Go Home On Time Day throws spotlight on work-life balance

Nov 16, 2015

Australians work some of the longest hours in the developed world. On average, full time workers clock up more than 43 hours every week – which can come at a considerable cost to their personal lives and mental health.

Depending on what we’re doing and where we’re at in our careers, some of us may find it satisfying and rewarding to put in long hours at work. However, research by beyondblue shows that 50 per cent of employees would enjoy spending more time with their families if they worked less. One in four are experiencing workplace stress, with an estimated 3.3 million Australians suffering sleepless nights as a result. Heavy, unrelenting workloads that spill into personal time and cause stress can contribute to anxiety and depression.

Now in its seventh year, Go Home On Time Day aims to get everyone in the workplace talking about these far-reaching effects of toiling long hours. On Wednesday 18 November, The Australia Institute is encouraging everyone to down tools and knock off at their rostered time.

Making it happen – three tips to ensure you’re out the door on time

  1. Plan out your day before you start – If you’ve already resigned yourself to staying late, you’re likely to be less productive during the day. Prioritise your urgent tasks first thing in the morning and be strict with your to-do list to make sure you get away on time.
  2. Eat lunch away from your desk – Although it may sound counterintuitive if you’re trying to cram as much as possible into your working day, taking a lunch break will help you power through your afternoon.
  3. Do something fun after work – Meeting a friend for dinner or scheduling an exercise class (getting you double points for busting stress) will force you to leave on time.

You can also check out these Heads Up tips and strategies for managing your stress levels at work.

Better for employees, better for the business

beyondblue’s research also found that the majority (60 per cent) of Australians working extra hours do so in order to meet the expectations of their job. A key starting point for employers and employees is to discuss and align expectations so that everyone’s clear on workloads, priorities and deadlines, and the resources available to complete tasks.

Some employers may fall into the trap of trying to ‘do more with less’ for the benefit of their bottom line, which can mean ramping up the workloads of their existing workforce. While this strategy may deliver short-term returns, it’s ultimately unsustainable as the productivity of overworked, stressed employees tends to take a nose-dive.

The organisation also faces the increased costs absenteeism, presenteeism and compensation claims associated with untreated mental health conditions, which set Australian businesses back $10.9 billion every year. Factor in the time, money and knowledge lost through replacing burnt-out staff and the true costs of overwork and under-resourcing become unavoidable.

Taking the first step

The Heads Up action plan tool can help you identify stressors (such as heavy workloads) affecting your employees, and take steps to reduce these. Make sure you get your team’s input about what they find difficult and what sorts of initiatives would work – they’re likely to have some good ideas.

Ensuring all employees enjoy a healthy work-life balance is clearly about much more than a single event, but going home on time this Wednesday is a reminder that everyone can contribute towards a mentally healthy workplace – one day at a time.

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Go home on time day

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