Challenge of the work-life balance

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Work at what cost, asks PAWAN LUHTRA

Seeing 27-year-old Simon Sheikh, Director of GetUp Australia collapse on national television was somewhat confronting. A panellist on ABC’s Q&A, Sheikh slumped over the table while reaching for a glass of water. He came to a few seconds later, and was escorted off the set to hospital. It was confirmed later that he was fine, and that the incident was a result of the flu virus but probably also exhaustion after burning the candle from both ends.

Working too hard is possibly something that a lot of us are guilty of. A recent survey on work practices revealed that Australians are working longer hours than ever before, and longer hours than people in many other countries.

Advancements in technology now allow us to be “at work” at all hours of the day. Work is increasingly invading our personal lives, and we are often in work-mode even at off-duty hours.

But is work truly fulfilling us, and at what cost?

In our frenetically-paced world, we are hearing many reports about increasing stress levels, health mishaps at younger ages, and burn-out.

For migrant populations like our own community, the pressure is often doubled. The challenge of settling into the new adopted country comes with its own stresses, especially in the early years. There are new skills that have to be learned fairly quickly off the mark  – and these might be different for men, women and children. The self-imposed pressure to succeed is also high, so that they can finally claim to have “arrived”. The necessary family and social support which they are accustomed to back home, is lacking as well, adding further to demands on the individual.

Particularly vulnerable are professionals with a young family. While mum and dad settle into their new working life, working long hours to make ends meet, they also wish to expose their children to the opportunities available in Australia. The wide variety of activities in sport, music, creative endeavours, even the “hot housing” options, excites them. The result, too often, is that migrant Indian families are working hard to live not only the Australian dream, but also to give their families the opportunities which are on offer over here. All this takes its toll.

One other additional burden which the Indian Australians love to take on, is owning the family home. But financial constraints and the desire for a large home takes them to suburbs which may not have the best transport links. Typically, they disregard the ease of transport between work and home, and end up spending long hours in the commute, which adds to their already long days. Perhaps, some practicality and sacrifice here could well assist in long-term health issues.

Perhaps it is time we learnt to negotiate a good work-life balance. Our cultural heritage conditions us to focus on tomorrow. But balancing this with living in the moment can add more to our health and happiness. Quality time with family, restful weekends, holidays, hobbies, all need to become more of a priority

The graveyards, it is said, are filled with people who thought things could not go on without them.

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