Bringing work home regularly from the office is something many of us do—about 50 per cent, according to a recent University of Toronto work-life study. And not surprisingly, it intrudes into our personal lives.
“Nearly half the population reports that people bring work home ‘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,” said University of Toronto sociology professor and lead researcher Scott Schieman.
Schieman and his colleagues measured the extent to which work was interfering with personal time using data from a national survey of 1,800 workers. They found it to be high among several types of workers, including those employed in “high-status” areas, and those who work in stressful workplaces.
The high-status workers reporting interference are ones with job authority, high job skills, high personal earnings, and decision-making latitude. These are people who are more likely to be university or college-educated, or to be professionals, such as lawyers or doctors.
“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,” reports Schieman.
In fact, a high-status worker who puts in long hours (50 hours or more per week) and has some or complete control over their work schedule is associated even more strongly with work interference at home.
High-status workers may have benefits and perks associated with their jobs, and that may help soften the impact of taking work home, but it doesn’t change the reality that work often takes a large bite out of their personal life, says Schieman.
Another type of worker who has a high level of work interference into their private life is one who works in a stressful work environment with problems such as interpersonal conflict, job insecurity, or a high-pressure situation. These workers don’t have much power to set the pacing of their work.
If you are in this unenviable position, you may want to renegotiate the timing of your work.
“Note that excessive pressures are less problematic for those with control over the pace of their work,” says Schieman.
And when that isn’t the case, such as it is among some high-status workers, it may help to “recognize that sometimes higher-status work is a key contributor to stress that results in a work-family imbalance,” he says.