Farm families who live and work on the farm face a particular challenge when it comes to finding and maintaining a comfortable balance between work, family and leisure time. Changing behaviour and trying to split work from family or personal time is one of many challenges.  

The different roles in life and the feeling of being pulled in multiple directions at once can build tension and create stress. This stress can impact health, relationships and impair decision making. It is valuable to examine these roles and the causes of any stress and to plan to make some changes. 

Achieving a satisfactory work–life balance is challenging, but achievable. This topic is about finding a satisfactory work–life balance to reduce stress and combat the mental strain that can result from long-term and continuous hard work. 

Guidelines for a more balanced lifestyle

Most of us have five key areas in our lives that need balancing: 

  • Work: Meaningful work (paid or unpaid) is important to quality of life. It is how we sustain ourselves and our families and how many of us express ourselves. 
  • Self: Your physical, emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing are key factors in maintaining a healthy work–life balance. 
  • Family: Important for lot of people and often a source of personal happiness. 
  • Time: When stretched for time,  our priorities and what we do (or don’t do) each day determine our quality of life. 
  • Money: Money is integral to almost every issue involving the relationship between work, self, family, and time. Does the business have the capacity to create the income required for team members to live a more balanced lifestyle? 

Source: Adapted from Life Matters by Roger and Rebecca Merrill, 2003. 

tool 4.5 provides an exercise to identify what is going well and areas for improvement and action.  

A safer farm environment

Sheep and wool enterprises are largely family businesses. It is common for these family businesses to employ family members as well as non-family members. There is also the responsibility of engaging contractors for shearing and other operations.  

An important part of managing a farm business is to ensure the health and safety of all ‘workers’.  Workers include employees, contractors, sub-contractors, apprentice or trainee, work experience students or volunteers. The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 states that business managers are required to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable the: 

  • provision and maintenance of a safe work environment without risks to health and safety  
  • provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures 
  • provision and maintenance of safe systems of work 
  • safe use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances 
  • provision of adequate facilities for the welfare at work of workers 
  • provision of any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety 
  • health of workers and the conditions at the workplace are monitored.  

In this Act, reasonably practicable, in relation to a duty to ensure health and safety, means that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done in relation to ensuring health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters including: 

  • the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring  
  • the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk  
  • what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about: 
    • the hazard or the risk; 
    • ways of eliminating or minimising the risk  
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk 
  • after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk. 

Use tool 1.11 in MMFS Module 1 Plan for success to review the risks in the business, understand their likelihood and impact, and remove or mitigate them wherever possible. 

To fulfil the obligations for a safe workplace, business managers need to become aware of what can cause harm and then take action to ensure no one is at risk while they are in the workplace. The 15-minute farm safety check provides some useful guidelines for evaluating how well a farm business is currently managing safety.  

The key responsibility for farm safety rests with the business owner but safety is also a shared responsibility. All people in the workplace (employees, contractors, etc.) have a responsibility to take care of their own health and safety, take reasonable care they do not affect others’ health and safety, and to report any safety issues they notice.  

Safety is strongly connected to culture (Topic 1). Leading by example and having a safety-focused culture is vital to maintaining a safe workplace.