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Friday25 July 2014

Dear Matthew: Can I cut down on my time at work?

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BD’s agony uncle on the inevitability of long hours

Question: I was working flat out at the end of the year, so I made a new year’s resolution to stress less and rein in my hours. However, this week I have already worked late three nights. I am angry with myself and embarrassed that I cannot keep my intentions up.

Matthew Turner

Matthew Turner

Answer: Long hours are the norm for a lot of architects. Although some offices are less demanding, the assumption that contracted hours are a minimum goes with the territory. The premise is that being an architect is a vocation, which demands commitment beyond the line of duty. Whether you agree or think that a job is a job, there are moments in your career when putting in extra time is an unwritten part of the contract.

Architects aren’t the only ones — try speaking to a corporate lawyers about long hours. But what can rankle is that fact that the graft in other professions is a stepping stone to better pay.

If you think you are working inefficiently, then some self telling-off is in order. But if the job simply demands long hours, that may not be something you can affect easily. Given the realities of the job market, I would not work to rule, but do your best, and make sure you do what is necessary. Above all, don’t beat yourself up over breaking your resolution.

It should be a reminder, not another source of stress.

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION?

Email dearmatthew@ubm.com
To ask a question, share your views or read more advice, go to bdonline.co.uk/dearmatthew

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Sorry, I think the answer from Matthew Turner is extremely unhelpful. To say that a culture of long hours is 'the norm', and then justify this stance by comparing architects with (vastly better paid) corporate lawyers is pretty galling. The culture of long hours of unpaid overtime is perpetuated by the establishment's acceptance of it, as you demonstrate by saying it 'goes with the territory'. Sorry, but articles such as this should be advocating fairer remuneration, and a healthier work life balance.
    TH

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  • Andy Matthews

    Regardless of the discussion on long hours culture if you do really need to work more than can be done in eight hours then I think there are smarter ways of doing it.

    I would also question how effective you are when you work late. If you're really really head down working then working past 9pm is pretty much impossible. Then you get in late the next day and you're less effective and the cycle continues.

    I found that when super busy for me it was better to get in early, concentrate from 7.30 til 10am then have a break, work through til lunch another proper break - away from the desk. Get back to it then leave on time. You've still completed far more hours and probably been more effective as it's quieter in the mornings and less distractions.

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  • Dear Matthew: your advice is flawed. Actually, as you ought to know, working such long hours, especially when no payment is given, is probably illegal - even in the botched UK version of the EU Working Time Directive, according to which

    (a) Normal working hours should be set out in the employment contract or written statement of employment.
    (b) Any architect who wants to work more than 48 hours a week, can choose to opt out of the 48-hour limit, but this must be voluntary and must be put in in writing, and it cannot be enshrined as part of any agreement with the whole workforce.

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