How does working time affect subjective well-being?: British evidence

Andy Charlwood, The York Management School - The University of York

Andy Charlwood

Co Authors
David Angrave

Working Time, Job Satisfaction, Subjective Well-Being

Given the dramatic increase in underemployment in the UK labour market since 2008, and continuing UK political debates about whether working-time should be regulated, it is important to understand the effect of mismatches between employees’ actual and preferred hours on their well-being. Studies of working-time mismatch have already been conducted in both the USA (Reynolds & Aletraris 2010) and Australia (Wooden et al 2009), finding that hours mismatch has a significant impact upon the job and life satisfaction of employees, but no longitudinal studies have investigated the impact of hours mismatch within the UK from a longitudinal perspective. Therefore this paper analyses the impact of a mismatch between actual and preferred hours of work on job satisfaction, life satisfaction and the GHQ-12 measure of affect using both the full BHPS panel from 1992 and waves 1 and 2 of Understanding Society. The results of fixed effects estimates suggest that there is a subjective well-being penalty for both long hours (>47 hours a week) and working part-time if there is a mismatch between actual and preferred hours worked. Neither long nor short hours of work in themselves predict job or life dissatisfaction, the critical issue is whether there is mismatch between actual and preferred working time. We then extend our analysis by investigating how employees respond to a working time mismatch – do they adjust their hours, their preferences or do they remain mismatched? For those employees who remain mismatched, do their satisfaction levels adapt to the mismatch or do lower levels of satisfaction persist?

Reynolds, J. & Aletraris, L. (2010) Mostly Mismatched With a Chance of Settling: Tracking Work Hour Mismatches in the United States, Work and Occupations, 37:476-511

Wooden, M., Warren, D. & Drago, R. (2009) Working Time Mismatch and Subjective Well-being, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 47:147–179