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Balance? What Balance?

Finding harmony between professional and personal life proves elusive for many, study finds

As many as 50 per cent of people bring their work home with them regularly, according to new U of T research that describes the stress associated with work-life balance and the factors that predict it.

Researchers measured the extent to which work was interfering with personal time using data from a national survey of 1,800 American workers. Sociology professor Scott Schieman and his co-authors Melissa Milkie of the University of Maryland and U of T PhD student Paul Glavin asked participants questions such as: “How often does your job interfere with your home or family life?” 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 and private life are well documented.”

Among the authors’ core findings in their American Sociological Review article: People with university or postgraduate degrees report greater work interference at home than those with a high school degree. The researchers also found that interpersonal work conflict, job insecurity and high-pressure situations all predict more work interference at home. However, having control over the pace of one’s work diminishes the negative effects of high-pressure situations. Also, people with greater job authority, higher skill level, greater decision-making latitude and higher personal earnings report more work interference in home life.

The last point reflects what Schieman refers 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,” he says.

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