Publicans are increasingly worried about the pressures of the job, with almost 80% reporting that they are ‘concerned’ at the shortage of free time they have.

A quarter of those polled said they worked over 60 hours a week and a worrying 10% said they worked over 100 hours. Over 40% said they had just one morning or afternoon off work and 32% stated they had one day free. Only 16% had more than one day of free time every week.

The findings come as part of M&C’s sister title the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s latest leisure survey, which quizzed licensees on how much free time they get and how they chose to spend it.

The survey demonstrates how tough the trade can be on publicans, who have faced difficult economic conditions and increasingly demanding consumers over recent years.

Most of those polled chose to spend their free time watching TV, with eating and drinking out emerging as a close second. The results also revealed that licensees could be doing more to support their fellow operators as 42% said they would visit an independent restaurant rather than a local or destination pub when eating out.

Is it really all work and no play licensees?

Licensees know all too well how demanding running a pub can be. But new figures revealed in the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s latest leisure survey suggest the majority of publicans are concerned about how much free time they have each week and the possible impact on their health.

Almost 65% of those surveyed said they didn’t get enough exercise and added that they were worried about their fitness. The figures are a particular cause of concern after scientists found earlier this month that people working over 55 hours who don’t exercise regularly are at an increased risk of suffering from a stroke. The EU Working Time Directive gives people the right to limit their working time to 48 hours a week-far below the 60+ hours worked by a quarter of those surveyed.

When asked to rate the quality of their free time on a scale of one to five (with one being poor and five great) more than a quarter said theirs only merited a two. Even holidays weren’t sacred, with over half expecting to be contacted about the pub during their break.

Liz Hore, who runs the multi-award winning Victoria Inn in Salcombe, says the figures come as no surprise.

“I’ve never had a job that leaved me so little free time. This is my 7th year as a licensee and I am still amazed at how many hours we do and what takes up our time.

“Following complete and utter exhaustion, my husband and I have tried in the last few months to have at least one day whole day off a week-but it often doesn’t happen and that is most likely because of a staffing issue, like someone going sick or a technical problem.

“I have a big pub with a good staff structure including a general manager, two assistant managers and a great team, but even with all that in place there can still be issues with having time off.”

However, Hore also stressed that working long hours and having limited leisure time is a sign of the care and dedication licensees put into their businesses.

“We put our heart and soul into it, and that means long hours to make it a success. But it also means finding a happy medium, making time for each other and working as a team to ensure our business stays strong and thrives.”

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmons agreed that results serve as a remainder of the amount of effort licensees are willing to put it to ensure they have a successful pub, but told licensees that there are ways to cut down on the heavy work load.

“It’s a reminder of just how hard people work in the trade and how all-consuming having a pub can be. Whilst it isn’t easy, I think it is important to have back up in place, so you can have a break. Work-life balance is important. It also shows the importance of training and staff development so in a small business there are others you can rely on and trust when you aren’t there.”

Employing staff who can step up and carry the burden whilst licensees take much-needed time off is vital for the health and well-being of the industry. In this month’s MA300 feature Susie Clarke, licensee at the award-winning the Grafton, urges the trade to make the most of the talent already in their businesses. Licensees need to look at their teams, decide who has potential and encourage them to step up and share the workload. Taking the time and effort to develop staff will ensure licensees feel comfortable leaving the pub, whether that’s for a week’s holiday somewhere sunny or an extra day off each week.

With consumer confidence on the rise, increased quality of pub food and a real buzz around beer, the hard work of many licensees will begin to pay dividends.