Work-life balance: myth or reality?

Australians have an international reputation for being laidback and easygoing, but in recent times the reality is that when it comes to work-life balance, that perception has proven to be a myth. A survey reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that Australia ranked as one the worst countries in the world in terms of long working hours, with about one third of all Aussies working an average of 44 hours per week which is considerably more than their European counterparts. So what happened to the country whose motto was ‘She’ll be right’ or whose working hours were determined by whether the surf was up? Why do workers spend more time in the office rather than at the beach or the backyard barbeque? Is it that they are truly more engaged at work or have they simply expanded the work to fill the time? Tourism Australia say Australians are so addicted to work that they have accrued 121 million days of annual leave which equates to about $31 billion dollars of unspent revenue. This startling fact spearheaded the launch of their 2009 “No Leave, No Life” program, encouraging more Australians to take their entitlement when it was due. However having a Prime Minister who revels in the nickname ‘Kevin 24/7’ does not help. As an Executive Coach, I advise that only 40% of my coachee’s time should be dedicated to work. The remaining 60% should be spent on themselves, their families and their community to ensure a better lifestyle balance. Some of the questions I ask to suggest how a better balance can be maintained include: – Do you know what you’re expected to deliver? Hazy job descriptions and responsibilities contribute to being busy, but not being effective at work. Do you just stay late to impress the boss? – Is it really your responsibility? Can you delegate to another person? Or are you worried about a loss of control? – Are you a morning or afternoon person? When are you at your creative best? Schedule your work in line with your energy levels to maximise your output. – Meetings for meeting’s sake? As the organiser or attendee of the meeting, make sure the outcomes, actions and responsibilities are clear – otherwise don’t hold or attend the meeting. Find great meeting etiquette tips at – Is work a substitute for your social life? There is life outside work. Becoming a volunteer, returning to part time study, taking exercise or learning a new skill are terrific reasons to leave work at a reasonable time. Websites like provide several ideas to get active. – Do you have a flexible HR policy? Often employees are not aware of the working options available to them. Career breaks, work from home, part-time are all ways of decreasing stress and helping to reprioritise the competing demands in our lives. Let us know your tips – how do you manage work-life balance?