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Long hours tipping the scales of employees’ personal health

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Your personal health and work life balance can sometimes be banished to the bottom of your to-do list when it comes to work deals and deadlines. If this sounds like you, take solace: you’re not alone.

According to research from The Australia Institute, Aussie workers clock up some of the longest hours in the western world and, while more businesses are recognising the need for work life balance and encouraging flexibility in working hours, the average full time employee works an average 6.6 hours per week in overtime. If we calculate that further, that accounts for 319 hours each year, more than double annual leave requirement of 150 hours!

“Overtime is now entrenched in Australian workplaces. While we might console ourselves that our annual leave makes up for it, this is not the case. We’re working so much overtime that we’re effectively donating our annual leave entitlements back to our employers,” says executive director of The Australia Institute Dr Richard Denniss.

Ged Kearney, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, says a skewed work life balance is an issue of workplace culture.

“Long working hours and unpaid overtime are symptoms of a growing crisis of job security in Australia,” says Kearney. “Many employees are worried they will lose their job if they leave on time or take the leave they are entitled to. We need to change the attitudes of employers and ensure everyone is properly paid for the hours they put in and that their jobs are secure.”

And while working longer hours may put a dent in our home and social lives (with one in two workers stating long hours prevented them from spending enough time with family), it also contributes to our personal health.

According to their research released in November 2010, the institute found that Aussies work more than two billion hours in unpaid overtime each year, equivalent to $72 billion. Of those workers surveyed, long hours prevented 46 per cent of workers from exercising and 35 per cent found it difficult to regularly eat healthy meals.

“If people are prevented from eating healthily and exercising, this will have long-term implications for their health and ability to prevent or even manage illness,” says Melanie Walker, deputy CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia. “Ultimately it will lead to more sick days being taken, so it raises concerns for employers as well.”

Faced with such information, perhaps it’s time to reprioritise that to-do list of yours. Number one on the list? Peace of mind, a balanced life and your personal health.

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Long hours tipping the scales of employees’ personal health


Published on: Thursday, February 10, 2011

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