I can't come out, I'm doing my homework

14 years old and sick of homework? Get used to it, says Emma Cook, you'll be doing it for the rest of your life

Last week Tony Blair recommended at least 90 minutes homework a night for all secondary school children. They should try to enjoy any spare evenings while they still can, because "homework", the latest educational buzzword, isn't something they can look forward to ditching along with stodgy school dinners and cold showers when they come of age. Adults are already rapidly adapting to the idea that to hold on to their jobs in an era where down-sizing dominates, taking work home after eight hours plus in the office is a necessity.

A recent survey, carried out by the Society of Telecom Executives among more than 2,500 managerial staff, discovered that 60 per cent of respondents worked outside office hours. On average they completed an extra four hours a week, either during their work journey or at home.

So forget the cosy image of a British household where mum, dad, and two kids sit down for a night in front of the box after their evening meal. Picture, instead, a more industrious scene: mum catching up on client details because she spent the whole day in meetings, dad dictating action points, teenage son and daughter swotting for tomorrow's assessments. It's a pretty grim picture for those of us who enjoy any sort of dividing line between office work and private life.

At least for schoolchildren homework is monitored and controlled; an integrated element of their course work. For adults it tends to be an additional responsibility; a spill over from office life that they can't control. Professor Ben Fletcher, from the University of Hertfordshire, specialises in work stress and explains, "A recent study has shown that the more homework you set children, the better they do academically. What you find in the work sphere is the complete opposite."

Take Colin, a 42-year-old marketing director for a London publishing company. He describes his hefty homework load as a vicious circle. "I take between eight to 10 hours of reading and report writing back with me most weeks. If I don't do it at home it piles up and I find myself coming into work earlier and earlier then leaving later." The worst aspect for Colin is self-discipline. "In a family setting the last thing I actually want to do is open my briefcase."

Instead, he spends two or three days a week racked with guilt throughout the evening, unable to switch off. "I keep thinking about it, convincing myself, 'I'll do it after supper', then, 'I'll do it when the kids are in bed', then, 'I'll start when my wife's asleep.' Which is usually what happens. I'll work from midnight until half two because I feel so angry at the idea of slogging away while my family are still up and around."

According to psychologist Stephen Palmer, director of the Centre For Stress Management in London, this type of guilt is extremely common. "It's something I never saw in the early Eighties but it's everywhere now. Lots of people I see bring work home, leave it there and get so stressed and upset if they don't do it. Some people wake up at 4am knowing they should have done extra work and feeling bad if they haven't."

But there's another type of homeworker; the highly motivated one who never feels guilt and simply gets on with the job - at home and in the office. These tend to be high-flying achievers at the top of their tree. Judith Gershon, in her late thirties, is a senior associate partner in a large law firm and mother of three young children. "I generally take things home that I need to concentrate on undisturbed. Last night, for example, I worked from 8.30pm till midnight preparing action points from a meeting to delegate to a colleague first thing in the morning." Does she feel guilty if the briefcase stays by the door? "That never happens," she says crisply. "What I takes home gets done." She adds, "But I do resent it - and I perceive myself to be a boring person. Which is something that drives me to keep free time for myself and my family at weekends."

Most normal people must dread the prospect of homework - it was bad enough as a schoolchild - yet, as Ros Taylor, a psychologist who runs Plus Consulting, points out, even more worryingly there are many who actually relish this extra-curricular activity. Why? "For some it's an all-pervasive habit. They just love working and prefer doing it to anything else."

Iain Kennedy, 50, is managing director of an electronics company and a father of three. He admits there is little division between his work and personal time. On average, he takes home about 20 hours of extra work weekly - on top of 70 to 80 hours in the office. "I spend a long time thinking about long-term strategies," he says. "Even when I'm in my car I'm on auto-pilot, dictating thoughts into a Dictaphone." He agrees there should be more balance in his life but quite clearly enjoys it anyway. "If you didn't get a buzz from it, you'd go bananas."

According to Fletcher, zealous workers like Kennedy would benefit from an extra dimension; a sphere that's completely separate to work. "Research has shown that the wider your interests are, the more you're going to contribute to the workplace. We find people who work a lot at home are less efficient in the office ... they become tired and dull and that's amplified back into the workplace." The message is clear - too much homework is bad for your well-being; as an activity it should be kept to an absolute minimum. Schoolchildren would rejoice at such news if it only referred to them; whether grown-ups take any notice is another question.

Suggested Topics
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Nursery assistants required in Cambridge

    £10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

    Year 4 Teacher

    £20000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wo...

    English Teacher Thetford Secondary

    £110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: An Academy based in Thetfor...

    Year 1 Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work at ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week