Unpaid overtime hours cost Australian workers $71.2bn

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Australian full-time workers are putting in on average 4.25 unpaid hours per week amounting to $71.2 billion in unpaid work per year, according to employer research by HR specialist Randstad.

On average, part-time workers are working an hour each week above their contract hours, adding an additional $3.2 billion worth of hours worked that go unpaid.

The fact that many Australian’s are working longer hours than required may be seen by employers as a positive indictor of job performance and engagement, said CEO of Randstad Australia Frank Ribout, but the reality is that it negatively influences work-life balance and job satisfaction.

“Allowing and even encouraging staff to consistently work additional hours for ‘free’ during what should be leisure time, with no real acknowledgement of the extra time investment, will have a big impact on a company’s employer brand, particularly in regards to employee attraction and retention.”

Retaining employees and work-life balance

The research showed that a third of Australian employees intend to change employers in the next 6-12 months specifying work-life balance as the primary reason for the decision.

Almost half of all people surveyed ranked work-life balance as one of the five most important factors when evaluating a potential employer and one of the top three factors considered before accepting a job.

A strong workforce is determined by the way employers engage, motivate and retain top talent and ultimately leads to higher revenues, profit margins and overall returns on investments said Ribout.

“So establishing good work-life balance is key. If your people feel they are working in a culture where work and personal time is respected, you will have satisfied, productive and more engaged employees. But if they are regularly working overtime, something which might have become ‘the norm’, it’s time to review why that is, and find solutions to change,” says Ribuot.

Businesses should identify what work-life balance means for their workforce, and then implement changes which integrate it into their daily management.

“Consider conducting meetings with a range of team members or create an anonymous corporate culture survey to ask people what the business can do to improve their work-life balance,” suggested Ribout.

Ribout recommends asking questions such as: “Are certain people or teams overloaded with work? Would greater flexibility, such as the opportunity to work from home at times, help? Could any new technologies improve efficiencies in the business?”

It’s important to keep in mind that a number of strategies may be needed if you employee a multi-generational workforce.

“Baby boomers approaching retirement age may want the right mix of flexible working conditions. Generation X, many of whom are parents, may consider working less hours during school holidays, key to improving their work-life balance. Younger generations may be willing to work longer hours in the lead up to taking extended leave or a sabbatical,” Ribuot explained.

Chloe Potvin
Chloe Potvin is a contributing small business writer for Kochie's Business Builders.