By Andrea Mrozek
and Peter Jon Mitchell
If you are stressed and busy this Labour Day weekend, getting kids ready to return to school and yourself ready to resume post-summer life, you’re not alone.
A Nanos Research survey commissioned by Cardus Family reveals that about three in 10 Canadians are dissatisfied with their work-life balance. Eighty-five percent of respondents said a satisfactory work-life balance is very important to them. That said, only 21 percent believe that as a society we do a very good job of promoting such a balance.
The survey asked open-ended questions about the challenges facing Canadians as they attempt to gain better work-life balance. The big challenges were things like the pressure to work longer hours and bring more work home, financial insecurity, simply not having enough time with family and, finally, the commute to and from work.
The biggest concerns are time and money. For many Canadians, these commodities are in short supply.
About 18 percent of respondents suggested shorter workdays, more time off or flexible working hours.
About 12 percent indicated that lower income tax and lower taxes in general would be helpful.
One in 10 respondents suggested an increase in wages or increase in the mandatory minimum wage.
Another one in 10 indicated that the government should not be involved.
We should ask why almost one-third of working Canadians are dissatisfied.
Yes, times are economically tough but we have technology helping us to get things done, right?
Technology, as it turns out, is a blessing and a curse.
The blessing comes through technology like the “magic washing machine”. For many women elsewhere in the world, doing laundry still takes days and starts with heating water over a fire.
Canadians can be grateful that we don’t need to spend time that way.
Still, we burden ourselves with other technologies that cause friction. The very technologies that make solutions like flex time possible – the smart phone, the home office, the Internet – also cause stress.
Working non-regular schedules can increase, not decrease, tensions at home as routines and break times are lost. When the smart phone is always buzzing, we don’t ever really relax, nor is it likely we are fully engaged in work.
Studies show that, after a certain point, productivity declines with longer hours. So employers should have an interest in creating work cultures that allow employees to efficiently manage their commitments.
Families and individuals can likewise strive to address the work-life tension.
For example, a substantial body of research supports the importance of sharing a meal. What about a screen-free supper hour, for example – if not every day, then at least a couple of times a week?
Or consider setting your own Sabbath. It need not have a religious connotation but the purpose of the Sabbath was to rest. This might mean unplugging from all work one day a week, doing fun things with those we love.
Ultimately, the good news is that 13 percent of Canadians had no challenges in getting the right work-life balance and 70 percent of Canadians are satisfied or at least somewhat satisfied with their work-life balance. For these lucky souls, reaching out to help those struggling in their communities is an option, too.
This Labour Day, if you find yourself in the 30 percent of Canadians who are dissatisfied, why not make one small change in your weekly schedule to enhance your work-life balance.
The result could be greater productivity at work and more meaningful time with your family and community – a win-win.
Andrea Mrozek is program director of Cardus Family. Peter Jon Mitchell is senior researcher at Cardus.