The Work, Housing, Services and Community Project is a national study exploring how men, women and children think about issues related to work, home and community. In particular, it analyses how changes at work and in households are reconfiguring relationships between work, home, services and community in eight sites across four states. The following report describes the first stage of the project and presents preliminary results. In this first phase of the project 14 focus group discussions were conducted with men and women who live and/or work at Mawson Lakes in South Australia and Caroline Springs in Victoria.

Work affects most working Australians beyond the workplace. Over half employees surveyed find that work sometimes, often or almost always affects their activities beyond the workplace (52.6% of the total) and even more find it regularly keeps them from spending the amount of time they would like with family or friends (60.7%). Men report more spillover from work-to-life, and less satisfaction with their work–life balance overall, than women. This reflects their longer hours at work. When hours are controlled for, women have worse work–life outcomes than men. Women are much more pressed for time, reflecting their greater unpaid work hours.

Spillover from work to activities and time outside work is much greater than the reverse. Most people do not think that their personal life affects their working lives or the time they have to give to work. It seems that work time is better protected from personal life and its competing demands for time than personal life is protected from work time and its demands. Only 5.5 per cent of workers feel that that their personal life takes time from their work often or almost always, compared to a quarter who feel the reverse (i.e. that work takes away from personal time). The temporal boundary around work and life thus appears rather more porous in one direction than in the other. Work pulls more from life outside work than life pulls from work.

Work is also having a significant impact on workers’ community connections. Just under half the respondents feel that work interferes with their capacity to build and maintain community connections and friendships sometimes, often or almost always. Twenty per cent of men said work did so often or almost always and 17.0 per cent of women agreed.

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