Your Manager is a greater predictor of your life satisfaction than your partner; Work Life Conflict in Australia

Linda Duxbury

We all play many roles: employee, boss, subordinate, spouse, parent, child, sibling and friend. Each of these roles imposes demands on us which require time, energy and commitment. Work-family or work-life conflict occurs when the cumulative demands of these many work and non-work roles are incompatible in some respect.

Dr Duxbury is a leading workplace demographic expert and health researcher. She will explore the issue of work-life balance in Australia through her recent research on Australian managers. The research has assisted both employees and employers to identify what is needed to combat the issue and how it is affecting Australian workers and workplaces.

I really enjoyed hearing Linda speak because her material had a solid foundation based in significant research of Australian workplaces. She articulated that Australians have a bit of a way to go in this space because we haven’t equated work life balance to the bottom line yet.

Work life balance is important in Australia because there are huge changes in family types; we have an ageing workforce and declining birth rates- and this all impacts business. We also have the highest reliance on female part-time labour in the world.

Dr Linda Duxbury

Its not just about mothers with young children to care for anymore- it’s also about people who have both young children or teenagers AND elderly parents that need care. This is known as the “sandwich generation” and Linda predicts that the situation is to worsen as the population ages and more employees transition out of the workforce and then require care. This is a serious issue for Australia, particularly for Gen X and Gen Y individuals.

So what is Work life Conflict?

Linda defines it as when someone experiences role overload (too much to do) and when work interferes with family (needing to be in two places at once). We’ve all been at a family event such as watching someone play a sport or a BBQ and seen people working away on their blackberries answering emails or taking business calls. Managers and Professionals in Australia are 5 times more likely to prioritise work over family.

This example was particularly poignant when she mentioned a study on blackberry use. The group worked on average 47 hours a week and were given blackberries for 7 months. After 7 months, the average hours per week that they were working exploded to a massive 71 hours a week! Incredible but plausible.

This all however comes down to your Manager, who according to research is a bigger predictor of your life satisfaction than your partner. An organisation can have the best policies and practices in the world, but the managers must talk the talk and also walk the walk. People must have access to work life balance solutions- not just have them in policies.

The key message is that work life conflict is imperative for employers to consider. Gen Y’ers don’t want to be their workaholic parents and many are opting not to endure the overload or stress. This means companies will have huge succession planning problems. It is not a moral issue, nor is it about feeling good. It is a serious issue linked to health care, the labour force, employee engagement, absenteeism and turnover.

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