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Working from home, or living at work?

Hours of work, unpaid overtime, and working arrangements through COVID-19
Home-based work Quality of work life Flexible work Working conditions Australia
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2021 marks the thirteenth annual Go Home on Time Day, an initiative of the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute focusing on overwork among Australians, including excessive overtime that is often unpaid.

As the health crisis of COVID-19 has continued, many workers are doing at least some of their work from home, and the standard scenario of workers 'staying late at the workplace', which largely framed our analysis in the past, is now supplemented by a different dimension of excessive work and unpaid overtime. This year’s report considers whether home work will become the 'new normal' for many workers even after the acute phase of the pandemic finally passes – and what new pressures on working hours, work-life balance and unpaid overtime are unleashed by the work-from-home phenomenon. The post-COVID rise in home work may constitute a further incursion of work into people’s personal time, and a further undercutting of Australia’s minimum standards around employment (including hours, overtime, and penalty rates).

Our survey found the average Australian employee puts in 6.1 hours per week of unpaid overtime, despite the shift towards home work. This is a substantial increase from 2020, which in turn was a substantial increase from 2019. In many cases, people’s responsibilities in their home lives have increased in response to the health and social crisis, accentuating a double burden of unpaid work – one that is experienced disproportionately by women.

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