The AMEX research found mental and physical health and quality of life are now significantly bigger priorities for Australians than ambition and productivity.

More than two thirds (69%) of survey respondents are prioritising their physical health, 64% quality of life and 57% their mental health.

Only 25% say their career is a priority, while 34% are prioritising productivity. For 61% of Australians, work-life balance is a bigger priority than salary.

Spending data from AMEX also supports Australians putting more weight on their wellbeing, with a year on year increase on the amount spent on places like beauty salons, health spas, massage parlours.

Corinne Ng, AMEX vice president and general manager of travel & lifestyle services, says the turbulence of the past few years might have made Aussies reassess what is most important to them.

"[COVID] helped to realign our values and really encouraged us to reassess what what really matters in life," she told the Savings Tip Jar podcast.

She said there was a variety of different ways survey respondents intended to improve their physical or mental health.

"Physical wellness goals [include] eating healthier, more outdoor activities, drinking less...when it comes to mental wellness, 55% of customers are saying they want to get more sleep," she told the podcast.

For people alarmed about the effect on the Australian economy of ambition and productivity taking a back seat, Ms Ng says wellness is a "fundamental foundation" and can improve these things in the long run.

"Wellness is such an important asset, and it's a fantastic return on investment," she said.

"In good health, you can be productive, and you can be ambitious, as well."

Four day work week inevitable?

As more Australians turn to work/life balance over the relentless pursuit of wealth, inevitably the four day work week argument will continue to resurface.

Earlier this week, Medibank published some testimony from workers who have been taking part in its four day work week experiment over the past ten weeks.

Medibank is testing the popular 100/80/100 model; 100% of pay, 80% of working hours, 100% of productivity.

The reviews were almost uniformly positive, with workers able to use their extra time to focus on their health and wellbeing.

At the same time, there were some who spoke about the challenges of maintaining output in less time, with a focus on improving efficiency and streamlining.

In March 2023, a Labor-Greens senate enquiry urged the Albanese Government to trial a four day work week, with Committee Chair Barbara Pocock pointing to "outstanding" results from companies that have given it a go.

"Workers were happier and more productive while being able to manage their home life and care responsibilities in a more relaxed and organised way," she said.

However, the Government would likely need to tread carefully with any implementation, given there are already concerns about the productivity of Australia's workforce.

Productivity growth in Australia has been declining for a while, and RBA governor Michele Bullock said last Friday weak productivity was a concern for the central bank.

"Recent very weak productivity outcomes have contributed to a sharp increase in labour costs per unit of output," she said.

This has coincided with strong wages growth not seen for around 15 years, as well as a jobs boom thought to have been spurred on by easy monetary policy and economic conditions, perhaps creating jobs that ordinarily wouldn't be available or given to less productive labour force participants.

If it becomes relatively more costly to make something, because workers are producing less for the same wage, this can make prices more expensive.

Right to switch off

Another supposed win for work-life balance that came this week was the 'right to switch off' law passing through the Senate.

The law would codify the right of workers to not answer unreasonable phone calls or emails outside of work hours.

Criminal charges could apply to employers in violation once the law kicks in, expected to be in about six months' time.

The coalition have vowed to overturn the law, calling it "disastrous" for the economy, with WA Senator Michaelia Cash saying her state could be hit particularly hard because of the three hour time difference in the summer.

"The Prime Minister and this Government has complete contempt for Western Australia and the hard work of businesses and workers who contribute so much to the national economy," she said.

Picture by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash