem to be actively seeking or planning soon to look for a new
job. In terms of the currently active job-seekers over a fifth are looking for a new job. Not
unexpectedly the younger you are the more you'll be looking to change careers or start a
new job. People in the 16-24 year old category are twice as likely as those in the 45-54
year old age group to be starting a new job (10.3% compared with 5.7%) and 6.9% of
them will be changing careers compared to 11.4% of 25-34-year-olds and 6.5% of 35-44
year-olds. This reflects findings from previous research conducted by The Work
Foundation into the motivations of young workers. Demanding employability for life
rather than a career for life, young workers free of the responsibility of children or
mortgages are more likely to feel able to look elsewhere if they are not being developed
as they would expect. Our research suggests that, somewhat paradoxically, equipping

Labour Force Survey 2004

young people with the skills they need to succeed in the labour market is the best way to
retain them.22

Table 12: Percentage of the whole population

Currently doing Plans for the Not planning

Starting a new job 9.9 24.9 65.2
Changing careers 5.8 18.8 75.4
Actively looking for 21.5 16.4 62.1
new job
Planning PT or more 20.1 12.3 6.6
fewer hours
Working more 21.5 24.2 54.3
Planning to emigrate 2.4 8.9 88.7
Planning to retire 6.5 16.7 76.3
Planning to give up 3.1 9.2 87.7
work altogether

However when it comes to gender women are twice as likely as men to be considering
moving 29.5% compared with 14.3%. Given that one of the foundations of the gender
pay gap for the more highly paid is that men are more likely to move than women, this
belief seems to be based on a false premise. Moreover nearly 20% of men said they do
now, or would like to, work part-time.

Perhaps most notably the survey illustrates how little flexible working has begun to
penetrate the UK labour market despite the ongoing debate about work/life balance.
Some 21.5% of respondents are working flexibly (in line with other data) but
encouragingly over 24% plan to in the future. On the other hand over 50% have no such
plans and given what we know about the benefits of flexible working this is not good
news for progressive employment practices. Nor will it necessarily support the cultural
change required to support successful flexible working. Research by Flexecutive found
that it is the attitude of colleagues, rather than number of hours worked, that has the
biggest effect upon satisfaction with work-life balance. If many people are not even
considering it, it may not bode well for a supportive culture in organisations.

Horner, L. & Jones, A. (2003) Great Expectations: Motivating Young Workers: The Work Foundation

Table 13: grouped responses for the whole population

Not at Very Neutral Not at Very Neutral
all all
Pay 9.4 69.9 20.6 20.8 48.4 30.8
Work Content 6.0 80.6 13.4 9.4 67.9 22.7
Working with 11.7 66.8 21.5 11.9 62.7 25.4
Fulfilling 9.5 72.3 18.2 17.9 53.0 29.2
Social aspects 35.2 29.8 35.0 23.0 45.0 31.7
Hours worked 13.2 68.1 18.8 18.4 60.0 21.6

Table 13 probes some of the reasons behind why people work and what they need to
obtain satisfaction in their work. Intriguingly over 20% of people say they disagree with
the statement that I couldn't stay in my job if I got no satisfaction from it. One of the long-
standing critiques of the economy is that UK workers have an aspiration gap. With only
53% of respondents agreeing that job satisfaction is of critical importance to why they do
the job it is perhaps not surprising that we have too many low aspiration workplaces.

Pay is less important to people than the content of the job and fulfilling personal
ambitions and this is reflected in the fact that people are happier with the jobs they do
than with their pay. Even so, nearly 50% are very satisfied with their pay.

Table 14: Responses for the whole population

Disagree Agree with Neutral

with statement
I couldnt stay in my job if I got no satisfaction from it 22.6 53.6 23.8
My most important relationships are at work 27.9 42.2 42.9
I prefer work to home 80.9 8.4 10.7
Work is just a means to obtaining an income 36.9 38.7 24.4
My work fits in with other things 15.6 69.8 14.5

The workophile factor is high with 8.4% of people preferring work to home. This lends
some credence to the arguments made by Arlie Hochschild in the US and Richard

Reeves in the UK that for increasing numbers of people work is the new home23. As
Hochschild argues in The Time Bind, many find that in work they receive recognition for
hard work and achievement, whereas at home there is a lot of work to be done, and
usually little recognition forthcoming. For the 2.4 million people who agree with this
perspective, 'I love my job' has real meaning. Most workophiles are in higher income
brackets and probably not bringing up children. Those aged 35-44 when child rearing
can be at its most intense - were only half as likely to respond positively to this

In addition more than 40% of respondents felt that their most important relationships
were at work, which was particularly true for part-timers. However for the majority work
doesn't dominate everything. Nearly 70% agreed that work fitted in with other things and
only 15.6% disagreed, thinking work was clearly more of a priority. Women were more
inclined to agree that work fitted in with other things in their life - 73% compared with
men 66%.

