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Get A Life!

Get A Life!

Leading NZ Work-Life Balance Expert Speaks Out Against Current Work Trends

A recent Ministry of Social Development survey found that 40% of working New Zealanders have difficulty achieving work-life balance, almost half the population! And 22% of working New Zealanders work 50 hours a week or more, up from 17% fifteen years ago.

“This is a far cry from the French who enacted a 35-hour week in 2000 with the aim to increase employment, improve work conditions and balance work-family life,” says work-life balance expert Diane Child, an authorised consultant with the New Zealand Business Excellence Foundation (NZBEF) and CEO of Success Consultants Ltd.

Child says it’s not just France we out-do when it comes to weekly working hours. New Zealand ranks above Spain, Canada, Portugal, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden and Netherlands. A very different picture from the 1970’s when hours worked across the OECD, per employee, were almost identical.

In 1997 Success Consultants conducted a survey of NZ executives which showed that 48% of executives worked 50 hours or more a week, well above the national average; 73% of respondents had work related stress symptoms and 35% of respondents thought their symptoms serious enough to consult a GP.

“We know we are working too much and not spending enough time with our families and friends, but we don’t know how to stop the wheel spinning,

“One man I counselled had worked 26 days in a row and had no intention of taking a day off. He was married with children and saw nothing wrong with this.”

Child won Business Woman of the Year in 1995 before she opted out of the corporate world. With 20 years of senior management experience Child now runs Success Consultants Ltd, one of New Zealand’s leading organisations dealing in work-life balance.

Child says New Zealand can take some respite from the Japanese who use a Karoshi Hotline – Karoshi meaning “death from overwork”, but she warns if we don’t start changing the way we work and live, we may not be too far off.

“What I do now is try to help people get balance in their lives and what I’ve found is that the changes need to come from the top. It’s scary how many hours some people work without batting an eyelid. In-fact, she says, there is a growing culture which encourages long hours for little reward.”

Child says middle-age men struggle with work-life balance the most, mainly because they don’t ask for help.

The Department of Labour’s survey found New Zealand; managers, executives, teachers, nurses and police struggled the most with work-life balance, working long hours at the expense of family time and relationships.

It’s no surprise that poor balance impacts negatively on family, health and leisure time. Organisations need to wake up and realise that work and productivity also suffer when employees are over worked, says Child.

A survey carried out by the New York Times last year showed one in three Americans feel chronically overworked and working 50 – 60 hour weeks is not uncommon. The results of the survey showed the source of happiness for 77% of people was family and friends, not work.

Child says companies need to be thinking about how they can help their employees’ work and live better.

“They need to address the changing needs of the baby boomers, which make up 48% of the workforce, and the ambitions and needs of Generation X and Generation Y if they are to achieve sustainability of productivity levels.

Child is running a one-off seminar on Friday 24 November for ‘Organisational Leaders’ next Friday and will be joined by Stress Management Specialist Dr. Edward Timings and Christel Dunshea-Mooii, a Health and Sports Nutritionist and Lecturer in Fitness, Sport and Health.


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