The end of nine to five

Thanks to technology and changes in society, the nature of work has been transformed as people lead fragmented life styles where the boundaries between work and personal time often blur.

Witness the growing number of people working from cafes, or checking their smart phones at night and on weekends for messages from work. This trend is only likely to accelerate over the next few years as technology gets ever more portable - so is the concept of nine to five now dead and buried?

According to a new report from KPMG, this kind of fragmentation is now affecting one in five Australian employees. These are the workers who use a computer on weekends to finish off work.

They complete work while travelling and fit work around family commitments and they come from all sectors; education and training, health care, financial services, utilities, manufacturing and the public service. It seems no one is safe.

The report warns that companies need to monitor the amount of time workers use to complete jobs outside business hours. If they don’t, employees will become stressed and dissatisfied.

Examples of the fragmentation include using personal technologies, like a home computer, to complete work outside standard working hours, completing work while travelling using devices like a notebook or mobile phone, and fitting work around family commitments so you wake up at 5am to get things done when everyone is still asleep - or work past midnight when the rest of the house has gone to bed.

The study found that most employees, or 80 per cent, have minimal fragmentation. They work a standard number of hours and rarely work outside them. But 20 per cent are experiencing some sort of fragmentation and out of every 100 workers, eight of them say they work long hours and have absolutely no division between work and personal time. Most of them are males and they tend to work in areas like transport, postal and warehousing, construction and mining.

While most of the blended workers say they have no problem with work life balance and can stay healthy, the report warns that “organisations may also reap unintended negative consequences including costs to employee health, stress, longer hours of work, and greater intrusion of work into personal time.” They need to monitor it carefully, otherwise it will result in more stress and dissatisfaction.

Work life balance is still a raging issue and studies in England have found that a poor balance is now affecting one in three relationships.


During the global financial crisis, work life balance was less of an issue. People were more concerned about keeping their jobs. But with signs that things are picking up, it’s become an important issue again with a new survey showing that 83 per cent of Australians want to restore it in 2011, after focusing so much on their jobs in 2010.

Indeed, another study shows that seven out of 10 Sydneysiders have considered moving out of the city to get a better life style and work life balance. Many in other states would be considering the same sort of move.

Still, that’s ducking the problem. Fragmented work lifestyles will become more prevalent so the issue for many of us is how to deal with it. We all have different strategies.

The Australian Women Online site has some obvious suggestions: like give yourself a reason to leave work at the end of the day, try single tasking, learn to say no, don’t sweat the small stuff and switch channels to do something completely different. That might help, but the lines between work and personal life are going to keep blurring.

Has fragmentation affected your life? And how much of your spare time do you find getting taken up by work?