Job insecurity and poor work-life balance affect the whole family, not just workers

Research by UniSA’s Centre for Workplace Excellence (CWeX) shows that poor work-life balance and job insecurity can affect the whole family – not just individual workers.

Saturday 15 May is the UN International Day of Families, and UniSA is highlighting research about work-life balance and job security.

While the recent Federal Budget suggests overall unemployment in Australia is on the way down, many sectors are still struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For industries like tourism, the arts, and higher education, the future is still uncertain, with many workers in these sectors facing increased job insecurity and the potential for poor work-life balance due to challenging work conditions.

While the impact of difficult work situations on an individual’s wellbeing has received increased attention in the past year, research from UniSA’s Centre for Workplace Excellence indicates more consideration should be given to the effect these factors have on families.

CWeX director, Associate Professor Connie Zheng, has been involved in multiple studies exploring the ways working conditions for one family member can have a flow-on effect for other family members.

“Research shows that work experiences can affect health, quality of life and participation in work or family activities,” Assoc Prof Zheng says.

“We can expect that job insecurity and overwork is harmful to employees’ well-being and its effects spill over from the work domain to the non-work domain, affecting things like spouse health, children’s grade performance and future outlooks, as well as decreased marital functioning with generally much lower levels of life satisfaction.”

Given the potential for such pronounced flow-on effects from difficult work situations, Assoc Prof Zheng says that within those industries still facing economic uncertainty, proactive, positive human resources (HR) actions can make a significant difference.

“HR professionals and practitioners should manage this sense of job insecurity among employees through strategic planning,” Assoc Prof Zheng says.

“Specifically, if the threat of job loss is high, it is important to take actions for protecting the wellbeing of employees by providing more lead time for employees to gain retraining or reskilling and enable them to search for new jobs.

“It’s also useful to collaborate with other organisations in the community to relocate employees with job loss or reorganising jobs with some forms of flexibility, such as flexible pay or flexitime.

“This not only reduces the stress for workers and their families, it also means when the economy picks up again, organisations can reinstate these employees with fulltime and fullpay, without experiencing the bottleneck of skill shortage or expenses of recruiting and training of new employees.”