Australia’s New White Collar Work Culture

Australians are working longer. The notion of a 9-5 workplace with a clear dividing line separating work, home and recreation is a thing of the past. In the Australia of 2011, work and family life and recreation coalesce and blur in ways previously unseen. The boundaries between these 3 aspects of Aussie life are fraying as people seek to juggle life in a more frenetic manner. What does this mean for business – particularly in relation to white collar work and drug and alcohol usage and misuse?

In a 2000 research report into the working hours of workers from OECD Australia topped the list. Ahead of Japan, ahead of the United States, the Australian white collar worker is now working a massive 1855 hours per year, [1] and this rise in hours is closely linked to the increase in technology in the home and workplace. As Trinca and Fox have outlined, “It is no coincidence that this immersion in work is happening as technology revolutionises the world. It’s a given that we take work home sometimes, now that the Internet and the mobile phone make it easy… When they get home they check their e-mails, perhaps complete a report and finally go to bed. Work is not only about long hours but is a seamless connection of time on and off the job.[2]

And with increased work hours for the white collar employee comes increased stress and insecurity about performance and output.  In short, “the changes in the nature of work in recent times have seen increased pressures of work intensification and job insecurity permeating all types and levels of jobs.” [3]

Neil Brener from London’s Priory Group adds; “Some level of stress is a normal part of working life …but when stress and anxiety escalate, employees tend to suffer from

symptoms such as anxiety, depression, panic and chest pains. If these go on for a long time, sufferers seek coping strategies ranging from say, obsessive exercise… to drugs and alcohol. Both drugs and alcohol are readily available and readily acceptable in the work culture.”[4]

The issue of drugs and alcohol is therefore not restricted to the blue collar worker, but is an issue across the board extending into white collar employment in the new era of blurred work and home employment. A comprehensive OHS policy that understands safety issues and the realities of fitness for duty will offer a range of services from drug testing through to EAP’s and the development of tailored approaches to rehabilitation and even re-alignment of the work culture, where necessary. CMM Technology supports such a holistic approach and is able to deliver expert advice on all matters relating to your OHS D&A approach and help develop a drug and alcohol policy for all your employees. Phone CMM Technology on 08 9204 2500.

[1] Tiffen. R. & Gittens, R. (2003). How Australia Compares. Cambridge. UK.

[2] Trinca, H. & Fox, C. (2004) Better than Sex: How a Whole generation Got Hooked

on Work. Random House.  Australia.

[3] Callus, R. & Lansbury, R. (2002). Working Futures: The Changing Nature of Work

and Employment Relations in Australia (eds). NSW: Federation Press.

[4] Rigby, R. (2005) The highs and lows of drug use in the corporate world. The

Weekend Australian. 8-9 January. Sydney. News Limited.

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