homing in on long hours at the office

Attraction and retention strategists can ill-afford to ignore the increasing demand for work-life balance and flexible working.

Australia has become a nation divided between those who work too long and those who want to work more. One-sixth of the workforce is on the job 49 hours or more a week. Exact figures have become hard to determine as technology blurs the difference between work and private life. This ‘presenteeism’ can add to domestic pressures, which sets off a vicious circle.

Many organisations are now introducing flexible work options in an effort to encourage work-life balance and attract and retain talent.

In Randstad’s World of Work Report, covering the Asia-Pacific, flexible work arrangements was the second most important factor in people deciding to stay with their employer. Having good good work-life balance was first.

However, 40% of Australian workers rate their organisation’s flexible work options as poor. The report highlighted that 35% of employers plan to hire more people on flexible work arrangements over the next five years.

Some employers who take on graduates report that the new generation of workers is also more interested in work-life balance than salary, possibly as a reaction to their parents’ long-hours culture. Other organisations are inspecting timesheets to identify employees spending too long at work, and telling them to ‘go home’.

Other approaches include providing mentors, helplines, resilience-building techniques and in-office massage or physiotherapy. Making sure employees understand their roles, have clearly defined objectives, are well matched to their jobs, and have opportunities to give feedback and contribute ideas can also help.

In research for the Randstad Award, 47% of Australian respondents said their work-life balance was threatened by having to put in too many extra hours. Similarly, 44% of respondents said fewer working hours would encourage them to retire later. For organisations wanting to hold on to experienced staff, working hours and time off potentially have great importance.

Beyond salaries

Clearly, it takes more than pay alone to keep employees satisfied. Randstad research also shows that once pay reaches a certain level, employees become more concerned with task rewards and work-life balance, and staff on high incomes are prepared to give up salary to obtain higher levels of non-financial job satisfaction.

Flexible working can be of great benefit to organisations as well as their employees. Employees are more engaged and the organisation can manage workload peaks and troughs with happier, more productive employees.

Some line managers, however, find flexible working hard to manage. They often underestimate its importance, particularly to younger graduates, who place it among their top five work expectations. Research has shown that even the most ambitious graduates value their work-life balance and are more resistant to the traditional long-hours culture than their managers.

Line managers should also be familiar with the legal rights of workers to request flexible working. Employers have a legal duty to consider such requests and can reject them only for good business reasons.


For further articles and advice on employer branding, strategic talent management, employment trends and employee engagement and retention, visit Randstad's knowledge centre workforce360 today.

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