Sociologists Scott Schieman (University of Toronto ) and his coauthors Melissa Milkie (University of Maryland) and PhD student Paul Glavin mined data from a national survey of 1800 American workers. The survey asked questions such as: "How often does your job interfere with your home or family life?", "How often does your job interfere with your social or leisure activities?" and "How often do you think about things going on at work when you are not working?"
Schieman says, "Nearly half of the population reports that these situations occur 'sometimes' or 'frequently,' which is particularly concerning given that the negative health impacts of an imbalance between work life and private life are well-documented."
The authors reported the following findings: 1) The level of education was an indicator of how much work a person brought home. 2.) Professionals (e.g. lawyers and doctors) report that their work interferes with their personal lives more than people in other occupations. 3.) Work related problems often extend into the home life: interpersonal conflict at work, job insecurity, noxious environments, and high-pressure situations. 4.) The position at work also make a difference at how much work is brought home (job authority, job skill level, decision-making latitude, and personal earnings. 5.) Even working long hours at work – 50 hours plus - doesn’t change the equation. Longer hours at work often means more hours working at home.
"We found several surprising patterns," says Schieman. "People who are well-educated, professionals and those with job-related resources report that their work interferes with their personal lives more frequently, reflecting what we refer to as 'the stress of higher status.' While many benefits undoubtedly accrue to those in higher status positions and conditions, a downside is the greater likelihood of work interfering with personal life."
So given that our work environments are not likely to change in the coming years, what can we do about it? The Mayo Clinic, for example, acknowledges the problem and offers specific recommendations of how to deal with the invasion of work into our private home lives.
- Keep a log of what you do for a week and then delegate items that do not need your direct involvement.
- Ask your employer if you can have a more flexible schedule that is more in keeping with demands of your personal life.
- Learn to say no. Politely but firmly turn down requests that add more to your plate. A “no” may be a first step in taking more control of your life.
- Leave work at work. Learn to build boundaries between work and home life. In a global 24 hour economy that may be difficult. Turning off your Blackberry and weaning yourself from your laptop is a good first step.
- Manage your time. Keeping your time management amorphous may be part of the problem. Though it may seem Draconian, try scheduling events in your home life – laundry, shopping, etc. This may give you more real quality time for yourself and family. Schedule at least one day, one afternoon, or night each week for recreation. Remove all work distractions and take your family for a mini-vacation.
- Communicate clearly. Misunderstanding, both at work and at home takes up valuable time. Clarity can be a big time saver.
- Don’t feel guilty. Enjoy your private time. Guiltless pleasure may take practice, but it is worth it.
- Exercise. The Malo Clinic calls it nurturing. But what it comes down to is taking time for an hour at the gym, a yoga class, jogging or a walk.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep-deprivation has become a major problem. It is the place where work-related stress does perhaps the most damage, robbing us of one of the foundational elements of good health. Protecting your sleep time is vital to success in balancing work and home life.
- Bolster your support system. Trusted relationships both at work and at home helps ensure a healthy division between work and personal life.
- Seek professional help. And if all else fails seek personal help.