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Work hours getting longer, survey finds

Companies concerned about work-home balance

peopleIt's not your imagination -- you are spending more time at work than you used to.

That's one of the findings of a new survey from global professional services company Towers Watson and WorldatWork, an international association of human resource professionals.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of U.S. respondents reported that employees have been working more hours over the past three years. More than half (53%) expect this trend to continue over the next three years. Additionally, about one in three (31%) companies said their employees have been using less of their vacation or personal time off over the past three years.

The survey also found that more than half (56%) of U.S. companies are concerned about the long-term effects that changes they made during the recession will have on their employees’ ability to maintain a healthy balance between work and their personal lives. And more U.S. employers are becoming concerned about employee productivity (39%) and their employees’ willingness to take risks (37%). As a result, almost two-thirds (66%) of respondents have made significant changes in the HR area — reward and talent management strategies, organizational structure, job evaluation process and competencies — and many expect to continue to do so.

“In the short run, having employees work extra hours can increase productivity, but in the long run, extended hours can negatively affect employee well-being and retention,” said Laurie Bienstock, North America leader of rewards consulting at Towers Watson. “Employees at many organizations are already suffering from change fatigue. As a result, when the labor market does recover, companies can expect a sharp increase in voluntary turnover, especially if they do not address employee concerns, and deliver reward and talent management programs more effectively.”

“Employees generally don't mind doing more with less especially when economic conditions are tough," said Ryan Johnson, CCP, Vice President of Research for WorldatWork. "But when this drags into multiple years, and they start to hear anecdotes of recovery, they become less understanding. At that point, the entire employee value proposition is crucial to retention."

The survey also found that U.S. companies are having difficulty finding and keeping critical-skill workers.

“Although economic conditions have improved and hiring rates have increased modestly since 2009, companies are experiencing difficulties finding and recruiting employees with critical skills,” said Laura Sejen, global head of rewards consulting at Towers Watson. “Companies are taking longer to fill these positions, and more of them are open. There is clearly a greater-than-normal mismatch between the skills employers seek and those that are available in the marketplace. In short, despite the overall weakness in the job market, companies need a more appealing offering to attract critical-skill employees.”

About the Survey

The 2011 North American Towers Watson Talent Management and Rewards Survey was conducted in May and June of 2011, and includes responses from 218 companies in the United States and 98 companies in Canada. The participants represent a broad range of industries.

About Towers Watson

Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW) is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. The company offers solutions in the areas of employee benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Towers Watson has 14,000 associates around the world and is located on the web at towerswatson.com.

About WorldatWork

WorldatWork (worldatwork.org) is a global human resource association focused on compensation, benefits, work/life and integrated total rewards to attract, motivate and retain a talented workforce. Founded in 1955, WorldatWork provides a network of more than 30,000 members in 100 countries with training, certification, research, conferences and community. It has offices in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Washington, D.C.

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