Employees forgoing eat and sleep to work: Report

by John Hilton20 Mar 2017
Work is intruding on the lives of employees so much that they’re struggling to eat, sleep and talk to family, according to a new study by the Australian National University.

The report found the vast majority of employees don’t have enough time to carry out the four major protective health activities, including eating well, restorative sleep, physical activity and social connection.

The study comes after the Greens leader Richard Di Natale told the National Press Club last week that Australia should consider a four-day working week or a six-hour day.

"If you are an individual employee, it should be alright to request flexible work hours and it should be up to the employer to prove why you can't have them," he said.

"We have to start making progress in this area, because we have so many people in this country who are working more hours than they should.

Moreover, the ANU study stated: "When time was scarce, time spent on healthy behaviours was frequently shortened or abandoned".

The report also found the people interviewed across four employment sectors did little or no exercise.

"Instead, the time was allocated for more work or to recover from work, either alone or with others.

"Unlike physical activity, eating and sleeping could not be ignored, so instead the time spent on them was shortened as much as possible."

The report also found that dinner was often the longest meal and a rare chance to catch up with family and friends.

However, being present wasn't always a reality due to non-standard work hours or days that were unpredictable.

The report recommended policy changes, such as removing managerial discretion of the right to request flexible work, and seeing this right as available to every worker.

In a separate report, the ANU also found that people who work more than 39 hours a week are putting their health at risk.

It found about two in three Australians in full-time employment worked more than 40 hours a week, with long hours a bigger problem for women who do more unpaid work at home.

"Long work hours erode a person's mental and physical health, because it leaves less time to eat well and look after themselves properly," said the lead researcher Dr Huong Dinh from the ANU Research School of Population Health.

"Despite the fact that women on average are as skilled as men, women on average have lower paid jobs and less autonomy than men, and they spend much more time on care and domestic work.

"Given the extra demands placed on women, it's impossible for women to work long hours often expected by employers unless they compromise their health."

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