Cana­di­ans sense drop in work-life bal­ance

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - NEWS - ERIC ANDREW-GEE

Com­pared with 2008, Statscan sur­vey finds more peo­ple be­lieve some tech­nolo­gies have crept too far into the home en­vi­ron­ment

A smaller share of Cana­di­ans are sat­is­fied with their work-life bal­ance than eight years ago, a pe­riod in which smart­phones and the in­ter­net have be­come deeply em­bed­ded in the ev­ery­day life of peo­ple un­der 75, a new Sta­tis­tics Canada re­port notes.

The find­ings, drawn from 2016’s Gen­eral So­cial Sur­vey, sug­gest that al­though Cana­di­ans are broadly happy with the way tech­nol­ogy has changed their lives, they may feel that some as­pects of dig­i­tal tech have pen­e­trated too far into the do­mes­tic sphere.

Fully three-quar­ters of Cana­di­ans owned a smart­phone in 2016, al­most a decade since the launch of the iPhone made the pocket com­put­ers broadly pop­u­lar, Statscan found, sur­vey­ing more than 19,000 Cana­di­ans 15 and over.

Mean­while, 68 per cent of Cana­di­ans de­scribed them­selves as sat­is­fied or very sat­is­fied with their work-life bal­ance, down 10 points from 2008.

Statscan did not ask re­spon­dents why they were less sat­is­fied with their work-life bal­ance, but the de­cline comes amid wide­spread con­cern about smart­phones smug­gling work e-mail and other dis­trac­tions into the home.

Daniel Levitin, an emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­science at McGill Univer­sity and au­thor of The Or­ga­nized Mind: Think­ing Straight in the Age of In­for­ma­tion Over­load, said he was not sur­prised by the drop in a sense of bal­ance.

“As I was do­ing in­ter­views for my book,” he wrote in an e-mail, “with highly suc­cess­ful peo­ple (and highly or­ga­nized peo­ple), that’s what peo­ple were com­plain­ing of. Com­put­ers were sup­posed to save us time but it’s be­come the op­po­site.

“Add to that the pres­sure in our over­caf­feinated so­ci­ety to get more and more done, and you’ve got a sit­u­a­tion where no one feels they can slow down for even five min­utes. This is ob­vi­ously go­ing af­fect fam­ily life, leisure time, and iron­i­cally it af­fects pro­duc­tiv­ity – peo­ple who take reg­u­lar breaks through­out the day and … slow down to smell the Tim Hor­tons cof­fee get more done be­cause [their] brains are func­tion­ing more ef­fi­ciently.”

Cana­di­ans’ sat­is­fac­tion with their work-life bal­ance did not vary much be­tween men and women (70 per cent against 66 per cent) or be­tween those with chil­dren and those with­out (67 per cent against 69 per cent).

Four­teen per cent of Cana­di­ans, mean­while, felt that tech­nol­ogy “of­ten in­ter­fered with other things in life,” the Statscan analysis found, ris­ing to 20 per cent for peo­ple be­tween 15 and 24.

Fam­ily time is of­ten a ca­su­alty of that in­ter­fer­ence, ac­cord­ing to Cather­ine

Steiner-Adair, au­thor of The Big Dis­con­nect: Pro­tect­ing Child­hood and Fam­ily Re­la­tion­ships in the Dig­i­tal

Age. She cites re­search from the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia An­nen­berg’s Cen­ter for the Dig­i­tal Fu­ture in­di­cat­ing that the per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans who re­ported spend­ing less time with fam­ily be­cause of their in­ter­net use shot from 11 per cent in 2006 to 28 per cent in 2011.

In an in­ter­view, Dr. Steiner-Adair, a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, said her re­search has shown that chil­dren suf­fer as much as any­one from a break­down of the bar­ri­ers be­tween work and home life. For her book, she in­ter­viewed 1,000 chil­dren be­tween 4 and 18 and found that they of­ten felt aban­doned by par­ents con­sumed with work tasks on their phones. Chil­dren par­tic­u­larly dis­liked the ex­cuse that their par­ents were “just check­ing” a de­vice that of­ten in fact pulled the par­ent into a dig­i­tal rab­bit hole.

Dr. Steiner-Adair said that fam­i­lies should es­tab­lish phone-free zones in the house, like the liv­ing room and din­ing room ta­ble, along with phone-free times of day.

De­spite its ap­par­ent dis­rup­tion of work-life bal­ance, many Cana­di­ans find a lot to like about new dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies, Statscan found. Fifty­nine per cent of those sur­veyed said life was bet­ter be­cause of tech­nol­ogy, with 66 per cent say­ing it saved time and 36 per cent say­ing it aided cre­ativ­ity.

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