More Canadians crunched for time: well-being report
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, June 15, 2010 9:17PM EDT
Many Canadians are struggling to meet the competing demands of the workplace, their families and their own needs, and that's leaving them feeling continually stressed out, a new report finds.
The latest Canadian Index of Wellbeing report reveals that many of us are consumed with our work, and as a result we have less time to participate in social activities, attend arts performances or volunteer.
The report found that while fewer of us are working long hours at the office, more of us are working non-standard hours, such as on the weekends, or during evenings, or rotating shifts. That's while also looking after children and seniors.
Even our kids are feeling the crunch. Adolescents are increasingly exceeding recommended times for TV, video games and computer use, and significantly fewer are having meals at home. And among those teens who do eat at home, an increasing proportion of them are not eating at the same time as their parents or other family members.
The results for many of us include poorer physical and mental health, as well as less satisfaction with the quality of our lives.
"If we continue on this path, I think the impacts are going to be greater," the chair of the CIW advisory board, Roy Romanow, told CTV's Canada AM Tuesday.
"Not being able to relate to family and friends, to have time to regenerate yourself intellectually, emotionally, physically -- those are the impacts of working all the time. I think we get desensitized, we're remote from each other," he said.
The report was compiled using data collected in Statistics Canada surveys over nearly two decades. Among the report's findings:
- One in five Canadian adults feel "caught in a time crunch," experiencing high levels of time pressure
- That number is on the rise: the proportion of those who said they were in a time crunch grew to 19.6 per cent in 2005 from 16.4 per cent in 1992
- The average proportion of our waking lives devoted to social and leisure activities dropped by 20 per cent between 1998 and 2005
- A much higher proportion of females than males reported time pressure in 2005 -- 22.7 per cent for women, 16 per cent for men
- More than one in four employed Canadians were responsible for the care of an elderly dependent, and one in five (16.8 per cent) had responsibility for both child care and elder care in 2009
- The proportion of Canadians worked non-standard hours (weekends, evenings, nights, rotating shifts) jumped from 23 per cent in 1992 to 29 per cent in 2009
The most common types of non-standard schedules were rotating shifts and an irregular schedule. As the report notes, irregular schedules are the most difficult for workers, because the body has to adjust to changes in sleep patterns, and child care can be hard to find.
Romanow notes that the introduction of new technologies such as Blackberries and iPhones that were supposed to make communication easier, have only managed to increase the demand for workers to be perpetually "on call," erasing the boundaries between workplace and home.
"We are social beings. And I know that computers are a necessity of life… but I think that unless you put this into proper balance, the impact is going to be I think -- and maybe this is too apocalyptic -- a less healthy society and one that is less caring and concerned for each other because we're wrapped up with this little machine in our hands."
Marty Fineberg, a lawyer in Saint John, N.B. who puts in long hours at the office, said his Blackberry keeps him working during what should be his down time.
"When people have instant access to you, they make requests and they expect those requests are met forthwith," Fineberg told CTV News.
Romanow says what's needed is more discussion about how Canadians can lead more balanced lives. The former Saskatchewan premier says what's needed are family-friendly policies for all workers, such as flexible hours and more vacation time, as well as more community resources and supports for Canada's aging population.
We also need public planning that supports leisure and more walkable neighbourhoods, as well as more support for cultural activities and venues, the report says.
"If governments act, we might be able to get on a course of action to change things or at least balance it a bit," says Romanow.
With a report from CTV's Atlantic Bureau Chief Todd Battis