According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 5 million of Australia’s 7.9 million full-time employees put in more than 40 hours every week, with 1.6 million racking up more than 50 working hours.1
Deadlines or intense periods of activity in our working environment can sometimes mean we can’t stick to standard hours of work. It’s when long hours becomes the norm rather than the exception that it can negatively impact our health.
Most employers and managers recognise the need for people to have reasonable levels of work intensity, to work a reasonable length of time (7.5 to 8 hours), and to only work longer and more intensely on certain occasions.
Try to limit the amount of overtime you do. If it's becoming more normal than not to be working extra hours, discuss your duties with your manager. If it remains an issue you have the right to raise the issue with your Human Resources department or Occupational Health and Safety Officer. You might also consider talking with your union representative or getting advice from Fair Work Ombudsman. These conversations can be difficult, but most employment contracts outline your rights and the processes for raising concerns – so it's important to follow these procedures and seek appropriate advice.
Getting some fresh air and leaving your workplace or simply moving from your work area can help make you more productive at work. Often we see being busy as a ‘badge of honour’; being productive gives us a sense of self-worth and makes us valuable to our employers. However, being busy all the time will lead to burnout and reduced productivity. Research highlights that taking breaks, both physical and mental, can boost our productivity.
Some great ways to do this include:
Take a break once an hour to increase work productivity
Leave the workplace during lunch to stay refreshed during the afternoon
Exercise at lunchtime to boost productivity for the rest of the afternoon
Use breaks to help refocus
Take time-out for an afternoon tea break which will provide more than just caffeine.
When we're busy or have pressing deadlines, it's easy to get into the habit of taking work home. But, this should be the exception and not the rule.
By ensuring our work doesn’t come home with us we can pay full attention to those who are waiting for us at home and get the downtime we need for a healthy work-life balance.
If you must take work home agree on a set time to do it. The earlier the better. There’s a risk that if you spend an hour or more working before you go to bed, you’ll be wide awake, possibly have a bad sleep which isn’t ideal for a productive next day – or your general wellbeing.
Having a complete break from work has mental and physical health benefits. Taking a holiday can help to reduce work-related stress, prevent anxiety and depression, and increase work performance and productivity – this should reassure your employer that it’s in their best interests too.
It’s not always easy to say no. We all like to please our colleagues and be seen as a ‘can-do person’ in the workplace, but we all have the right to set work limits when demands exceed our capacity to deliver.
Don’t be afraid to say no and state your reasons. When your response is genuine it won’t mean you are letting your team down. It’s more likely to mean the task will be completed in a better way and you’ll be in a better position to say yes the next time.
Many of us are required to work outside our normal working hours from time to time. But we all need a break from work to unwind and de-stress. None of us should be expected to send and receive work emails at all hours and both employees and managers need to ensure a culture of endless email-checking doesn’t become ingrained.
Some tips around email use:
Ask yourself if you really need to be contactable 24/7
If at all possible, don’t add your work emails to your personal mobile
Try being strict with yourself about when you check your emails – don’t make it a habit or part of your routine outside work
Lead by example – don’t let late-night emails become part of your work culture
Ask yourself who's driving any expectation of out-of-hours emailing – is it coming from your manager, or do you enjoy feeling in demand?
If you're not able to respond to all urgent or important emails during your work day, it may be a sign that your workload is too high. You might need to discuss this with your manager.
If you have to check your emails during your personal time, try prioritising any actions and think about what can wait until the next day.
Know your workplace rights and responsibilities
Make sure you are clear on rights and responsibilities related to your job. Both employers and employees have formal rights and responsibilities under discrimination, privacy, and work health and safety legislation. Understanding them can help you keep the workplace safe for yourself and others through knowing what your obligations are and being able to spot if your rights have been breached in any way.
Those things not in your control
While there are many things we can do individually to protect and nurture our mental health at work, part of the responsibility rests with your manager. However, you may be able to influence and encourage your manager to deal with issues such as:
Clear job descriptions that detail all elements of the role that need to be performed
Regular feedback and performance reviews that let you and your manager raise areas of concern so you can do your best in your job
If you're experiencing any issues in your workplace or about your role, make a time to speak openly with your manager openly about it. Take some time to think about possible solutions and discuss them with your manager.
"A lot of stuff I didn't have time to review in the day, so I ended up taking things home and that started to impact upon the family life at home."