By Lucille Keen
Australians are increasingly reaching for their work-issued smartphones when lounging on sun beds and vacuuming the house, but not as much as workers overseas.
In a sign that the lines of work hours and personal time are blurring, 51 per cent of Australian workers are expected to be available out of work hours, research by global recruitment firm Randstad found. This is lower than the global average of 57 per cent.
This extends to holidays, with 41 per cent of Australian workers saying their boss expects them to be available despite being on leave.
The report found the greater the expectation that people would work out of hours, the more likely employees would do personal matters at work, with 71 per cent of employees doing so.
Randstad employment market analyst Steve Shepherd said technology made it easier for work to creep into Australians' personal lives and businesses need to be mindful of balance between work and personal life.
There was no doubt health and wellbeing of staff affected productivity.
"It's important for both employers and employees to strike a balance between work and personal time, as too much work and not enough down time can have a negative impact, leading to burnouts, loss in productivity and a decrease in workplace satisfaction," Mr Shepherd said.
"Rather than financial compensation, employers seek flexibility – it cuts both ways. But the challenge comes down to the individual company. You will lose in the talent stakes, the ability to attract and retain staff, if you don't allow staff a balance."
Property and infrastructure giant Lendlease plans to give staff an extra three days a year for "wellbeing leave", in a move aimed to improve productivity and reduce absenteeism.
The company is one of the first international organisations to introduce wellbeing leave to employees across its global operations.
The leave for Australian employees comes on top of the usual leave entitlements and equates to one wellbeing day every four months.
Wellbeing leave can be used for a range of activities, such as a yoga retreat, a meditation course, a preventative health check-up or carer's respite.
The leave cannot be accumulated and is available to to full-time, part-time and fixed-term employees of Lendlease.
Lendlease Group head of human resources Michael Vavakis said the company wanted to encourage its employees to take a preventative approach to health.
"Wellbeing leave provides employees with time out to focus specifically on their physical and mental wellbeing, rather than using sick or recreational leave," Mr Vavakis said.
Lendlease already offers its staff 18 weeks paid parental leave plus 34 weeks unpaid leave for employees who are a primary carer and two weeks paid leave plus six weeks unpaid leave for employees who are a partner.
A Lendlease spokeswoman said the company's "holistic approach to health has a direct impact on productivity through improved employee engagement and morale, better team work, enhanced social networks and reduced absenteeism".
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said sick days cost the Australian economy $26 billion a year.
This article originally appeared in the Australian Financial Review