Work-Life Balance: The Relationship Between Stress and Health
March 10th 2012
The relationship between employment related stress and workplace uncertainty directly impacts health today. Studies have identified employment strains caused by uncertainty of work that may be measured by scheduling and earning uncertainty (Tompa et al, 2009). The effort required in commuting to the workplace and effort required to handle multiple jobs are also strains that will be addressed in relation to this theme while drawing on my own experience. With the significant rise of working hours among Canadians in past years have caused conflict among family and individuals and has increased workplace accidents while reduced productivity and quality (Tompa et al 2009). Jackson (2009) emphasizes the link between stress and health; the strains related to the workplace may include work-life conflict, job insecurity, and physical demand.
I would also like to add the strain employment demands could cause for full-time students and in particular university life. Furthermore, work-life conflict can arise when an individual plays more than one role such as of a student, employee, caregiver, and volunteer (Smith & Polanyi, 2009). Each role has its own demands and balancing time for multiple roles at the same time may impact individual health directly. I have constructed a time-use diary method to investigate the relationship between work and the conflict it may cause to a full-time students education and family life and its effect on health.
The time-use diary method of compiling data for research purposes is one that requires the continuous log or record of activity for a particular observation period (Gershuny, 2011). For this study, I have used a 24-hour period with one-hour fixed intervals on an average weekday. The time-use data pertains to only myself and have constructed the data based on my own activities. As shown in the appendix, the diary registers the location, co-presence along with the activity for each time interval. However, it lacks the registering of “subjective” feelings such as stress, happy, or enjoyment. The template for this time-use diary was used similar to the HETUS diary form collected by ONS in 2000 – 1 (Gershuny, 2011). The components in this diary form include the main activity (i.e. “what did you do?”), secondary activity (i.e. “were you doing something else at the same time?”), company (i.e. who were you with?), and location (i.e. where were you?).
This method was chosen for the particular theme of work in relation to health because the diary contributes to the work patterns of each day and estimated the duration of each activity. By providing evidence of the duration of time spent at work, school, and home, an analysis can be made to evaluate the value of each and the relation these roles have on individual health (Gershuny, 2011). Each activity log and its duration from the time-use diary is somewhat a typical weekday in my own words. The interpretation of my findings can be categorized as followed: duration of activity of paid work, activity in school, activity at home (including sleeping), duration of total commute, duration of time away from home/family, and duration of time with family. In my 24-hour average weekday, the duration of activity of paid work was four hours. It is important to note the nature of my workplace and background on my hours of work to fully comprehend the findings. I am currently working part-time as a survey data interviewer at Corsential located in Scarborough, ON. The nature of the work is primarily telemarketing in a call-center environment.
The hours of work are 5: 30 PM – 11 PM, however the employees are unaware of the time they will be sent home when arriving to work each day. According to the average productivity rate and the amount of calls in hand, individuals may be sent home after three hours at 8: 30 PM or required to stay past 8: 30 PM to the maximum time of 11: 00 PM. Scheduling is completed by each employee for the following week and a minimum of three shifts (day) is required for the week (Mon – Sat). As a full- time student, the duration of activity in school was four hours. Currently, I am a 3rd year student at York University specializing in Health Management. The time spent at home (including sleeping) was 11 hours, however interestingly the time spent at home with family was only two hours. The duration of commute allocated between university, work, and home was approximately three hours. Finally the duration of time spent away from home/ family was 13 hours in this 24-hour time-use diary. Tompa et al (2009) presents theories of work-life balance in The Social Determinants of Health (2nd ed).
Particularly regarding unpredictable work hours that can cause fewer time spent with family at home and more likely to cause stress that may impact health. The findings in my time-use diary are concurrent with the theories presented earlier. Scheduling uncertainty is evident which causes income uncertainty and also the ability to plan your day is restricted. The impact of income insecurity and unpredictability causes strain in employment that may lead to decreasing health. Irregular hours have also lead to poor health and as evidence has shown, also increases stress (Tompa et al, 2009). Although my everyday work schedule allows me to create the schedule in advance, the uncertainty of the hours has consistently lead to less time I am allowed to spend at home or able to use for studying. When fewer paid work hours are given, there is a decrease in income causing stress while longer hours causes similar consequences when I have other responsibilities to attend to. Women in particular have reported higher levels of stress than men, which again reflect on the work-family life balance (Jackson, 2009).
The time-use diary also provides evidence that too few and long hours both relate to health problems and are even more so when uncertainty also becomes a factor (Smith & Polanyi, 2009). The Canadian Mental Health Association (2013) introduces many recommendations for improving work- life balance. Some of these recommendations include scheduling breaks to improve productivity throughout the day, being realistic about what you can achieve, and separating work-life from the rest. Furthermore, they recommend exercise to remain energized and maintaining a budget. In response to this issue I believe that getting support and creating an understanding with your employer is very useful in particular for students. Prioritizing your responsibilities and creating a mutual understanding with your employer may provide you with the option for a more convenience with work schedule/hours. Having the support system from employers, family and friends will create an environment that hopefully reduces stress and ultimately improves health.
Gershuny, J. (2011). Time-use surveys and the measurement of national well-being. London: Office of National Statistics. Jackson, A.. “The Unhealthy Canadian Workplace.” Social determinants of health. 2nd ed. Toronto [Ont.: Canadian Scholars Press Inc, 2009. 99-113. Print. Smith, P., and M. Polanyi. “Understand and Improving the Health of Work.” Social determinants of health. 2nd ed. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc, 2009. 114-127. Print. Tompa, E., M. Polanyi, and J. Foley. “Labour Market Flexibility and Worker Insecurity.” Social determinants of health. 2nd ed. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc, 2009. 88-98. Print. “Work-Life Balance: Make It Your Business | Canadian Mental Health Association.” Canadian Mental Health Association | Mental Health for All. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. .