What Are The Average Weekly Working Hours In The UK?
The average weekly working hours in the UK may shock you! You have the recommendation and then the cold hard facts. Let’s break it all down.
The 9-5 workweek is a particularly interesting one. The mythical 40-hour workweek is the technical qualifier of a full-time job. But what are the average hours in the UK really?
As an employer, what can you reasonably expect from your full-time salaried employees? Do you need to follow the average to get the most out of your workers?
We’ll explore these questions and more in this article.
Here’s What We’ll Cover:
What Are The Average Work Hours Per Week In The UK?
According to Statistica, the average work week for full-time employees has always fallen just under 40 hours per week. For the past 20 years, it has been oscillating between 36.5-38 hours per week. This was incredibly consistent. You could set your watch to it. Until 2020 when everything went crazy.
Statistica’s data shows that the months after the pandemic hit caused the number of average working hours to plummet. Quite dramatically!
There was already a steady decline in working hours over 2019. 1st quarter 2019 had an average of around 37.5 hours, which slowly fell to 36.7 hours per week in the final quarter of 2019. Then the signs of the pandemic taking hold show a steep decline in working hours.
In early 2020, full-time workers were clocking in around 34.6 hours per week. Not a huge jump but still low for the average over the previous two decades. But then, there was a sharp dip as full-time employees took to working from home.
The lowest average weekly working hours happened around April-June 2020. Workers reported working on average just 30.5hours per week.
Since the lowest point, there has been a relatively steady increase, apart from one other sharp drop in hours. That was around early 2021 when Covid numbers increased and employers were hit with uncertainty again. Since then, we’ve slowly climbed to working around 35.7 hours per week.
It's worth noting that these are for salaried employees only. Self-employed workers can work far more hours than this.
How Many Hours Should a Full-Time Employee Work?
So those are the stats, but what is the reality of our working capacity? How much can an employee's work still remain productive? Or rather, how little can an employee work and still get the job done?
Studies show that working more than 10 hours per day can have some pretty dramatic side effects:
- It can increase risk of cardiovascular diseases
- It leads to sleep deprivation and lower cognitive function
- It can cause marital/family issues
- Employees have fewer hours of recreation and leisure time. Work life balance is difficult which puts people at risk of unhealthy dependencies. For example alcohol abuse, poor diet and lack of exercise.
- Mental health issues may also be a factor as high workloads increase stress levels
- Productivity levels plummet after 50 hours a week
WHO recommends that full-time employees work a maximum of 50 weekly hours.
On average, we are doing quite well as a nation in this regard. Though of course there are outliers. If your full-time employment position requires more than 40 hours a week to do well, it’s not a very well-designed job. You need to review the details and ensure you are spreading the workload fairly among your staff. If not, you may be short staffed and need to consider hiring an extra person.
The question is figuring out if a shorter work week could be beneficial to your business. Some European countries are experimenting with 4-day workweeks. Post-Covid, the parameters of what constitutes a working day are very different.
Working from home leads to an increase in flexi-working. Flexi-working can be advantageous for your company, depending on how you’re structured. You can have staff members available at different times of the day. You can keep top employees happy by allowing them more autonomy with their schedules. You can even find the best working times for your individual team members to maximise productivity and efficiency overall.
The average working week in the UK is just under 40 hours. But in a post-pandemic world, the working landscape is changing hugely. How you design job positions in your company going forward is completely up to you. Perhaps a 30-35hour work week could unlock a new level of efficiency in your business. Quality of life is a huge factor in employee satisfaction.
Whatever you choose to do, ensure that you are at the very least keeping track of your employee’s work time. You can use online time tracking software to help you do this. Then you’ll know what’s working and what’s not.
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