Reeves,R, Happy Mondays ibid and Hoschchild, A, Timebind: When Work becomes Home and Home
becomes Work. Henry Holt 1997

4. Work and Time
The UK works the longest average hours in Europe. This average has reduced by 1 hour
per week over the last five years through a combination of more people in work (the
increased bargaining power for those in work that comes with tighter labour markets),
the impact of the working time directive (despite the opt out) and increased flexible
working practices.

However long hours working remains a problem on three levels. First it can harm an
individual's health. Second, long hours do not equate necessarily to higher overall
productivity and third, hours as a proxy for effectiveness is a 20th century solution for a
21st Century economy.

Table 15: Average Hours worked per week by gender

Hours worked per Men % Women % Total %
week on average
Under 16 4.4 8.9 6.7
16 25 2.7 24.9 13.9
26 35 8.2 19.2 13.8
36 40 29.9 29.2 29.6
41 50 33.8 12.2 22.9
51 60 13.7 3.2 8.4
Over 60 6.6 2.2 4.4

Table 15 looks at who is working what hours. In total 65.3% of the population are
working more than 35 hours a week and 36% work more than 40 hours a week. Nearly
four times as many men as women are working more than 51 hours a week (20.3%
compared with 5.4%). The more you earn the longer you work. Those earning between
46,000 and 51,000 a year have nearly 70% of their number working up to 60 hours a
week and 7.7% working more than that. But once you earn more than 51,000 a year
the chances of working more than 60 hours a week increase to more than 20%. The
self-employed work the longest hours with 25% working more than 51 per week
compared with 15.5% for full time workers. However over 400,000 workers are earning

less than 16,000 a year for more than 60 hour working weeks and again, this is an
area of the labour market that is more likely to be female dominated.

Table 16: Average Hours worked per week by pay (all figures for pay are per

Hours worked Under 16-25 26-35 36-40 41- 51- Over

16 50 60 60
Less than 11,000 23.6% 42.4% 12.1% 13.3% 3% 3.6% 0.6%
11,000 - 15,999 1.6 11.4 22 43.1 18.7 2.4 0.8
16,000 20,999 1.9 5.6 8.4 45.8 25.2 7.5 5.6
21,000 - 25,999 1.3 2.6 14.5 32.9 36.8 9.2 2.6
26,000 - 30,999 1.5 4.6 6.2 36.9 30.8 13.8 6.2
31,000 - 35,999 - - 17.5 20 32.5 17.5 12.5
36,000 - 40,999 - - 15.4 23.1 42.3 15.4 3.8
41,000 - 45,999 - 5.6 11.1 16.7 50 5.6 11.1
46,000 - 50,999 - - 7.7 15.4 69.2 7.7 -
51,000 - 55,999 25 - - 25 - 25 25
55,999 - 60,000 - - - 40 - 20 40
More than 60,000 - 6.7 13.3 13.3 33.3 20 13.3

Nearly 40% of people agree that they work long hours for fear of losing their job ( see
Table 17 below). More women than men (52% compared with 35%) feel this way. It
should be noted that many women's jobs are part-time and low paid and in sectors of the
economy that are less well regulated24. There is also a pay differential. The lowest paid
are the most likely to feel this way. Those earning less than 16,000 per annum are
nearly six times as likely to fear the sack if they don't put in the time as those on more
than 41,000 per annum.

See Toynbee,P Hardwork:Life in Low Pay Britain.Bloomsbury 2003

Table 17: Reasons for Working Long Hours
Disagree Agree Neutral
I work long hours because I am scared of losing my job 34.6 39.3 26.1
I work long hours because I wont let my colleagues down 60.1 20.2 19.7
I work long hours because of the culture of the organisation 83.3 8.3 8.3
I work long hours because of the volume of work 50.4 24.8 24.8
I work long hours to speed up getting promotion 19.8 60.1 20.2

This level of job insecurity may perhaps be exaggerated25- after all, job tenure has not
declined, despite perceptions to the contrary26 - but it nevertheless shows that the long
hours culture is firmly entrenched in the UK economy despite a relatively low response
to the 'culture' question per se. Long hours as a route to promotion with a response rate
of 60% agreeing with the statement, indicates that 'hours in' is still the best way of
impressing the boss. Helping out colleagues is comparatively less important to people
(20%) in explaining why they work long hours.

