Do working hours really affect work-life balance satisfaction?

by Chloe Taylor01 Dec 2014
New research from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) suggests that although executives are working more hours globally, their work-life balance satisfaction is improving.

The AESC’s study, The 2014 Work-Life Balance Survey, gathered responses from 571 international senior-level executives.

Results showed that 52% of participants were either satisfied or very satisfied with their work-life balance – compared to 45% last year.

This level of satisfaction comes as something of a surprise, considering that those surveyed said they worked an average of 58.5 hours per week – 39% said that they work more than 60.

But this international trend is particularly relevant to Australia’s workforce.

According to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Australians more than 14% of Australians work very long hours, which the organisation have defined as “much more than the OECD average of 9%.”

The 2014 Hays Salary Guide also reported prolonged working days nationwide, with around one in three Australian employers are seeing workers increasing the amount of overtime that they work.

Of these, 40% said that this increase was by up to five hours per week, while 34% of the increases were up to ten extra hours per week.

Almost 10% reported overtime to have increased by over ten hours per week.

But does this really have a negative effect on satisfaction rates? According to AESC’s study, only 37% of respondents said that they would accept a cut in their salary in exchange for less working hours. Although this highlights that working hours are not necessarily the biggest satisfaction-killer, it does imply that they play a part in the all-important work-life balance.  

The incoming global chairman of the AESC, Jason Johnson, said that work-life balance is now one of the key determining factors of executive employment.

“Our research shows the significant increase in the importance of work-life balance to global executives, with 81% of respondents considering work-life balance to be a critical factor in their decision as to whether to take a new position,” he said. “In fact, it’s now so important that almost one third of global executives would refuse a promotion or new job offer if they felt it would negatively impact their work-life balance.”

Johnson added that ensuring workplace flexibility is no longer optional, it is essential.

According to the survey, executives’ leisure time is being forcefully lowered by mobile technology requiring them to be available outside of working hours.

Johnson said that this is “the new normal” – and an astonishing 97% of executives are so well-connected that they will even make themselves available while on holiday.

“Technology is both the friend and foe of work-life balance, Johnson added. “While you can be on call at any time, you can also be on call from anywhere.  Clearly, the boundaries of the traditional workplace environment are being broken down.”

However, he said that the research indicates the majority of senior executives are comfortable with this change.

“Ultimately, both senior executives and Boards across the globe need to decide how flexible they are willing to be. Because technology will continue to advance, access will continue to increase, and personal flexibility will grow in demand,” he concluded.


  • by Toni Ryan 1/12/2014 12:01:43 PM

    Was there a gender break down in this research?

  • by PhilB 1/12/2014 3:17:37 PM

    There is an extensive scientific literature on the effects of working hours going back more than a century. In most worker populations, work-life conflict is one of the work-related variables most strongly related outcomes such as mental health, job satisfaction and intention to leave.

    In response to Toni, long paid working hours have traditionally been disproportionately worked by males, reflecting the gender division of labour. Recent ABS data, for example, indicate that male full-time workers do approximately 15% longer paid hours than female full-time workers.

    Males and females generally tend to report similar levels of work-life conflict but for somewhat different reasons. Bland gender comparisons are not really very informative though, because there are major within gender groups, related to factors such as marital status, having or not having dependent children, capacity to pay for child-care, control and autonomy at work, type of employment, etc. Many of the senior executives in this particular survey are likely to be low on the risk scale for work-life conflict and their responses are very unlikely to match those of the wider workforce regarding work-life conflict. There is plenty of other research around though.

Most Read