Australians are stressed and overworked

Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun

Australians are stressed, overworked and reluctant to take holidays, according to the latest Australian Work Life Index (AWALI) report. The index measures how work affects quality of life for working Australians.

The proportion of people dissatisfied with their work–life balance has increased over the last three years, with the majority of Australians reporting that work is negatively impacting on the rest of their lives, causing stress and less time for themselves, their family and friends.

One quarter of full-time working women and one fifth of full-time working men feel dissatisfied with their work–life balance, and two thirds of full-time women and half of full-time men frequently feel rushed and pressed for time. Seven out of 10 working mothers report almost always feeling rushed and under pressure.

More than 20 per cent of Australian workers spend 50 hours or more a week at work and 60 per cent do not take regular holidays. Working longer hours leads to lower work–life scores, higher absenteeism and lower productivity.

Those who work the longest hours include workers in construction and mining, health, education, retail, hospitality, and managerial and professional workers. Three-quarters of people working long hours say they would like to work fewer hours, even if that means less income, and most workers would take two extra weeks of holiday over a pay rise.

Sixty per cent of workers stockpile their leave even though not taking a holiday is associated with lower work–life satisfaction. In most cases, work pressure is what prevents them from taking their holidays.

Women in full-time work suffer worse work–life interference than their male counterparts, and working mothers are particularly hard hit as they attempt to juggle the demands of work and family.

Poor work–life outcomes are associated with poorer health, more use of prescription medications, more stress and more dissatisfaction with close personal relationships. For the sake of employees’ health, employers need to demonstrate more flexibility and develop work–life friendly practices. Managers and leaders also need to increase leave opportunities and encourage employees to take holidays, and set an example by taking leave themselves.

Josie Chun

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