How to balance long working hours to create a happy workforce.

The UK now works longer hours than any other European country barring Greece. Statistics body Eurostat found that the average full-time UK employee clocks up 42.5 hours a week versus an EU average of 41.2 hours. This represents a quarter of our lives, which is why it is crucial to cultivate a happy workplace which affords employees a good work-life balance to stay positive and motivated.

This comes as Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell promised that the average working week in the UK would be cut to 32 hours within 10 years under a Labour government.

This would reduce it to the equivalent of four days, although it would not necessarily mean a day off as other methods could be used to cut hours. The shadow chancellor said the cut could be done with “no loss of pay”.

Mr McDonnell also vowed to end the UK’s opt out from the EU working time directive, which caps at 48 the number of hours people can work in an average week.

In addition, he said that negotiations over working hours would be carried out as part of plans to roll out collective bargaining across different industries.Collective bargaining is where wage rates and conditions are agreed between employees and trade unions, a practice that used to be commonplace in British industry.

Working hours would be included in legally binding sectoral agreements between employers and trade unions. This would allow unions and employers to decide together how best to reduce hours for their sector.

However, a report by cross-bench peer Lord Skidelsky, which was commissioned by Labour and published last month, recommended that people should work fewer hours to earn a living. It went on to say that working less without loss of pay was “good for material and spiritual well-being”.

But it added that imposing a four-day week would not be “realistic or even desirable,” citing France’s introduction of a 35-hour working week in 1998. “The evidence is that, after a brief impact effect, France’s legislation was rendered broadly ineffective by an accumulation of exceptions and loopholes,” the report said.

What is certain is that working long hours for seemingly little reward results in unhappiness in the workplace. This, in turn, contributes to a corrosive environment within which employees are stressed and unable to meet their full potential. When an employer encourages happiness in the workplace, employees feel far more content and eager to succeed. This could prove to be just as effective, in the first instance, as striving towards the significantly longer term goal of reducing the overall number of hours that people work.

Here are our tips to create a positive and productive workplace within a culture of longer working hours:

Praise and recognition

Recognise and reward the achievements and efforts of your workforce to encourage further productivity and increase retention. This could be a financial bonus or simply even a public acknowledgement which is communicated across the workplace when a job is done well.

Provide regular feedback

It is vital that employees have an understanding of their performance, which can be achieved through regular feedback sessions and adopting an approachable open door policy. This allows people to understand how they may grow in their role and identifies areas for training, development and subsequent career progression, all of which will inspire and motivate them to do better.

Engage the workforce

Engagement is vital for maintaining workforce happiness levels so keep workers in the loop when communicating business strategies and make it clear how they can help to achieve common goals. Ask staff members to contribute their own ideas, which will help to make them feel like a valued member of their team.

Personal development

Personal goals and overall development plans give employees something to work towards and a reason to work hard. When goals are reached, it gives them a great sense of achievement.

Offer employee benefits

Everyone appreciates feeling valued when in the workplace and an effective way of doing this is through tempting incentives. They could include financial benefits, as well as flexible working hours, healthcare packages and additional holidays.

To find out more about how we foster a happy working environment or to see how we can help you with your recruitment requirements, contact us at