The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) research on how we use our time highlights the fact that more and more of us are caught in a time crunch. The trends suggest that we are increasingly sacrificing satisfying and meaningful relaxation and leisure time in order to attend to the more pressing demands of work, childcare and looking after dependent seniors. There is considerable research demonstrating the strong connection between time use, leisure and culture on the one hand, and wellbeing on the other.
Here are some questions to ponder before you read the research:
1. Are you spending excessive time at work?
2. Do you work standard or non-standard work hours?
3. Do you have permanent or precarious work?
4. How far do you commute to work? And how do you get there?
5. How much do you feel the pressure of time?
Now here are the research findings:
Working in the labour force is strongly and positively associated with individual and family wellbeing. But there is compelling evidence that excessive time spent in paid labour leads to poorer health. The risks are believed to come from having less time to recover from work, longer exposure to workplace hazards, and less time to attend to non-work responsibilities. Long hours have a significantly negative impact on life satisfaction and time-related stress, which in turn, have a negative effect on wellbeing.
Non-standard work hours are associated with lower self-reported health, higher levels of stress, psychological distress, greater depressive symptoms, greater relationship conflict for dual-earner couples, and lower life satisfaction. Evening work is particularly bad for the children of evening workers since the lessened contact reduces the parent’s ability to support the child’s development and to secure childcare.
Workers in precarious employment have poorer health and experience higher levels of stress, mental illness, and substance abuse. Precarious work also tends to have lower pay than permanent work and often does not offer access to training, paid vacations, paid sick leave, employment insurance, pension and other benefits.
Long commuting hours are associated with self and medically reported sickness and absences, sleep problems and elevated risk factors for heart disease. Long commutes also disrupt family life by reducing time together. Car travel is more detrimental to wellbeing than train travel, since in the latter case commuters tend to walk to and from the train station. There is consistent evidence that individuals who use cars more tend to have higher rates of obesity related illnesses, elevated heart rate, and reports of anxiety. Car travel also harms community wellbeing by contributing to air pollution and climate change. By contrast, time spent in active commuting (e.g., walking or biking) is associated with improved mental and physical health outcomes, such as reduced risk of stroke.
People experiencing time pressure have lower levels of satisfaction, higher levels of stress, lower self-reported physical and emotional wellbeing, and greater insomnia. Work-life conflict can lead to higher levels of anxiety and depression; sleep disturbances; infectious disease and suppressed immune functioning; poor dietary habits, a lack of physical exercise and obesity; increased dependence on cigarettes, alcohol, medications and drugs; hypertension, high cholesterol, coronary, musculoskeletal and digestive problems; allergies and migraine headaches; burnout; and increased costs for medical consultations and prescription drugs.
It is difficult to experience spirit at work when we feel caught in a time crunch. What are some things that you might do to reduce the pressing demands of time and refill your cup?
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Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and professional speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.