Family suffers in the work-family equation, says Duxbury

Carleton business professor Linda Duxbury wrote the book on balancing work, family and life.

In fact, she and Chris Higgins of the University of Western Ontario have just released the sixth and final work-lifestyle study, commissioned by Health Canada and based on interviews with 31,000 working Canadians over the past decade.

At least one in four Canadians working at large organizations struggles with conflict between work and family, says the report, and nearly 60 per cent of Canadians employed outside the home are unable to balance their work and family demands.

Duxbury, who is married to a Carleton computer engineering professor and has a daughter attending the university, wastes no time in getting to the point of how to balance one’s work and family lives.

“Schedule time with your family,” she says. “Sunday dinner for example. Write it in ink in your day-timer.”

Duxbury has found, since she began studying issues related to workload and stress some 20 years ago, that “Canadian families are coping by taking the family out of work and family.”

More than three-quarters of Canadians interviewed for Duxbury’s study admitted they cope with work-life issues by sacrificing personal needs and housework. The report indicates that work demands have increased, women do less at home, men do more and working Canadians are more stressed, more depressed and in poorer physical and mental health than ever before.

While Duxbury admits her findings are “disturbing” in terms of what they say about Canadian values and show a propensity for setting unrealistic work expectations, she offers remedial advice.

Employers, for example, should allow more flexible work hours and give the employee a stronger sense of control, while the worker needs to learn how to balance his or her own life, delegate, prioritize and set boundaries between work and family lives.

Duxbury also points to the need for structural change at all levels of government pertaining to child care and elder care for example, and advocacy of employee work-life balance by unions.

One of the biggest obstacles to balancing our lives, she says, is today’s organizational model of long hours, never saying “no,” and the competition among the proportionately large working-age baby boom population.

“It has resulted in a sick organization culture today. But the other impediment is ourselves,” says Duxbury. “We are motivated by our work, and our image is related to our job title. The problem is that organizations have downsized and downloaded work on the survivors, stuff that isn’t even in their job description. And we don’t push back.”

She pushes back against her own heavy academic workload with a set of sacrosanct rules. No work on weekends (except Sunday evenings), no BlackBerry, a cell phone exceptionally for family use, unplugged vacations away from home, several long weekends a year and a high-priority fitness plan.

“I’m realistic and I don’t expect that every day will be in balance,” admits Duxbury, “but I expect that over the course of two weeks or a month, there will be some balance.”

Duxbury’s Top Ten Tips To Work-Life Balance

1. Don’t cut back on your sleep.

2. Don’t cut back on your social life.

3. Put yourself first sometimes.

4. Don’t cut corners either at work or at home.

5. Buy support such as housecleaning occasionally.

6. Eat out once a week.

7. Take advantage of flexible work arrangements and family benefits and support offered by your organization.

8. If you don’t get on with your boss, switch jobs.

9. When you are sick, stay home from work.

10. Think of technology as a tool, rather than your boss, which means leaving the computer at home when you go on holidays and turning off your cell phone.

This entry was written by Susan Hickman and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: , . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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