Herald Sun: We're now homeward bound - Michelle Gibbings

Thanks to Lauren Ahwan and the Herald Sun, I provide advice on why is good to stick to reasonable working hours.

The work-from-home trend – once seen as a potential silver lining for Covid-19 – also presents a major pitfall for Australians, who are working more than 10 extra hours each week. Unable to make a clear break from work duties, employees are spending more time on the job than ever before.

And with WFH arrangements set to continue long after the pandemic has passed, experts say better measures are needed to ensure a healthy work-life balance.

The Coach Place founding director Lisa Stephenson says anecdotal evidence suggests remote workers are putting in an extra two hours of work each week day and often working on weekends.

She says lockdowns, rather than employer demands, are largely to blame for the increased hours, with workers reporting there is little else to do under Covid restrictions.

The extra hours are often unintentional, with most workers displaying poor self-discipline when it comes to logging off from work, Stephenson says. “People aren’t commuting to work anymore and they don’t have to get the kids ready for school (during home schooling), so they’re thinking they can use that time to get a start on work earlier and then they can finish a bit earlier – but that’s just not the reality,” she says. “The boss rings, or something happens, and the workday just blows out.”

On Wednesday, workers are encouraged to sign off from their jobs at the end of their paid workday as part of the Centre for Future Work’s 13th annual Go Home on Time Day.

Workplace expert Michelle Gibbings says there’s good reason to stick to reasonable working hours – those who work more than 55 hours a week have a 35 per cent higher risk of stroke and are 17 per cent more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those who work 35-40 hours a week.

She says a lack of structure around working from home makes it much harder for workers to switch off at the end of the day.

“When we were in the office in the past, we had to leave to get the 5.30 train or the last bus that left at 6 o’clock but at home, you don’t have that same routine,” Gibbings says.

To introduce reasonable working hours at home, Gibbings advises having something to look forward to at the end of the day and, at that time, switching the computer off and the phone to silent to “break the nexus between your home and work life”.

“It could be that you go for a walk or a run or have a shower – just getting out of your work clothes and putting on your gym gear can signal to your brain that you’re no longer in work mode,” she says.

Credit Union SA has a flexible working policy that allows every role to be carried out remotely, resulting in most workers choosing to work at least part of each week from home.

Staff are actively encouraged to maintain a healthy work-life balance and there has been no increase in overtime through flexible work arrangements.

Lending consultant Charles Burke says while there is a risk of working late into the evening when at home, his three young children are “very diligent in policing” his finish time.

“Working from home has enabled me to spend more quality time with my family, sharing lunch with my wife and children or having a play during my afternoon break,” says Burke, who splits his working week between his home and the office.

“With no commute to the office, I have enjoyed more time playing outside with my children, gardening and walking my dog, Fred.”

Publication: | |