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Account for Health - Home Page HR Wellness Professionals Employees

The Costs of Work-Life Conflict and the Impact on Health


With 4 generations in the workplace today, juggling the demands of work and life issues is no longer unique to employees with children or those dealing with elder care matters.

Consider some of the work-life issues affecting the following career stages:

Too Much to Do in Too Little Time

Early Career employees testing out their new career choice while transitioning into independent adult living and learning to live within a budget
Early/Mid Career workers trying to advance their career and set some long-term goals both at work and home while getting married, having children/adopting
Mid Career employees trying to figure out or plan for the next phase of life at work while dealing with both childrearing and elder care issues
Late Career/
Early Retirement
workers thinking about their career path, choices that were made, unmet goals and dreams while planning for retirement, dealing with elder care issues and adjusting to new roles (e.g. empty nester)

Can you identify with this title? Time pressures affect employees in every career stage.

Increasing time pressures at work and increasing commuting times are stealing from our personal time.

How does work-life conflict impact our health?

Increased Stress

Stress can:

  • cause a dramatic change in blood glucose levels which can be dangerous for those with diabetes
  • increase blood cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • lead to unhealthy coping strategies such as binge eating, drinking and/or smoking.
What Can the Workplace Do? What Can Employees Do?
  • Create a policy/procedure for alternate work arrangements.
  • Offer flexibility options to employees.
  • Provide financial assistance such as RRSP/RESP/Pension plans, extended health benefits, dependant care subsidies, etc.
  • Offer information and counseling services such as dependant care referral, parenting workshops, financial planning, retirement planning, etc.
  • Provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Teach management on how work-life issues affect business and provide supportive management tips & strategies.
  • Reduce job demands and overtime expectations.
  • Consider how you could change your work schedule.
  • Work with family members to help out with household and family tasks for each other.
  • Cut down on the number of activities each family member is involved.
  • Hire help to manage finances, care for elderly relatives, clean the house, plan a wedding, etc.
  • Choose employment opportunities closer to home (or consider moving closer to work).
  • Shop online. Shop less often.
  • Say no to overtime.
  • Take time to eat well & be active.
  • Eat as a family
  • Get enough sleep.


Poor Eating Habits

  • Skipping meals may cause a dramatic change in blood glucose levels which may be dangerous for those with diabetes. Skipping meals can also cause us to over-eat later.
  • Buying take-out or prepackaged food may save us time but these foods are often high in calories, fat, sugar and salt (sodium). Large portion sizes also cause us to over-eat.
  • Poor eating habits can lead to obesity - a risk factor for both diabetes and heart disease.
What Can the Workplace Do? What Can Employees Do?
  • Make time for family meals more often.
  • Plan a grocery list and stock up on nutritious foods.
  • Prepare healthy meals in big batches and freeze in meal size portions.
  • Always have breakfast to “fuel” your body.
  • Eat vegetables and fruit with all meals and/or as snacks.
  • Quench your thirst with water and skim or 1% milk (white or chocolate).
  • Pack leftover meals for lunch.

Remember, your eating habits will affect how your children establish theirs!


Decreased Physical Activity

  • Physical inactivity can lead to many chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain types of cancer), disability and premature death.
  • Most Canadians are not active enough to gain any health benefits.
What Can the Workplace Do? What Can Employees Do?
  • Create a handout for staff listing fitness options close to work. Hint: use the proximity search on Canada411.ca
  • Create a policy/guidelines for active living in the workplace.
  • Have employees virtually walk across Canada.
  • Organize a sports team or a charitable walk team.
  • Promote walk & talk meetings.
  • Purchase a portable auto shelter as an incentive for parking in a spot far from the door. Employees parking in the shelter will have their vehicles sheltered from the sun in the summer and snow in the winter.
  • Check out the Physical Activity at Work website.
  • Promote active commuting to the workplace.
  • Park further away from the door at work.
  • Stretch or do yoga at your workstation.
  • Bike to work. If you have to drop your kids off before work, ask if you can leave vehicle behind for the day and bike from there.
  • Walk around the block with the kids before getting ready for bed.
  • Check out other family ideas from Participation (PDF, 1 pg).
  • Take the stairs rather than the escalator or elevator.
  • Use your child’s practice times to walk around the arena, field, gym.
  • Create a play bag for work including such items as: a skipping rope, running shoes, resistance band, water bottle, light dumbbells, Frisbee, soccer ball, ball glove, etc.


The Impact on our Healthcare System & Benefits Costs - Affects Us All

Did you know that role overloadRole Overload is when an employee has too much to do in too little time. and high caregiver strainCaregiver Strain is the financial, physical and mental stress associated with caring for an elderly or disabled dependent. are the 2 most costly work/life conflicts to both our health care system and benefit costs?

A study of more than 31,000 employed Canadians found that high role overload and high caregiver strain are the 2 most costly forms of work-life conflict to both our health care system and benefits costs (Duxbury, Higgins & Johnson, 2004).

Role overload and caregiver strain affect:

  • the employee (i.e. impact on health & time away from work)
  • the workplace (i.e. benefits costs & time away from work)

the healthcare system (i.e. trips to the hospital & visits to health care professionals)

Role Overload is when an employee has too much to do in too little time.

Caregiver Strain is the financial, physical and mental stress associated with caring for an elderly or disabled dependent.


Facts & Stats

  • The cost for those staff experiencing caregiver strain is approximately $1.1 billion/year (Duxbury & Higgins, 2003).
  • Employees with high work-life conflict miss an average of 11.8 days/year (MacBride-King & Bachmann, 1999).
  • An employee with 3 or more risk factors (i.e. sedentary lifestyle, smoker, overweight and drink too much) is absent 50% more often than staff with no such risk factors. The more risk factors someone has, the greater the cost to an employer they are (Shain & Suurvail, 2001).
  • Workers reporting high levels of work-life conflict experience low energy levels, stress, anxiety, guilt, and a need for greater work life satisfaction (HRSDC).
  • The cost of absenteeism due to worker’s role overload is estimated to be $3.1 billion/year (Duxbury & Higgins, 2003).
  • Medical costs for people with diabetes are 2 - 3 times higher than those without diabetes. A person with diabetes can have direct costs for medication and supplies ranging from $1,000 to $15,000 a year (Canadian Diabetes Association).


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Revised: July 31, 2014


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