Working hours: the importance of a fair work-life balance

24 July 2017

tired overworked nurse

When you are running a busy clinic that opens six days a week, perhaps with late opening hours on some days, managing your staffing rota may not be a straightforward task. You may want your most-requested clinician to be available for patients when needed, or your clinic manager to be on-hand to keep every day running like clockwork, but you can’t expect your employees to work every hour under the sun. If you overwork your staff members and they become tired and unhappy, your business may suffer, too.


What hours of work are reasonable?


Average weekly working hours vary from industry to industry, but there are government guidelines that apply to all workers in the UK. Many office-based businesses may work a five-day week, and many clinic-based businesses may work six, but both office workers and clinic staff have the same right to take rest breaks, take annual leave, and to work a reasonable number of hours.

The HSE’s Working Time Regulations state that the maximum number of working hours is limited to an average of 48 per week. Employees over the age of 18 may choose to opt out of this, but employers cannot force their employees to opt out. Employees also have the right to have at least one day off per week, 5.6 weeks’ annual leave, 11 hours of consecutive rest in any 24-hour period, and a 20-minute rest break when working a shift longer than six hours.

These guidelines were not designed to be followed to the letter by every business in Britain, but rather they set out the minimum leave that every worker should receive, and the maximum time it is reasonable to ask someone to work. Employers are free to offer more leave and a shorter working week if they wish, and many do choose to schedule staff to work a week of 40 hours, rather than the maximum 48, with two days off per week.

Consider the point that most people also have their own household tasks to attend to outside of work, so they have to make time for that personal work as well as leisure time. If your employee gets home late every night and only has one day a week to herself, then her leisure time is likely to be limited.


Tiredness, concentration, and safety


Academic research over recent years has suggested that overwork can be extremely detrimental to business. Overwork, and the stress and exhaustion it can cause, has become a major cause of employee absenteeism. Studies show that in some instances reducing working hours can increase productivity, and there is little or nothing to be gained by pushing workers into longer working weeks.

If your practitioners work long shifts, they are on their feet for many hours each day, they have to have the focus to perform treatments to a high standard, and the energy to stay smiling for their next patient, then making each of them work the maximum hours possible may not end up being as productive as you’d hoped. If employees become tired or miss out on personal time, their work may suffer, and the team may start to become less efficient, or mistakes could be made.

In a clinical environment, there are extra health and safety concerns to take into account, both for your staff and your patients. An overtired administrator may forget to send a booking confirmation email, which may cause an inconvenience. If they make a mistake entering key details on a patient’s medical records, it may become a major issue. An aesthetician may be too tired to be cheerful for her patients, and so the patient journey may not be up to your usual standards. If she is so overtired that she burns a patient during a laser treatment, you will have a bigger problem on your hands.

If your business is focused on quality rather than quantity, then think about your employees’ work-life balance. Fresh, alert, and healthy employees are more likely to produce the results you want.


Staff happiness and loyalty


Though you can’t expect every member of your team to stay working at your clinic forever, your staff members are more likely to stay with you if they feel happy and feel appreciated by their employer. If they feel they are being overworked on a regular basis, or that their employer does not recognise that they are tired or stressed, then this will not encourage them to be loyal to your business.

If you run a busy clinic and employees are working long, hectic days, make sure you take the time to check how they are doing. Check that rotas have been managed fairly, check that breaks are being taken, and take the time to get feedback from your staff.


Planning schedules and making rotas fair


Saturday may be a popular day for your customer base, but it is also likely to be a day your staff would like to have to themselves, too. Though you can’t simply close your clinic all weekend, your employees will appreciate it if rotas allow for them to have some Saturdays off. Similarly, you may be able to manage diaries so practitioners don’t have to work every single late evening that you are open. Though you may operate in an industry where many workers are required to work outside of a Monday to Friday, nine to five set-up, so weekend and evening shifts should perhaps not be a surprise to staff, we live in a society where much of our leisure activities are scheduled for weekends and evenings. Don’t deprive your staff of having a life outside of work.

Some employees may wish to work as many hours as possible, perhaps to try to earn more, because they think it will look impressive, or because they love their job, but it is your responsibility to make sure that staff member don’t go overboard with overtime. It is beneficial for all workers to have time outside of the working day to relax and recharge, time to spend with family and friends, or on personal pastimes. Though it may be helpful in covering shifts, make sure that your employees aren’t pushing themselves too hard.


Think about yourself


Leading by example doesn’t mean you should work so hard that you run yourself into the ground. If you are too tired to think clearly, or to have the energy to inspire a team, then you are unlikely to be the best leader for your workforce.



Maximum weekly working hours (UK:, 2016)

The Working Time Regulations (UK: Health and Safety Executive, 2017)

Working hours (UK: ACAS Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, 2017)

Sarah Green Carmichael, The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies (US: Harvard Business Review, 2015)

Proof that you should get a life (UK: The Economist, 2014)


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