Balancing act: time-poor women struggle to switch off

IF YOU are in the habit of checking your work inbox before bed, beware. Employees are typically donating 3½ weeks of labour each year doing work at home. That is almost the equivalent of your annual leave.

More than 44 per cent of employees now do some work at home, according to the Australian Work and Life Index survey, released today by the University of South Australia's Centre for Work + Life. They are most likely to be parents and part-timers.

Mobile technologies, especially smartphones, have allowed many employees great flexibility. But the survey found the work-life outcomes for those who took work home were worse than for those who did not.

''It's just really bad for you to work at home, no matter what,'' said Professor Barbara Pocock, one of the report's authors.

The survey revealed ''things are getting worse'' for full-time women workers trying to juggling their work with other parts of life. The proportion of full-time women dissatisfied with their work-life balance has risen from 15.9 per cent to 27.5 per cent in five years. Their experience of chronic time pressure has also increased - 68.6 per cent of full-time women feel rushed and pressed for time often or almost always, up from 63.4 per cent in 2008. The share of full-time women workers who want to step back to part-time has climbed to a five-year high of 41 per cent.

''There's a big bunch of full-time women out there saying, 'This is not getting easier; this is getting harder. Our time pressures are getting worse,''' Professor Pockock said.

The majority of female full-timers take work home, the survey found.

For Kirsten Grant, work and home life are nearly one and the same. The architect has two children, Atticus and Mila, a husband with a full-time job and a business she runs from home. That can mean one minute she is making lunches and the next dealing with a tight work deadline. ''I think I struggle with running my own business, even when I'm not working, it's omnipresent. I technically only work 3½ or four days a week … but there's never a moment I couldn't be doing something.''

Liz Marchant, a director of Sydney-based public relations firm Recognition PR, checks her work emails at home every morning and evening. This allows her to manage the daily ''surprise to-do list'' and get more control over her work schedule.

She spends a full day working from home about once a month when she ''needs to think'' or when one of her children is sick.

Respondents to the University of South Australia survey worked an average of 22.3 hours a month at home, 12.9 hours of it paid and 11.8 hours unpaid. This equates to 17 days a year of unpaid labour.

Under pressure - News Review

Barbara Pocock writes - My Career, inside Weekend Business

The story Balancing act: time-poor women struggle to switch off first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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