Recession has more people feeling dominated by work: Survey

With Labour Day approaching, a new poll shows some of the ideals this holiday is meant to celebrate are falling by the wayside.

The first Monday of September is associated with a labour movement that promoted a triple-eight work-life balance — eight hours a day for work, eight for play, and eight for rest.

A survey done on behalf of Everest College, conducted by Harris/Decima, had 78 per cent of respondents saying it’s important to work less to have more time for one’s self, family and friends.

However, the same poll also had 34 per cent saying that work dominates their lives. Almost as many — 31 per cent — said that, as a result of the recent economic downturn, they are expected to put in longer hours at work for the same or less pay.

Another aspect pointing to a link between poor economic conditions and a population’s overall work-life balance is the fact that just 12 per cent said work dominated their lives in a similar survey done a year ago.

"We believe our survey results show the incredible pressure people are feeling in this challenging economy," said Don Thibert, director of academic affairs for Everest College, a career-training school with locations across Ontario.

Among the survey’s other findings: almost 25 per cent of respondents said they would be required to work during the Labour Day weekend, and about as many were working more than one job to make ends meet.

Nora Spinks, president of Work-Life Harmony Enterprises, a Toronto-based consultancy for employers, said an economic downturn always has an impact on how people view the balance between their professional and personal lives. Those laid off, she said, tend to reconsider the type of lives they want in relation to work, while many who keep their jobs are picking up the duties of the colleagues who have been axed.

She said with Canada and much of the industrialized world facing labour shortages as baby boomers retire or reduce their workloads, employees will find themselves in better positions to negotiate work-life balance provisions.

Employers, Spinks said, are wise to keep their staff’s personal needs in mind for the purpose of recruitment and maximizing current workers’ performance.

"What the research shows is that healthy, happy, balanced employees are more productive, more resilient, more resourceful, and able to be more creative, innovative and solve problems better than those who are stressed, strained, overworked, overwhelmed, overloaded," she said.

"If employers create these (positive work-life balance) environments, the individual performance can go up, individual productivity goes up, which means the organization’s productivity and performance goes up, which means profitability goes up if you’re private sector, and it means efficiency and effectiveness goes up if you’re public sector."

The Everest College survey was taken of 1,096 working Canadians between July 16 and 26, with results considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


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