Work Toll Revealed on National Go Home on Time Day
20 November 2013 at 10:04 am
Problems getting enough work, breaking back into the workforce or getting a break from overwork are taking their toll on millions of Australian workers, according to the organisers of National Go Home on Time Day.
Wednesday, November 20 is the fifth annual Go Home on Time Day, an initiative of The Australia Institute and Not for Profit depression organisation, beyondblue, and the organisers have released new research called Hard to Get a Break?
New research found that work stress is making Australians sick and leading to less productive and enjoyable workplaces.
“Whether employees are overworked, underworked or out of work, millions are feeling stressed and their mental health and general health is suffering as a consequence,” the research found.
The research survey explores the reasons Australians are struggling to achieve a healthy work-life balance and the impacts this is having on mental health and workplace environments.
More than half of the respondents to the survey (52 per cent) did not take their full leave entitlements in 2012. Australian workers are stockpiling their annual leave, accruing 128 million days in annual leave – or more than 350,000 years – of holidays in 2012.
The survey found a strong correlation between work-related stress and not taking leave breaks. Respondents who did not take all their annual leave in 2012 were markedly more likely to report having negative feelings about work: 39 per cent felt stressed about work; 28 per cent felt anxious; 24 per cent were worried and 21 per cent were overwhelmed.
Taking a daily lunch break also seems to be becoming a thing of the past, the research found. Some 3.8 million Australian workers routinely don’t take a lunch break, with one in two of them saying it’s because they are “too busy”.
This report also finds that returning to the workforce after a lengthy break – for example, to act as a carer – is more difficult when you’re older.
A large majority of respondents (63 per cent) report that they, or someone they know, have been out of the workforce for more than three months in the past two years. One third has experienced this themselves.
A large percentage of young people (53 per cent) say the reason they are out of the workforce is because they cannot find a job, while the top reason for those aged 55–64 is sickness or ill-health.
One in four respondents who were out of work identified age discrimination as the main barrier to workforce re-entry. This increases with age – 41 per cent of those in the 55–64 age group and 66 per cent of those over 65 identified this barrier.
The youngest and oldest age groups, however, are less inclined to take a pay cut to return to work. One in five people over 65 (19 per cent) and one in four of 17–24 year olds (26 per cent) say they would consider taking a substantial pay cut compared to an average 44 per cent across the other age groups.
“The findings of this survey clearly indicate that involuntary time out of the workforce is predominantly a negative experience for most people. Loss of confidence, depression and anxiety were the most commonly reported experiences as a result of time out of work, after financial worries,” report author Prue Cameron said.
The paper also explores the experiences of the “overworked” and the “underworked”.
Of those who feel overworked, one in four report anxiety, 3.3 million experience loss of sleep and 50 per cent would like to spend more time with their family.
Meanwhile, 1.1 million Australians found involuntary time out of the workforce demoralising and one in five experience anxiety due to their time out of the workforce.
“While there is no single solution for a problem as diverse and deep seated as the inability of the labour market to deliver the hours of work desired by the population, there is a range of partial solutions that can both reduce the nature and extent of the mismatch and mitigate the adverse impacts.
“Policy-makers often talk about the economic burden of an ageing population yet it is clear from our survey that many older workers want to work, but are ignored because they are considered too old. This has both a significant human and economic toll,” Cameron said.
The research examined the experiences of the “overworked” (those who would like to work fewer hours) and the “underworked” (those struggling to enter the workforce or those who want to work more hours).
About 250,000 Australians are not working due to caring responsibilities, with four times as many women as men providing the care;
One in four employees checks work emails and answers work calls outside of work hours;
3.8 million Australians routinely don’t take a lunch break;
One in two Australian workers didn’t take their full annual leave entitlements last year;
Unpaid overtime equates to $110 billion or 7.4 per cent of GDP;
The amount of unpaid overtime done by casual workers has increased fivefold since 2009.
“The casualisation of the workforce clearly has Australian workers worried about their job security, so they’re agreeing to do more unpaid hours because they think it will help them keep their job,” Cameron said.
Organisations which have registered to participate in Go Home On Time Day include Great Place to Work, NRMA, Murdoch University, Adobe, UnitingCare Australia and several unions including the ACTU, NTEU, ASU and Unions NSW.
“Go Home on Time Day is a light-hearted way to start important workplace conversations about a range of issues including work hours, leave, lunch breaks and how to manage stress,” she said.
“The aim of the day is to improve workplace culture in the longer term, rather than for just one day of the year.”
beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell said all the people in their latest research that don’t take lunch or holiday breaks and who are working increasingly long hours, need to get out of the office on time today.
“It’s wonderful people are committed to getting the job done, but when people are pushing themselves to meet deadlines and taking on extra work, their productivity and sense of wellbeing are likely to be affected,” she said.
Carnell said in view of the latest research, managers and business owners should think about tapping into that wealth of experience that is not being utilised.
“Giving consideration to employing older people, who may only want to work part-time, could be a cost-effective way to help lighten the load of those working harder and longer, and help make the workplace mentally healthy and improve productivity,” she said.
The Executive Director of The Australia Institute Dr Richard Denniss said it was exciting that more than 350 businesses and organisations have registered to participate and will be promoting the importance of work-life balance to employees.
A copy of Hard to get a break? is available to download from www.tai.org.au