Work-life balance: How does Australia compare?


For starters, we are treating our employers as charities, donating a total of $110 billion of free overtime to them each year. Progressive think tank The Australia Institute also found that, among 1000 people surveyed, almost half are pressured into working longer hours, and over a quarter experience job insecurity. Four out of 10 people say their work-life balance is worse than it was five years ago, while just 29 per cent said it had improved.

The OECD Better Life Index also paints a grim picture: Australia ranks 30 out of 36 surveyed countries for work-life balance, below the UK, Russia and Norway, among others. Interestingly, Spain ranks first in work-life balance with an average of 16.1 hours per day spent devoted to leisure and personal care, including eating and sleeping.

In comparison, Russia ranks 16th for work-life balance with 15 hours spent on leisure and personal care. However, Russia reports the lowest rate of employees working overtime with only 0.2 per cent saying they work more than 50 hours a week on average. This is in stark contrast to the OECD index average of 13 per cent.

Studies make a clear connection between work pressure and depression, anxiety and relationship breakdowns.

So why do we put up with it? Tight economic conditions are a major factor. Three-quarters of people are unwilling to accept lower pay for a better work-life balance. Most of all, employers are seen as wielding too much power, and employees don’t want to put their careers in the firing line.

Restoring the balance

While we have some catching up to do, awareness of the problem is increasing. One Australian company switches its phones over to voicemail at 5pm, and disables employees’ email accounts when they are on holiday. And in response to recent tragic events in the mining industry, there have been calls for a new code of practice that encourages more family-friendly work rosters.

There are some simple steps you can take to create a better work-life balance for yourself and colleagues:

  • Set clear priorities: Is it important or simply marked urgent?
  • Introduce flexibility: Can a job be performed from home? Can it be shared?
  • Take time off: Avoid saving up annual leave, especially if you are at risk of burnout.
  • Get out of the office: Family-friendly outdoor activities will help workers unwind and de-stress.
  • Self-audit: Are you a workaholic? Check whether the seven signs of workaholism apply to you.

A healthy work-life balance is a winning strategy for both staff and the workplace, promoting safety, employee retention and productivity. More and more workers are prioritising work-life balance and demanding their companies do the same. Discover how generational shifts are influencing work-life balance with our free SlideShare.

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