Work Life Balance
The Prime Minister and I have something in common: we both want to live close to where we work.
So as Julia Gillard decamps to the outer suburbs of Sydney this week, I’m heading the other direction, moving to an apartment in the city. I’m ditching the car and walking to work from Monday.
Phew. No more traffic. No more tailgaters. No more erratic driving from increasingly irate and desperate fellow commuters.
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As our television screens start filling with the sounds of Christmas films, a real-life, modern day version of the classic tale A Christmas Carol is playing out in State Parliament.
In the NSW Parliamentary version of this tale the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is played by Premier Barry O’Farrell, with supporting roles played by a host of big retailers.
In keeping with the original version of the story, our Scrooges seem to be out to do one thing - ruin Christmas. Their cunning plan? Open all shops on Boxing Day so workers and their families across NSW miss out on the tradition of Christmas.
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The short-term fix of Olympic glory aside, Essential’s weekly poll suggests Australia is a pretty miserable place right now. We may be living in one of the most prosperous societies in history, but we aren’t happy with how our own lives are travelling.
The majority of us say we are either struggling or just coping financially; we are worried about losing our jobs and expect our personal situation to deteriorate over the next 12 months.
We actively dislike our elected leaders, both PM and Opposition are disapproved by about two thirds of us. We have have not only lost faith in government in most of our public institutions – the public service, the High Court, the Reserve Bank, business, unions, the media, even religion.
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Spending hours sorting mail and doing the coffee run might have been seen as perfectly appropriate tasks for the office junior in the past, but this new lot of Generation Y employees seem to be more educated, more tech savvy and won’t mind telling you to shove your old school pecking order.
A recent CISCO workplace survey targeting Generation Y young professionals and university students in 14 countries, including Australia, found that 52 per cent of Australians surveyed indicated that they would, ‘sacrifice the extra salary for the opportunity to work wherever they’re most productive and happiest’.
Unlike the previous working generations who are not too eager to change jobs let alone careers, members of Generation Y seem to embrace change and feel more empowered in the workforce. They don’t perceive their jobs as a lifetime commitment that pays the bills. Instead many of them strive to secure jobs in line with their desired lifestyle.
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Played Yahtzee with the big kid over Weet Bix yesterday morning. Hopped an 8am train across town for an extra-curricular thing I do each Wednesday, trained it back to the city for a few hours of work, then nicked off early for my little kid’s footy training at 5.
Sunday nights, I do a few hours from the home shed to make up for my sketchy Wednesdays. And without numbing you further with the soporific minutiae of my weekly timetable, my point is that flexible working hours are good. They don’t necessarily work for nurses or teachers or farmers with crops to harvest and cows to milk, but they’re a godsend for many office workers.
Yesterday in The Daily Telegraph, reporter Lisa Power wrote an interesting story. She interviewed the author of a book about daddyom, who said that almost half of dads who work flexible hours fear being perceived as not committed to their work. Well, you know what I say to that? I say screw that theory and let’s go play mini golf.
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Senator Mark Arbib, the Minister for Sport, has inexplicably resigned just months before he would have received free tickets to the London Olympics.
Citing the need to spend more time with his family, the faceless, hairless Labor powerbroker is now a jobless, faceless, hairless former Labor powerbroker.
Given the Australian male life expectancy is now almost 80, Arbib statistically speaking would appear to be having some kind of midlife reassessment. But should we we call it a crisis?
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Today is national Go Home On Time Day.
In a classic Looney Tunes cartoon of the 1950s, Ralph E. Wolf and Sam Sheepdog would clock on at the same time every day at the sheep meadow. When their shift ended, Ralph would stop trying to abduct Sam’s precious sheep and they would both clock off again. Their work done for the day, Ralph and Sam would exchange pleasant chit chat and trot home.
If this kind of thing seems quaint today, perhaps it is because the boundaries between work and life are increasingly blurred. Many of us don’t only do our jobs, we are our jobs – regardless of what time it is or where we happen to be.
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Hear us. Trust us. Reward us.
That’s the simple plea from white collar Australia in response to a simple question: How would you get your workplace working better?
Over at news.com.au we’ve been running what we somewhat exuberantly called the New Work Project survey. In the few weeks it’s been running, we’ve received 25,000 submissions from all corners of the country and in all walks of life.
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ACTU President Ged Kearney announced at the National Press Club the results of a poll of union members grandiosely labelled “The Census”. And she also talked about it yesterday on The Punch. But far from being an impartial look at the Australian workplace, the ACTU’s census is nothing but a narrow poll of self-selected participants.
The headlines shouted “Australian workers productive but stressed”. The findings to emerge from The Census included that respondents were working longer, finding it difficult to get by on their income, delaying dental treatment and were contacted about work outside of work hours. An overwhelming majority supported unions campaigning for better pay and conditions of workers.
The Census survey methodology is instructive.
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Pollies should whinge. Their work is perhaps not as physically disturbing as a sewerage plant, but surely it is more emotionally and intellectually destructive.
If you make a minuscule mistake at a sewerage plant, the punitive measure that follows would probably be a ‘shit happens’ pun from your boss. Conversely, if you make a similarly low-level mistake in public life, the punitive measure that follows is nationwide scorn and ridicule.
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Our politicians need our help. They’re overworked.
According to news.com.au, Federal politicians “who ride in taxpayer-financed cars to board taxpayer-financed flights to get to work, say a tight schedule and winter fog is forcing them to leave their families early and forgo functions in electorates to fly to Canberra on Sunday evenings”.
They also suffer in their jocks with dismal pay, appalling superannuation, and disgusting Parliamentary offices. And their bosses are nitpicking bastards.
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In another study from the University of Obvious Research Findings, research out today finds people are increasingly working away from the office.
And it’s perhaps it’s even more predictable given that the survey was commissioned by Telstra. Surprise! Telecommunications technology is all the rage says a study - from a telecommunications technology company.
Although once you get past saying “well, duh” and grab your pinch of salt, some details in the findings might just twitch your eyebrow. It says a quarter of Australian workers are spending five hours working outside of the workplace each week, and 15 per cent are doing it 10 hours a week. These are pretty significant numbers and signal a real shift in the nature of Australian work. The question is whether a society of always-on workers is a Good Thing.
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I make no apology for being lazy. If there’s a corner, I’ll cut it. If there’s a fast way, I’ll find it. If there is a reason not to do something, I’ll find it, use it and then flog it until it’s a mere paste.
I don’t reinvent wheels. I don’t like to do something twice. Tautology is not my thing, except when I’m trying to make a point. So I don’t understand workaholics. I don’t get how someone can get up at 6am, dress, eat and go to work for 14 hours, not break for lunch or a walk around the block, go home, defrost something and sit down at the dining table to start working again, only getting up to put on Lateline.
That is not a balanced life.
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A few years ago there was a funny little survey funded by fruitgrowers which spoke volumes about the relationship between men and women, particularly on the vexed question of domestic chores.
The survey found that the overwhelming majority of men refused to eat fruit, but said they would be prepared to eat fruit if someone could peel it, cut it into small pieces and hand it to them on a plate.
The survey has at its centre a kind of male patheticness which many blokes seem to regard as endearing, and which most women probably cannot stand.
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In a speech last month, our outspoken Treasury Secretary Ken Henry referred to the hitherto unknown but enticingly-titled “Treasury well being framework” as a measure of determining what is best for families and working parents.
Wow ! After years as the ultimate BBQ stopper-conversation, maybe the esteemed boffins at Treasury stumbled upon the elusive answer to the work/life balance question?
I looked forward to reading the magic formula and seeing how I measured up.
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