How 9-to-5 turned into 8-to-8
With Sunday trading laws set to be relaxed further, what effect will this have on the UK’s long working hours culture – and what do you need to understand when you ask employees to do an extra stint?
Your favourite TV show has just gone to commercials and you’re off to get a cup of tea, but not before that latest advert catches your eye and you reach for the phone to get in touch before you forget, again.
This situation must have played itself out a thousand times over up and down the country, but no-one spares a thought for the faceless figure on the other end of the telephone still working at 8pm on a Friday night when they pick up the phone and start dialling.
Likewise, no one thinks of the long-suffering 24-hour repairman or emergency plumber when that household disaster rears its ugly head, or the supermarket delivery driver handing over your bags of groceries well past dusk.
But this consumer need for immediate access and response is just a sign of the times as the working day moves ever closer to a 24 hour, never-ending cycle. And it’ll get more profound with today’s announcement that elected mayors and councils will be able to change Sunday trading laws if they think it will boost economic activity.
Research from alldayPA has revealed that the traditional nine-till-five working day has now moved to start at 8am and run till 8pm.
This has been driven by a 41% increase in the amount of time being spent dealing with customers outside of traditional working hours over the last two years.
“Customer expectations are changing radically and eight-till-eight opening hours are seen as the norm rather than the exception,” said Reuben Singh, alldayPA chief executive. “Businesses advertising telephone services should expect calls whenever customers see a listing or advert, whatever time of day, or night, that is.”
Legal firms have seen a particularly marked increase in the volume of out-of-hours calls they receive as adverts offering everything from personal injury claims to reclaiming mis-sold PPI increasingly run round the clock on TV and radio.
Who’s working the longest – the biggest increases to out-of-hours calls
- Legal firms – up 80%
- E-commerce – up 60%
- IT businesses – up 38%
- SMEs – up 32%
For smaller companies that cannot afford overseas call centres or to employ shift workers, this represents a problem for staff and customers.
Singh said: “For smaller, fast-growing businesses, the eight-till-eight customer culture presents a real risk, both in terms of the well-being of entrepreneurs and bosses, but also a risk to the quality of customer service that is offered.”
Another driver behind the rise of queries outside of traditional office hours is the immediacy of social media and customers taking to the web to air their grievances.
More than half (52%) of customers expect a social media query to be resolved within 30 minutes, but this expectation is only met by 24% of companies.
AlldayPA highlighted clothing retailer Next as the best at handling social media queries, with an average Facebook message response time of 28 minutes – only just within the customer’s limit of acceptability.
As well as dealing with the operational challenges of round-the-clock service, managers also need to consider their responsibilities to employees.
Working out of hours: legal considerations
- Rest breaks – employees must be given 11 hours off between shifts, meaning if they finish work at 8pm they shouldn’t be expected back at their desks before 7am the next day
- The 48 hour week – the EU’s working time directive means UK employees cannot work more than 48 hours in a week – unless they opt-out from the initiative
- Night working – employees regularly working more than three hours between midnight and 5am come under special regulations, requiring work to be limited to no more than 8 hours in a 24 hour period, regular health check-ups for all night workers and specific record keeping for the employer.
Having a problem managing staff working outside traditional hours? Find out more about the CMI’s course on Managing Difficult Staff Issues.