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Avery Post

Stress and Work Life Imbalance: Stress Response Part 4

One explanation for stress becoming a significant problem in modern North America is work life imbalance. We are doing more work outside the home. We are not maintaining good boundaries on work tasks and technology, both during and after work. The following statistics are very concerning:

  • The average workweek has increased from 42 to 45 hours per week over the past decade and 40% of employees work more than 50 hours per week, compared to 25% in 1990.

  • 52% of employees take work home with them, up from 31% in 1990.

  • 59% of employees check their voicemail after hours, 30% accept work-related faxes at home, and 29% keep their cell phones always on.

  • An estimated 28% of working Canadians feel that family and friends resent the number of hours they spend working.

From Wellness Module 2: Stress and Well-Being

This stress is affecting sleep quality, personal health, home and family life, and the quality of work and sex. Many people are heading to burnout – when their minds can no longer function or chronic medical conditions steal their time and energy. Beware – if you burn-out it can take 6 months to 2 years to recover and sometimes people become permanently disabled.

In these stressful times of increasing demands, decreased budgets, down-sizing, and long commutes people are trying to meet all their work and family obligations, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I invite you to list all the things you do (separating out “Have to” versus “Want to”) in a day, including the mundane like hygiene, eating, household chores, travel time, and the 7.5 hours of sleep which is optimal for us.

When you see the actual time you are trying to fit into a day is more than the 24 hours available, hopefully, you realize you have to let something go to lighten your stress load. It isn’t easy and we tend to give up the activities that keep us healthy rather than limit the ones that keep us stressed. That’s where the difference between want and need is important in setting priorities. Make sure the important things are scheduled first, then fit in the lesser tasks.

One problem for North Americans is they seem to live to work and many forgo days off and holidays trying to get more work done. As a comparison Europeans are said to work to live. They have many more scheduled holidays and much longer vacations than the typical North American. If we don’t manage the demands put on us we get caught in a downward spiral.

In this time of Coronavirus people have been forced to slow down and many people are rediscovering relaxation and have begun to reassess their priorities. Working from home reduces commute stress, but can increase home stress. Let’s hope the new normal includes a better work/life balance.

In future blogs, I will explore Managing Unrealistic Expectations and Stress Busters.

Check out my previous related blog posts on Stress & Relationships and how stress affects the body.


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