Don’t call me: How SME owners can contribute to better work life balances for employees

Don’t call me: How SME owners can contribute to better work life balances for employees


Employees in small to medium sized businesses are among those increasingly picking up the phone to respond to work queries after hours.

New research that shows more than half of Australian workers answer work calls after hours is raising work life balance questions for businesses.

As part of the quarterly Randstad Workmonitor and Mobility Index, the report from global recruitment firm Randstad, titled Working hours vs Private Time: Blurred Lines, looked at the expectations employers place on workers out of office hours and even during annual leave.

The global study surveyed employees aged 18 to 65 who work a minimum of 24-hours a week in a paid job in about 40 countries, with a minimum sample size of 400 interviews per country. 

It found 51% of Australians are expected to be available for work purposes out of hours, which is only slightly lower than the global average of 57%.

But the study also found the majority of global employees surveyed (56%) indicated they did not mind handling work-related matters in their “private” time.

The study builds on a growing body of research that suggests SME staff and employers are increasingly finding it difficult to maintain a healthy work life balance.

Randstad employment market analyst Steve Shepherd told SmartCompany this morning the research suggests that “after we clock off there’s still an expectation we will answer”.

Shepherd says while almost the same numbers of employees are saying they are happy to be available after office hours, businesses need to be proactive about pushing the importance of good work life balance.

He says addressing work-related matters outside work used to be the remit of senior management, but the advent of smartphones meant the “21st century problem” is now filtering through to business’s lower rungs.

Some of these attitudes are being passed down to employees, especially where employees are seeing their boss working late, get an email or text and might feel like they need to respond, Shepherds says.

“We’ve seen this growing over the last few years,” he says.

Shepherd says the recent Randstad research looked at both small and large businesses.

He says while large businesses are starting to introduce policies to influence cultural change, smaller businesses might not be cognisant of the attitudes and behaviours being passed down to employees.

“At a small company level, employers need to be more nimble. They maybe don’t have the same kind of policy or focus, [but] it’s usually not an intentional thing,” he says.

 “Leaders need to take a back step and say “how this is impacting my people?”

“If I make a call now, in the longer term am I impacting productivity of organisation and wellbeing of staff?”

“At the end of the day, from a responsible employer’s perspective, I want them to log out, recharge their batteries, have quality time with family and come back to work… if I’m not doing that has implications as for me from productivity perspective,” Shepherd adds.  

Shepherd says businesses of all sizes can no longer ignore employee wellbeing.

“Work life balance has become a topic that has grown in importance over past five years,” he says.

“This is what makes me choose the company I work for, or has significant impact on whether I stay in the company. For an organisation it’s an important issue it needs to get hold of.”


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