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Is your work/life balance sustainable?
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Thursday, 12 June 2008
"The Prime Minister's tough line on public servant work hours is old-fashioned, out-of-touch with best management practice and bound to engender burnout and low morale", experts in workplace relations said yesterday.

"The attitude of 'do the work, put in the hours and shut up' is HR death," said Charles Power, a workplace relations specialist at the law firm Holding Redlich. [This prompted us to look them up and note that they say they have: "an open, caring and supportive culture". If this is true, it is in stark contract to most large legal practices! We hope it is true.]

Charles Power continued: "It's out of touch with human resources practice in modern workplaces."

As you may know, Kevin Rudd warned public servants recently that there would be no reprieve from the long-hours culture under his Government, adding that the pace was going to be "very tough" with no apologies for believing in "burning the midnight oil".

We talk a lot about sustainability here. Long hours cannot be sustainable for long. We simply run down our reserves and start doing less in more time, dragging one foot after the other.

Peter Wilson, national chairman of the Australian Human Resources Institute, said "The research shows the best leaders have a high work ethic and high expectations of those around them. But also they lead by inspiring and encouraging people, and giving them flexible work practices." Of course, these are among the Best Practices that make up the Leader/Manager Model.

Mr Wilson said senior public servants were the hardest working people he had encountered, and they did not need to be told to work hard.

"But they expect ebb and flow, to be able to cut a bit of slack from time to time, leave earlier, pick the kids up, have a long weekend."

Anna McPhee, head of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, said it was "outcomes not hours worked that counted in a workplace". This is something that we have expressed for several decades. What a delusion to believe that someone's contribution is measured by hours! - unless you're talking about a production line worker (and even there, there are discrepancies). In fact, it's a 19th century concept born in the Industrial Revolution!

Is this the Achilles heel of our progressive Prime Minister? We hope not.

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posted by Dr Ron @ 18:40  
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