Work intensification seems to be less important than some commentators have

assumed. Only 25% of people agreed that the volume of work created their long hours.
Yet self-employed people were half as likely to cite this as a reason (12.8% compared
with 26.8% for full-timers and 26.6% for part-timers). This would seem to indicate a
strong link between control over work done and the dissipation of the negative effects of
working long hours.

But what about the total hours worked? Were people happy with their lot or would they
like to work less? The answer seems to be a resounding 'yes' to fewer hours from men
and a more equivocal 'maybe' from women. This is not surprising given the fact that far
more men than women work full-time. Overall 61% of people want to work fewer hours
70% of men and 52% of women.

Table 18: Percentage of People who would like to work less

Work Fewer Men Women Total
Yes 70.1% 52.2% 61%
No 29.7% 47.6% 38.7%

see Bunting,M, Willing Slaves - How the Overwork Culture is ruling our lives for an exposition of these
arguments on job insecurity.
Department for Work and Pensions, cited in Working Capital

The more highly paid the greater the chances of wanting to work fewer hours. Those
earning more than 31,000 a year are nearly three times as likely to want to work fewer
hours than those on less than 11,000 a year and 30% more likely than those earning
up to 16,000 a year. The full time workforce wants fewer hours the most (73.3%)
followed by the self employed, despite the large number working more than 51 hours a
week (see above) at 61.5%. Only a quarter of part-timers want fewer hours.

Perhaps of more interest is that over 37% of people would like to work fewer hours even
if this meant earning less and of those 42% were aged 16-24.

The reasons why people want to work less are many and varied but the number one
reason across all ages is to have more leisure time.

Table 19: Reasons for wanting to work less

Male Female
Time with kids 20.0 22.8
Time with friends 20.4 21.8
Time for leisure 49.8 39.9
Time with partner 22.0 16.6
other 0.8 1.6
Dont know 1.6 0.5
Personal time 5.5 5.2
Time for family 10.6 12.4
Other Commitments (education etc) 0.8 2.6
Nearing Retirement 1.2 1.6
Made to work more than contracted hours 2.0 2.6
Lifes too short/too lazy/other priorities 2.0 3.6

Forty five percent of those wanting to work less want to spend time doing what they
enjoy, whatever that may be. For men the number rises to 50% compared with 40% of
women. Going down the pub and on the golf course is significantly more important to
men than spending time with their kids (20%), friends (20%) or partner (22%). There are
some significant differences by marital status. Married people are more likely to want to
spend time with their children (29%) or partner (33%) as playing snooker or going on
'girls nights out' (34%). Whereas single people and divorced people and those starting
out in relationships are far more likely to want to spend time on leisure (58.5% 65% and
68% respectively).

Table 20: Reasons for Working Less by Marital Status

Married Live with Divorced Other Single

partner relationship
Time for kids 29.2 31.6 14.2 0 5.9
Time for friends 17.0 22.8 21.8 0 28.0
Time for leisure 34.4 40.4 65.2 66.7 58.5
Time with 33.0 31.6 0 0 0
Other 0.5 0 3.6 0 1.7
Dont know 1.4 0 3.6 0 0
Personal time 2.8 10.5 1.8 33.8 8.5
Family 16.0 3.5 9.1 0 8.5
Other 0.9 0 3.6 0 2.5
Tiredness and 3.8 1.8 9.1 0 5.1
Nearing 1.9 0 3.0 0 0
Made to work 1.9 1.8 3.6 0 2.5
more than
Lifes too short 2.8 1.8 3.6 0 2.5

Though many people want to work fewer hours a significant number around 22.5% -
want to work more hours. The highest positive response rates were from those earning
under 11,000 a year (30%) and those earning between 11,000 and 21,000 (40%).
Beyond 36,000 per annum and noone wanted to work more hours. Of those who
wanted to work longer hours 1 in 3 part-timers among the sample who said 'yes' to this
question wanted more hours.

For 64% money was the reason for wanting to work longer hours. However 40% wanted
to work longer hours because they enjoyed the work with the largest group in this
category aged 35-44.

5. Conclusions
On the whole work works. The majority of UK workers are reasonably happy with their
lot and happy in their work. However a third of British workers are at best neutral about
their job and at worst very dissatisfied. And this does not include the economically
inactive who are marginalized from the economic benefits of a near full employment
economy and too often excluded from other facets of the good life like decent
housing, access to credit, and access to good public services.

The public policy challenges are thus twofold. First how to continue to expand the
economy without creating undue inflationary pressures so as to include those who are
still economically excluded after 10 years of growth. Second how to create a more
satisfied and aspirational workforce.

To tackle the first objective the plethora of supply-side initiatives of recent years,
including the many New Deals, need to be expanded to include an even more forensic
approach to geographic, ethnic, faith and gender exclusion. Job Centre Plus needs to
become even more rooted in local communities where needs are greatest, having the
flexibility to respond more immediately to those local needs. There should also be a
broader engagement with routes back into work a softening over the rules for claiming
benefit while also taking on part-time work or further education or training courses for
example and an expansion of the social economy to recognise alternative ladders
back to work.

But the focus for the majority of people, those relatively content with their lot, should be
to sustain and build those areas of public policy and organisational practice that
evidence shows creates most satisfaction. This survey, and others before it, offers
intriguing glimpses into what makes people really happy. Without question, fun and
fulfilling work can make a major contribution for some the major contribution to
overall life satisfaction. People want and need more control over when and how they
work. Flexible working practices that currently cover a fifth to a quarter of the workforce
need to be expanded. The Governments right to request flexible working should be
extended as rapidly as possible to all groups of workers. After all, over 60% of people
want to work fewer hours and more than 20% want to work more hours.

Having said that people who want to earn more working in professional and associate
professional jobs will often work long hours. Britains long hours problem is exaggerated.
Much long hours working is voluntary and many people enjoy putting in the time and
effort. Whether it is a smart way of working is a moot point. As Alexandra Jones
commented in her recent report, The Labour of Hours, Choice depends on the
individual, their labour market power, their income, their gender and their personal
circumstances, as well as their enjoyment of work and their ideas about success. Harder
questions need to be asked about how we look at working time over the lifetime in order
to move this debate forward.27

What is not in question is that a small group at the bottom of the labour market continue
to be exploited by employers acting illegally. It should not be possible for people to work
more than 60 hours a week and be paid less than 11,000 a year. The Government
needs to strengthen the mechanisms for inspecting and reporting bad practice in this
area. The introduction of the National Minimum Wage was a major achievement in
beginning to end the UKs low cost/low wage economy. It is not acceptable for poor
employers to drive out good simply by paying people too little to live on. It is clear that
the UK can no longer compete on cost but has to compete on value. This means the
creation of a high skill, well paid economy as described in last years report into
performance and productivity, The Missing Link.28

What is also clear is that work is but one element in peoples complex and complicated
lives. Marriage makes people feel happy. Divorce, separation and singleness dont.
People need and like commitment and security. A good marriage and a good job offer
both. For governments to become involved in peoples personal lives to the extent of
encouraging one form of status over another could be invidious. However it is not
invidious to encourage commitment as a good rather than a bad.

Employers should consider rehabilitating the old and outmoded notion of job security.
This does not mean guaranteeing jobs for life, but instead being very clear about the
employability for life that they offer. If employees are confident about their ability to get

Jones, A, The Labour of Hours: is managing time the route to smarter working? The Work Foundation
Harding, R The Missing Link: From Performance to Productivity The Work Foundation 2003

work because of the way in which they are developed, they are likely to be more
motivated and feel more secure. And in a service economy employee motivation
correlates strongly with customer satisfaction and retention. Secure workers are happier

Younger workers, in particular, entering the labour market today are well aware that
there is no such thing as a job for life anymore29. Instead they know that what is
important is employability for life. The new deal for these young workers with their
employers is not what can I do for you? but what level of investment are you going to
offer me?. While jobs for those at the bottom of the labour market often offer a revolving
door back into unemployment, for employers seeking to attract and retain workers with
the right skills the lack of felt job security by those workers is making them increasingly
fickle. Employers need to re-invent job security through a real commitment, supported by
structures and career development processes, to employability for life, and put the
effects on employees of restructuring at the heart of their thinking and planning so as to
minimise the impact on felt security.

Insecurity, lack of control, top down management all create a less productive and less
competitive economy and less motivated and more dissatisfied workers. Work should be
a joy. It is incumbent on all of us, Government, workers and employers to seek to make
work more fun, fulfilling and effective. Then for the vast majority it could truly be said - to
quote Noel Coward - work is more fun than fun.

Nick Isles
The Work Foundation

Horner, Louise; Jones, Alexandra, Great Expectations The Work Foundation 2003

First many thanks to my colleagues Professor Marc Cowling, Dr Rebecca Harding for all
their help in interpreting and analysing the data and to Alexandra Jones for her detailed
comments on the draft. I would also like to thank Adam Wurf, Steve Bevan, David Coats
and Will Hutton for their incisive comments and support. Many thanks also to Maggie
Smith and Mita Mistry.

Technical Note
Between 11 and 25 June 2004 IFF Research, on behalf of The Work Foundation,
surveyed by telephone 1000 people from throughout the UK. This included 495 men and
505 women aged 16 65.