Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Work-life balance

3-minute read

Many of us are 'time poor', constantly rushing to juggle different commitments. Australia has fallen behind the rest of the developed world in trying to achieve a healthy balance between work and life outside work.

A good work-life balance means you have harmony between different aspects of your life, where benefits gained from each area can support and strengthen the others. Work-life integration is a new concept, where many people are learning to blend their work and personal lives successfully.

Follow these tips to improve your work-life balance.

Who is most affected?

Australians work some of the longest hours of anyone in developed countries, and we spend less time looking after ourselves outside work. Working long hours can be bad for your health, increase stress and give you less time to spend on other activities like personal care or leisure.

At the same time, more people are working in part-time, low-wage and insecure jobs, which often mean they must work longer hours or at unsocial hours. Flexible working hours can be helpful, but working from home can be a double-edged sword and can actually have a negative impact on work-life balance. Research shows that working too many or too few hours according to your needs can affect your wellbeing.

Years of research have shown that working is generally good for mental and physical health and wellbeing. The benefits of work include:

  • providing activity and a daily structure
  • a sense of meaning and purpose
  • relationships and a sense of community
  • financial independence

But certain aspects of work can have a negative impact on mental health. Job stress, isolated working conditions, psychological demands, a lack of rewards for effort, job insecurity and a lack of control in the job can make mental health problems more likely.

Stress and burnout

Stress is a natural human response to challenging or dangerous situations. A small amount of stress, such as working to a deadline, can actually be helpful and allow increased alertness, energy and productivity.

However, ‘living on adrenaline’ can only be effective for a short time. If the pressure goes on for too long or becomes greater than our ability to cope with the stress, it can drain our physical and mental resources. Stress can have a negative effect on physical and mental health, relationships, work and wellbeing.

Burnout is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that can occur after a long period of excessive or stressful work.

The 3 key features of burnout are:

  • emotional exhaustion
  • a feeling of detachment from work or becoming cynical
  • reduced efficiency or lacking a sense of achievement

Burnout also includes the concept of ‘compassion fatigue’ where one loses the emotional capacity to care about others. This can lead to simply ‘going through the motions’ and can be a problem for those in health or caring professions where compassion is integral to their work.

Where to get help

Finding a healthy balance between work and personal life can be hard, but it is easier if you seek help. Talk to your doctor, or see below for online programs and tools that can help.

Last reviewed: December 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Work life balance | myVMC

Work life balance refers to an individual's ability to balance the commitments, responsibilities and goals relating to their paid work, with personal commitments, responsibilities and desires.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Work life balance for career women

Family life and your career can be difficult to balance when youve got three kids. But career women can find work life balance with paid maternity leave, a supportive partner and a bit of creative parenting.

Read more on Parenthub website

Work-life balance: tips for your family | Raising Children Network

A good work-life balance is good for your children and good for you. It can even help prevent burnout at work. Heres how to achieve work-life balance.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Child disability, mums & work-life balance | Raising Children Network

Watch this video to hear mums of children with disability talk about returning to work and finding a work-life balance. Mums also share practical tips.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

For employees

Look after yourself while at work and achieve a good work-life balance with these ideas, tailored to improving your mental health.

Read more on beyondblue website

Returning to work after having a baby | Raising Children Network

Returning to work after having a baby? Heres what to expect when you return to work, with information and tips on child care, work-life balance and stress.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Work and family- finding a balance

Its not always easy, and the perfect work-life balance probably doesnt exist. The main thing is figuring out whats important to you and what works for your family.

Read more on beyondblue website

Balancing Working and Parenting | myVMC

Work life balance refers to an individual's ability to balance work and personal commitments. There are many challenges faced by men and women as they attempt to find and maintain a balance between work and parenting.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

How to balance work and family | Tips to get it right - TripleP Positive Parenting Australia

Getting a balance between work and family is really hard. Read how TriplePs positive parenting has ideas to help parents get it right.

Read more on Triple P - Positive Parenting Program website

Workplace wellbeing

As you are reading this, one in six Australian workers will be experiencing a mental illness. Many others will be experiencing the initial signs of mental illness including insomnia, worry and fatigue.

Read more on Black Dog Institute website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo