Worker hours intervention

Life balance

By Kate Southam

Most Australians are either working too much or too little according to new research by The Australia Institute.

After surveying 1700 people across the country the institute found only one in five people were working the hours they want. Of those surveyed in the last week, 50 per cent want to work fewer hours and 60 per cent want to work more hours.

According to the institute, employers have come to expect employees to donate hours with the result that Australians are now donating up to $70 billion a year worth of time to their organisation.

The survey also found:

  • Of those working overtime, 81 per cent wanted to work less hours.
  • Those working 50 hours a week or more want to work 13.5 hours less a week – almost the equivalent of two working days.
  • People working less than 15 hours a week want to work an extra 8.7 hours on average – just over a normal work day.

People caring for a disabled family member report being especially time poor with most wanting to work six hours less per week.

Of the carers surveyed, 75 per cent report feeling rushed either “often” or “always” and 50 per cent claim work prevented them from looking after someone in the past week.

The institute claims that creating a standard work week of 30-35 hours would generate an additional 390,000 jobs as well as promote better quality of life.

The survey results are part of ongoing research to promote Go Home On Time Day on November 24.

The first part of the research, which was released on October 27, found work was preventing people spending time with family, exercising, seeing a doctor or eating healthy meals.

The Institute’s executive director Dr Richard Denniss wants the government to put the brakes on work hours.

He says inflexible work arrangements were causing “unnecessarily stressful family lives, unproductive work lives and higher than necessary rates of unemployment.”

“Governments need to follow the European lead and introduce caps on hours,” he told media.

“Employers need to reduce their reliance on unpaid overtime and employees need to pay more attention to the number of hours they spend in the workplace and talk to both their colleagues and their managers about their desired hours of work,” Dr Denniss says.

Organisations that have signed up to Go Home On Time Day to date include beyondblue, VicHealth, the Finance Sector Union, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Health Promotion Association, Oxfam and the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance.

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