Working hours, work identity and subjective wellbeing

Presenter: Alita Nandi, ISER, University of Essex

Author: Alita Nandi

Co-author(s): Mark Bryan

We investigate the interplay of work identity and hours of work in determining subjective wellbeing, as measured by job satisfaction, job-related anxiety and depression, and life satisfaction. We use data from Wave 2 (that is, 2010-2011) of Understanding Society, a nationally representative longitudinal household survey of UK residents which includes direct measures of work identity and measures of subjective wellbeing. We restrict the analysis to White majority, male and female employees between the ages of 23 and 59 years. We find that for a given level of hours, having a stronger work identity is associated with higher wellbeing on most measures. Working long hours is associated with lower wellbeing and working part-time is associated with higher wellbeing, but for men hours only affect their job-related anxiety and depression and not their reported satisfaction. The relationships between hours and wellbeing are generally strengthened when controlling for identity implying that individuals sort into jobs with work hours that match their identities. Work identity partially ‘protects’ against the adverse effects of long hours working for women, but irrespective of their work identity both men and women working long hours suffer more job-related anxiety and depression than those working standard full-time hours. While the analysis is cross-sectional, the findings are robust to the inclusion of controls for personality traits and a simple check for whether individuals may report their identity so as to rationalise their work behaviour.