Workers urged to readdress work-life balance

Workers urged to readdress work-life balance

When you think back on your last few months at work, when was the last time you left when you were supposed to? Or cancelled appointments with friends and family to stay behind?

Having a good work-life balance is beneficial not only for yourself, but also the organisation you're working for, so how come action isn't being taken to improve the situation?

How big is the problem?

New research from The Australia Institute suggests unpaid overtime is becoming increasingly common - and it could be taking its toll on the nation's health.

Figures show 4.9 million workers believe they haven't yet achieved a good work-life balance and have contributed to $109.6 billion of unpaid overtime. It's estimated the average full-time employee works an extra six hours a week they don't get paid for, while for part-time workers it's more like three hours per week.

From the responses, it's estimated that 3.3 million workers haven't seen any change in their work-life balance over the past five years, suggesting that action needs to be taken.

Why should employers encourage a better work-life balance?

Safe Work Australia recently called for more to be done to encourage mentally healthy workplaces across the country, which would bring all sorts of benefits. Citing data from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the group said employers are forking out almost $11 billion a year as a result of increased absenteeism.

"For every dollar spent on implementing appropriate actions to create a mentally healthy workplace, there is on average a positive return of $2.30 to the organisation," noted Michelle Baxter, Acting CEO of Safe Work Australia.

This isn't the only evidence to support the idea, as the Australian Psychological Society released its Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2013. Results showed that Australians reported higher levels of stress than they had the previous two years, with younger people found to have lower wellbeing than their older counterparts.

Financial issues were found to be the leading cause of stress, as these were identified by more than half of those questioned. Mental health issues and family concerns also ranked highly among respondents.

Who needs to take control?

One of the issues raised by The Australia Institute is who needs to take responsibility for improving people's work-life balance - the company they work for or the individuals themselves?

"Australian policymakers have failed dismally at finding solutions for what has become an enduring issue for workers. Finding ways to improve work/life balance shouldn't be the sole responsibility of individual workers," said Richard Denniss, Executive Director of The Australia Institute.

An issue that has been raised through the survey is that people don't feel they can leave work on time, in fear of what their bosses might think of them. More than a third (35 per cent) of those polled said a better work-life balance could harm their career.

What steps can be taken to rectify the problem?

If you're worried about your work-life balance and the effect it might be having on your wellbeing, it's important that you take control sooner rather than later.

Having lifestyle insurance is a good place to start, as this will eliminate some of the concern you might face if you're suddenly unable to work as a result of redundancy or injury.

You may also want to take some other practical steps towards a better working future. For example, why not decide at the start of the day what time you're going to leave work? Having this goal in place might improve your chances of being able to get out on time.

It's also a good idea to take your lunch break, as this will let you tackle the afternoon feeling more relaxed and refreshed.

Image credit: Techniker Krankenkasse