Media Releases

When work interferes with life: Study reveals new insights about a common stressor.

January 12, 2010

TORONTO, ON – As many as 50 per cent of peo­ple bring their work home with them reg­u­lar­ly, accord­ing to new research out of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to 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 (UofT) and his coau­thors Melis­sa Milkie (Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land) and PhD stu­dent Paul Glavin (UofT) asked par­tic­i­pants ques­tions like: “How often does your job inter­fere with your home or fam­i­ly life?”; “How often does your job inter­fere with your social or leisure activ­i­ties?”; 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 life and pri­vate life are well-doc­u­ment­ed.” 

The authors describe five core sets of find­ings: 

  • Peo­ple with col­lege or post­grad­u­ate degrees tend to report their work inter­feres with their per­son­al life more than those with a high school degree;
  • Pro­fes­sion­als tend to report their work inter­feres with their home life more than peo­ple in all oth­er occu­pa­tion­al cat­e­gories;
  • Sev­er­al job-relat­ed demands pre­dict more work seep­ing into the home life: inter­per­son­al con­flict at work, job inse­cu­ri­ty, nox­ious envi­ron­ments, and high-pres­sure sit­u­a­tions; how­ev­er, hav­ing con­trol over the pace of one’s own work dimin­ish­es the neg­a­tive effects of high-pres­sure sit­u­a­tions;
  • Sev­er­al job-relat­ed resources also pre­dict more work inter­fer­ence with home life: job author­i­ty, job skill lev­el, deci­sion-mak­ing lat­i­tude, and per­son­al earn­ings;
  • As pre­dict­ed, work­ing long hours (50-plus per week) is asso­ci­at­ed with more work inter­fer­ence at home—surprisingly, how­ev­er, that rela­tion­ship is stronger among peo­ple who have some or full con­trol over the tim­ing of their work; 

“We found sev­er­al sur­pris­ing pat­terns,” says Schie­man. “Peo­ple who are well-edu­cat­ed, pro­fes­sion­als and those with job-relat­ed resources report that their work inter­feres with their per­son­al lives more fre­quent­ly, reflect­ing what we refer 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.”


For more infor­ma­tion on the study, appear­ing in the Decem­ber 2009 issue of the jour­nal Amer­i­can Soci­o­log­i­cal Review, please con­tact: 

Scott Schie­man, lead author

April Kemick
Media Rela­tions Offi­cer