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More Aussie workers finding it hard to switch off from work

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), Jan-Dec 2016 (n=14,330, of which 6,218 are employed).

It’s a subject that crops up regularly in the media: work-life balance and how to achieve it. Well-being experts proclaim its importance for our physical and mental health, and many employers emphasize their flexible working conditions as a selling point when advertising positions. Yet the latest Roy Morgan Research data reveals that substantially more Australian workers are finding it ‘difficult to switch off from work’ than they were in 2012.

In 2012, 3.8 million Australian workers (or 34.5% of the workforce) agreed with the attitude statement ‘I find it difficult to switch off from work’. Last year, this figure had risen to 4.3 million people (38.3%). This increase is evident among men (39.6%, up from 34.6%) and women (36.9%, up from 34.4%) as well as among workers living all states.

The most pronounced change has been in Western Australia, where 38.2% of workers are now having trouble switching off after hours (up from 31.9%). With the end of the mining boom, WA has seen a marked rise in unemployment and underemployment in the last 12 months alone, a concerning trend that may be causing a sense of job insecurity among some employed Western Australians that prevents them from fully detaching from work out of hours.

‘I find it difficult to switch off from work’: by gender, state and age


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), Jan-Dec 2016 (n=14,330, of which 6,218 are employed).

Among different age groups, 35-49 year-olds (41.8%, up from 36.8%) are most likely to struggle in switching off from work, but all age groups are affected.

Industry and responsibility

Not surprisingly, workers in certain industries are more likely to have difficulty switching off, with those employed in Construction (48.0%) and Property and Business Services (45.8%) topping the list. In contrast, those employed in Mining (28.1%) and Retail (30.8%) are far less susceptible to this problem.

Similarly unsurprising is the fact that an above average proportion of people with managerial responsibilities find it hard to wind down after hours. From Chairmen/Managing Directors (55.6%) and Department Heads/Branch Managers (55.2%) to General Managers (54.4%), people in management roles appear to find it extra-hard to shake off thoughts of work when they’re not working.

Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Over the last few years, an increasing number of Australian workers are finding it hard to switch off and unwind after hours. The latest figures from Roy Morgan show that this phenomenon is widespread, affecting male and female workers of all ages, from all states.

“As we have shown, managers of all kinds are particularly susceptible to remaining in work mode even outside of work, as are people employed in the Construction and Property and Business Services industries. But there is another factor at play here too: the very 21st-century condition of being perpetually connected, by way of our digital devices. Whether it’s accessing work emails at night via our smart phone, logging into our work network remotely or attending to work-related documents on our laptop, it is now possible to be connected 24/7. While this can certainly be convenient, it can also blur the boundaries between work and life, preventing employees from enjoying their downtime.

“For example, Roy Morgan data shows that workers who have problems switching off outside of business hours are markedly more likely than the average worker to ‘need to be contactable at all times for work’ and to feel they need a mobile phone to help them juggle their work and personal life. What’s more, an above-average proportion of them admit that they can’t live without a mobile phone.

“Of course, other influences such as whether a worker feels satisfied with and secure in their job can impact their ability to switch off at the end of a working day, and Roy Morgan’s wide-ranging employment data can provide insights into such issues for employers keen to ensure their staff maintain a healthy work-life balance.”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%