Originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald on November 10, 2012

John Howard’s description of work/life balance as a ”barbecue stopper” was more accurate than he realised. Not only does it continue to stop conversation among the ”working families” of such interest to political strategists, but the length and unpredictability of working hours makes it increasingly difficult for friends and families to make plans and keep them. According to a recent study by The Australia Institute, around 2.2 million people head out for work each day with little or no idea what time they will finish work that day. Such ”flexible” working arrangements, however, are incompatible with the more rigid aspects of our lives, such as children’s bedtimes, train timetables and soccer training. There is nothing more dangerous in public debate than a poorly defined term and there is no doubt that ”flexibility” is one of the vaguest words floating around our national debates. It almost makes the term sustainability seem meaningful.

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