08 October 2014

tired woman worker leaning on buildingAustralians who regularly work evenings, nights or weekends have worse work-life balance than those who work standard weekday hours, new research from the University of South Australia’s Centre for Work + Life reveals.

The 2014 Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) survey interviewed more than 2600 Australians working across a range of industries and professions around the country and found that people who often work both nights and weekends have the worst work-life balance of all employees.

The report, The Persistent Challenge: Living, Working and Caring in Australia in 2014, found working unsocial hours – and especially Sundays – has a significant negative impact on workers’ lives.

Centre for Work + Life Acting Director and co-author of the report Dr Natalie Skinner says while most people surveyed (62 per cent) work standard weekday hours, almost 30 per cent of respondents regularly work on Saturdays and nearly 20 per cent regularly work on Sundays. Despite this, Sunday remains an important day for social and family occasions for many people.

“Regularly working Sundays has a negative impact and results in the higher work-life interference compared to those who work only Saturdays or who do not work weekends,” Dr Skinner says.

“These findings directly contest and contradict the notion that most people now operate in a 24/7 economy in which standard working hours no longer exist, and people choose to work long and non-standard hours because it suits them.

“Our research indicates many Australian men and women regularly working unsocial hours such as Sundays would prefer not to be. Quite simply, it is taking away time that is traditionally spent with family, engaging in social and community activities, or taking time for rest.”

Dr Skinner says working evenings, nights and weekends can have negative effects on workers’ health, wellbeing and family life.

“Working early mornings, evenings or nights not only presents challenges to biological functions such as sleep, it is incompatible with the rhythms and schedules of social, family and community activities,” she says.

The 2014 AWALI survey also found that work in the evenings or at night has the worst impact on women’s work-life outcomes. Working combinations of evenings/nights and weekends has the worst impact on men’s work-life interference.

Employees working in the mining, information media and telecommunications, health care and social services, accommodation and food services, and arts and recreation industries report above average levels of work-life interference.

“These industries span a diverse range of professions; however one common factor is that jobs in these sectors often involve shift work and unsocial hours including evenings and nights, weekends and public holidays,” Dr Skinner says.

“Being able to have down-time away from work and engage in meaningful social and community pursuits is essential for people’s wellbeing. If you are often working unsocial hours when family and friends have time off, this can make it difficult to maintain those connections.”

Contact for interview: Dr Natalie Skinner office (08) 8302 4250 mobile 0410 765 279 email Natalie.skinner@unisa.edu.au

Media contact: Kelly Stone office 8302 0963 mobile 0417 861 832 email Kelly.stone@unisa.edu.au

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