WORK-LIFE BALANCE / NOV. 20, 2013
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Can Taking Work Home Ruin Your Life?

More than ever jobs are requiring workers to take work home. It has become a regular part of life for almost half of the workers in the United States and is quickly becoming common place in Europe too. Heavy work schedules and employee cutbacks have resulted in work loads that would be impossible to complete within the traditional 9 to 5 hour work day. The expectations for people holding management positions are to work beyond their contracted hours and with the present job market being so competitive, few employees are in a position to object to the extra work load. But surely taking your work home must take its toll?

So what are the physical and psychological effects of bringing work home?

The American Psychological Association found that numerous negative effects occur when the work day extends into personal time. In 2005 the APA conducted a study on 86 workers over a period of 3 days to test how bringing work home affected their health.  It was no surprise to discover that those with the heavier workload suffered from irritability, anger, tiredness and sleep disturbance. The inability to ‘switch off’ can result in a person struggling to fully detach themselves from work which can harm relationships at home and socially.

Recovery from work is essential to a person’s physical and psychological health and home should be a sanctuary where recovery takes place. Family time, sharing conversation with friends or relaxing with a book or television are essential activities that benefit overall health.

My own family experienced the effects of a heavy workload when my husband started a business a few years ago. He was working long hours Monday to Friday and would travel for work at the weekends. When he was home stresses ran high because with 3 teenagers in the house, there were always things to do and issues to be resolved. We ended up living in a vicious cycle of high stress at home because of his absence which led to him spending more time at the office to avoid the less than relaxing environment of home. It was during this time that my husband suffered the onset of severe migraines that still occur to this day even though he has established a better balance of his work and personal time.

Canadian and American researchers discovered that people who work more than 50 hours a week are going to experience the most interference in their private lives and workers who obtained college and post graduate degrees are more likely than high school graduates to work during what should be personal time. 

Although taking work home has become an expectation of many employers, it could actually be counterproductive, considering one of the main effects of having no downtime is reduced productivity during official work hours. It is worth considering this as you pile paperwork into your bag at what should rightfully be the end of your workday!

So taking your work home certainly takes its toll on your personal life and health. However, it seems that in many cases there is almost no way of getting out of it. The only thing that you can do is try to manage your work load and stress as best you can. Perhaps even seek professional help to deal with the stress.

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