Australians shun the barbie to stay late at the office

Aug 28 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

It's renowned for its laid-back, sun-loving approach to life, but Australian managers in fact work harder and suffer from more back pain, illness and stomach bugs than their counterparts in the UK.

A UK-Australian study by the British Chartered Management Institute and the Australian Institute of Management has concluded Australia's reputation as a laid-back, leisure-loving nation does not stand up to scrutiny.

In fact it is UK managers who have better work-life balance, work fewer hours, have access to more benefits and generally have fewer health problems.

The Australian manager averaged a 46.4-hour working week, compared with 45.6 hours in the UK, the poll of 2,500 people argued.

Australian managers also suffered more ill-health, including back pain, stomach bugs, influenza and viral infections than UK managers.

UK managers were far more likely to be offered healthcare insurance and were more likely to have access to sabbaticals, subsidised gym or sports facilities and health screenings or personal evaluation of health risks, it added.

But it was not all doom and gloom for the manager down under. Australians pride themselves on their informality and ability to get on with everyone – which is perhaps why senior Australian managers were much more liked and respected than their UK counterparts, despite being considered just as reactive and bureaucratic.

Senior Australian managers were generally seen as more accessible and innovative than those in the UK.

They were also likely to be more optimistic about their organisations' performance – perhaps in part because Australia and South East Asia have been less affected by the global downturn – and more satisfied with their jobs.

UK and Australian managers both put "reactive" and "bureaucratic" as two of the top three prevailing management styles within their organisation.

Nevertheless, Australian managers had substantially more trust and confidence in their senior managers.

Nearly three quarters also felt they were fairly treated by their organisation, against six out of 10 UK managers who felt the same way.

The poll is a significant signals a improvement in management performance since research published by organisational development specialist Human Synergistics in 2003 suggested a nearly nine out of 10 Australian companies had management cultures wracked by "blame, mindless conformity and indecision".

Managers, it argued at the time, lacked basic skills such as setting goals, using rewards, giving feedback, and conducting fair appraisals.

For the latest survey Ruth Spellman, CMI chief executive, said: "Clearly management styles have a significant impact on morale and business performance.

"This report demonstrates how managers and leaders are viewed differently in the UK and in Australia with the Australians being more positive about senior management and enjoying higher levels of job satisfaction.

"The importance of accessible and empowering working environments is demonstrated by this survey," she added.