The long work week


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The long work week

Having a job can be rewarding on many fronts - first and foremost, it provides an income to meet our material needs. But it's not just about the dollars we make when it comes to job satisfaction. Finding the right balance between life inside and outside of the work environment is increasingly important for maintaining a happy and healthy lifestyle.

While on one hand, a job can give us a sense of purpose and identity, working long hours and taking on a heavy work load can have adverse effects - impacting negatively on a physical and psychological wellbeingi.

Too many hours spent at work can culminate in a range of health problems, including fatigue, headaches, anxiety and depression.

Australian working hours: a snap shot

More and more Australian households are spending time in paid work, and this may be to the detriment of our healthii. According to the ABS report, Measures of Australian Progress, 2010, the average weekly hours worked by full-time workers in 2009 was 39.7 hoursiii. While this figure falls within the standard 35-40 hour week, which is applied to many industralised countries, ABS data also revealed that working hours varied substantially between different industries.

Owner managers (people with their own business) who worked full-time hours were found to have a tendency of working more hours than those who were employees. While full-time employees (excluding owner managers of incorporated enterprises) were working an average of 40 hours per week, full-time owner managers worked on average 49 hours per weekiii.

In addition to this, the latest ABS Working Time Arrangements Survey that was conducted in November 2009 found that over 50% of people employed, over the age of 15, had no say over their start and finish timesiv. The findings also revealed that 38% of employees usually worked extra hours or overtimeiv and 37% of people had work hours that varied weekly, or they were usually required to be on call or standbyiv.

Health and lifestyle impacts

Work-related stress is the second most common compensated illness/injury in Australia, after musculoskeletal disordersi. While working long hours may be financially rewarding, excessive working hours can be detrimental to both productivity and well-being, through stress and lack of work/life balanceiii.

Job stress can come about from an array of factors including long work hours, heavy work load and job insecurity. If these stressors are left unmanaged, they can culminate in a range of physical and psychological symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, heart palpitations, anxiety, and depressioni. And importantly, it can take away from your quality time spent with family and loved ones.

According to Barbara Pocock, Professor at the University of South Australia and co-author of the recently published Time Bomb: Work, rest and play in Australia today, longer working hours is a major contributor to the lack of time parents spend with their children, particularly fathers of preschoolersii. However, most of those who work long hours actually prefer to work less, even after taking account of the impact this can have on their pay packetsii. So why is it still so difficult for us to grapple with the work-time nexus? Pocock explains that it's more than just a matter of working fewer hours. The level of flexibility we have in the work place, our choice in work hours and entitlements to paid holidays can all impact on facilitating a healthier balance between family and workii.

Don't let your work life dictate your family life.

Managing time between work and family

Australia's Fair Work Act 2009 provides employees in the national work place relations system with a legal right to request a flexible working arrangement. These arrangements can help parents manage the demands that come with looking after a young child or a child with a disability, such as picking-up and dropping-off at childcare and attending medical appointments. For more information on how to request a flexible working arrangement take a read through the Fair Work Ombudsman's guide to flexible working arrangements or visit their website at http://www.fairwork.gov.au.

Maintaining a healthy balance between work and life is important, not only for your health, but also for providing your loved ones with ongoing financial security. While working longer hours or taking on greater responsibility in the workplace may initially be rewarding, overworking can have detrimental effects on your health and work performance in the long run.

It also important to consider other factors that may impact on your family's future. With a life insurance policy , you can have a peace of mind that your family will be financially secured in the event of an accident or critical illness that renders you unable to work. Visit the Allianz website for a life insurance quote today.


i Better Health Channel, 2012, Work-related stress, State Government Victoria, http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Work-related_stress

ii Pocock, B., 2012, Grappling with the time bomb of Australia's work, rest and play, The Conversation, http://theconversation.edu.au/grappling-with-the-time-bomb-of-australias-work-rest-and-play-5330

iii Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/1370.0~2010~Chapter~Hours%20worked%20%284.3.5.5%29

iv Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Working Time Arrangements, Australia, November 2009, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/6342.0Main%20Features2November%202009?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=6342.0&issue=November%202009&num=&view