Is Australian workplace culture toxic? Part 1

 

Warning: This blog comes with a large emotional investment from ME, the person who cares greatly about her clients wellbeing and wants to create real change.

Work Life Balance. I preach it, I try to walk the talk, I give suggestions, I listen and I continue to have NO idea on how to help many of my clients achieve this. The main reason for this, in my experience, is the fact that I cannot have any impact whatsoever on the workplace culture of many of my clients.

Let’s break this down to the numbers. There are 168 hours in a week. Most of my clients report to me that they work on average 10 hours a day. Now let’s add travel time, and time spent getting ready for work which will take away another 10 perhaps if we haven’t got a long commute. If you sleep 7 hours a night (or try to stay in bed at least for that long) there is another 49 so let’s round up to 50 again.

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Work & work related time is 36% of your entire week approximately. Sleep is roughly 29%. Now 7 hours a night is what experts say you should be getting for a healthy lifestyle. Add it up and that’s 65% of your week gone. This does not factor in all the hours spent doing life admin and chores. Or if you spend a few hours here and there working on emails and projects from home of an evening or a weekend.

If this resonates with you it’s no wonder you feel tired. Should we be surprised that obesity and depression rates have skyrocketed over the last 10 years? Therefore it probably wouldn’t shock you that the number one reason for clients canceling their booked PT sessions and classes is work related.

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I decided not only to rely only on the anecdotal evidence that my clients have presented to me in over eleven years of personal training. There are statistics showing a growing number of people being employed on a part time basis. Why should this concern us? Many full time employees want to work less hours, where the part time employees are often searching for full time work.

“Across all forms of employment, Australians work an average of 5.1 hours of unpaid labour per week (up from 4.6 hours in 2016). This unpaid labour represents between 14 percent and 20 percent of the total time spent working by Australian employees. ” This is being called ‘time theft’. Many casual workers are protected by National and State laws stating that they must be paid for any overtime worked and these guidelines must be stringently followed by employers.

However signing a contract for full time employment, even though your contract may state a 38 hour work week, means that your employer can add as many hours onto that 38 hour week that you are able to cope with and no one is doing anything about it. You, your managers, your CEO’s, your co-workers are all being told to work more than a Nationally set limit that was put in place to PROTECT your health.

Those are the stats, how about some stories to drive home to the people we need to listen to this to create workplace change.

  • I have lost track of the amount of clients admitted to hospital from exhaustion not from exercise but from work
  • I am one of the few people in their lives who they tell when they suffer workplace bullying and are too afraid or feel too helpless to talk to HR
  • I am one of the few people that listen to them when they talk of the extreme pressure they feel they are under to deliver to a deadline and all the extra hours they have put in to get it done
  • Many of my clients cannot take a sick day without feeling pressured to answer emails and phone calls
  • To further that point, they will go to work extremely sick because they feel overwhelmed at the prospect of work piling up so the day off would be more an inconvenience than a benefit to their health
  • I have many clients who feel the need to put in a certain amount of ‘desk time’ or else feel ostracised by the team they work with.

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Those examples are but a few of a huge list of extreme events that I have witnessed my clients go through due to excessive work. Now there is actual pressure and perceived pressure. Some of my clients may feel the pressure even when there may be no actual pressure from the employer. We have to remember there is always two sides. If I was to hear about these incidences from one or two people, I might think they were an exaggeration from my client. However I have not stopped hearing this for eleven years and it has gotten worse.

In the last few months I have begun to feel helpless, confused and angry that I can’t do more to help my clients. Something else must be done. There needs to be a way to foster change.

Part two will be coming this week to address what I think employers and employees can do to foster change in the workplace to make this world a better and healthier place for everyone. Please share this with people to start creating CHANGE to work less and not more in Australian workplaces.

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References:

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/follow-finland-s-lead-on-work-hours-says-expert-as-new-study-urges-lowering-standard-week

https://www.futurework.org.au/unpaid_overtime_diverts_130_billion_per_year

https://aplus.com/a/six-hour-work-day-sweden?no_monetization=true

https://www.theguardian.com/business/grogonomics/2017/apr/25/full-time-becoming-a-fantasy-as-australians-work-fewer-hours-than-ever-before

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/theausinstitute/pages/2584/attachments/original/1511237523/GHOTD_2017_Formatted_New.pdf?1511237523

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