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Work Life Balance: A Failing Trend?

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|Jan 12|magazine6 min read

As far as employee happiness went in 2014, work-life balance was the buzzword (or rather phrase). And while you’d be hard-pressed to find an employer who was actively against work/life balance, it turns out its not a very well enforced idea. Also, we’re just bad at it.

A study released at the end of last year noted that Australians are donating close to $110 billion in free labour every year. Free. The Australia Institute think tank determined that four in 10 people are experiencing a crumbling in the balance between their work life and their home life, and that the average full-time wage earner puts in six hours of unpaid overtime each week, totally about $10,000 a year. The reason for this free labour? Many are worried about the insecurity of their job, as well as high expectations from higher ups that more hours are put in.

"Whether they realise it or not Australians are far more generous to their employer than they are to any charity," said executive director Richard Denniss.

What is most worrying though is the effect of stressful unpaid overtime on employees.

"Australia behind the eight ball in providing mentally healthy workplaces," said Rob Breaden, a national sales manager for a training and consulting company. At his office, longer work hours contributed to higher levels of depression and anxiety. To fix this, phones automatically switch to voicemail at the end of each workday. People are allowed to work from home, but aren’t permitted to send an email past 5pm. And when employees are on holiday, their email is disabled so they can take a true break from the grind of the office.

So what does this mean for the concept of work-life balance for 2015? Not all Australians work for a company as concerned about their employees. I’d imagine more-or-less the same of what we seen. Unless employers truly start encouraging their employees to turn off the work once they leave the building—and unless Aussie employees are willing to do so—the idea of the work-life balance will continue to be a buzzword, and not actually a viable practice by most.

Information sourced from Sydney Morning Herald.