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Focus On: Work-Life Balance

Framing the Issue of Work-Life Balance

People’s lives are getting busier all the time. Employees today are often juggling work and family responsibilities as well as demands on their time for education, exercise, community service and leisure. At times this can leave them feeling dissatisfied with the quality of their work and personal lives. 

A report written for the federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for Labour in Canada asserts that work-life balance is about:

  • creating and maintaining an environment that will allow workers to maintain a balance between work and  personal responsibilities
  • recruitment, retention and productivity
  • the wellbeing of all stakeholders; families, communities, employees, employers and the economy
  • responding to stress, a major health issue for Canadians
  • reclaiming some time and energy for community and strengthening the voluntary sector in Canada

Organizations that work with their employees to find and implement solutions to this dilemma will find that promoting work-life balance benefits their business (HRSDC). 

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The Cost of Work-Life Conflict

High work-life conflict is associated with: increased absenteeism; greater perceived stress, depressed mood, and burnout; poorer physical health; poorer job satisfaction; and less commitment to the organization (Health Canada, 2009).
 
The April 2006 edition of Horizons, a publication of the Policy Research Initiative of the Government of Canada, the following stats were highlighted:

  • “Those who experience work-life imbalance…are three times more likely to suffer from heart problems, infections, injuries, mental health problems, and back pain and five times more likely to suffer from certain cancers”
  • “Those who experienced high work-to-family interference [are]six times more likely to suffer from “burnout” than those who experienced low interference, and more than twice as likely to be depressed”
  • “77 percent of those claiming to experience high work-to-family interference also had high perceived stress, compared to only 35 percent of those with low work-to-family interference”

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Shiftwork and Work-Life Balance

The shiftworker faces special problems trying to maintain family relationships, social and community ties. It becomes difficult to balance work, sleep and personal time. The need to sleep or to be on the job during the family-oriented times of the day means that the shiftworker often misses out on family activities, entertainment and other social interaction.

Quick Fact:  One third of Canadians worked some type of shift work in 2005.

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What Your Workplace Can Do

Promoting work & family balance makes good business sense.  In addition to creating a supportive work environment, consider the following strategies when making improvements to your workplace:

Strategy Examples
Flexibility & Time Off
  • Flextime
  • Job sharing
  • Compressed work week
  • Part-time work
  • Telecommuting
Financial Assistance
  • Dependant care subsidies
  • RRSP/RESP/Pension plans
  • Extended health benefits
  • Top up pregnancy leave benefits
  • Subsidize summer camp
Information & Counseling
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Parenting workshops
  • Retirement planning
  • Educational/training opportunities
  • Health fairs
Services
  • Dependant care referral service
  • Emergency dependant care assistance
  • Occupational health nurse
  • Breastfeeding support
  • Onsite fitness program/room
Workplace Culture / Environment
  • Workplace health/wellness committee
  • Conduct an employee survey
  • Work & family balance strategy
  • Communication strategy for work & family initiatives
  • Management are supportive of work & family initiative

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The Business Case for Work-Life Balance

Still not sure about the costs & benefits of workplace work-life balance programs? Check out Human Resources and Skill Development Canada’s report The Business Case for Work-Life Balance. It presents information and data from various studies that show the cost effectiveness of work-life balance programs and practices and provides a few tips on how you can use the information to build a personalized business case for your organization. 

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Facts and Stats

  • Absenteeism due to high work-life conflict is costing Canadian businesses between $3-$5 billion a year in direct costs and $4.5-$10 billion when factoring in the indirect costs (Duxbury & Higgins, 2003, pg. 38).
  • Workers are choosing non-standard forms of employment and work arrangements that allow them to balance their work and personal lives (Stinson et al., 2002, pg. 6 - PDF).
  • Employers who help staff achieve a better balance between work and family should see improvements in morale, stress, absenteeism and productivity (Vanier Institute of the Family, 2004).
  • Employees with high work to family interference are 1.3 times more likely than those with lower levels to spend $150 or more on prescription medication in a six-month period (Duxbury et. Al., 2004, pg. 69).

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Additional Resources

Here are some other websites to consider for additional information:

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Other Topics

Revised: July 08, 2014

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