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How Work-Life Conflict Affects Individuals


Feeling overloaded, or feeling that work gets in the way of family, can a toll on an employee’s physical and mental health. People who report high role overload, or high levels of work-to-family conflict, report high stress levels, high burnout, lower life satisfaction, feel more depressed, and have generally poorer health .

 

Role Overload Negatively Affects Health

Source: Duxbury and Higgins (2001). Work Life Balance in the New Millennium:
Where Are We? Where Do We Need to Go?
 

As the chart shows, those experiencing high role overload are almost ten time more likely than those with low role overload to report a high level of burnout (5 versus 48 percent). Those with high role overload are also more likely to feel highly depressed (49 versus 19 percent) and more likely to experience high levels of stress (70 versus 23 percent). Moreover, those experiencing high role overload are twice as likely as employees with low role overload to report low satisfaction with life (26 percent versus 14 percent).

Furthermore, role overload also is associated with health-related behaviours. For instance, while 46 percent of those with low role overload said that they had gone to work while sick, this compares to 83 percent of those reporting high overload. Not surprisingly, only 8 percent of those reporting low role overload also rated their health as poor, a sharp contrast to the 21 percent of those reporting high role overload. Many experts believe that these self-rated health measures provide a good proxy for a person’s actual health status.

 

Work-Family Conflict Negatively Affects Health

Source: Duxbury and Higgins (2001). Work Life Balance in the New Millennium:
Where Are We? Where Do We Need to Go?
 

Work-family conflict also has a big impact on stress. Specifically, only 6 percent of those reporting low conflict also indicate they felt a high level of stress in their life, in comparison with 77 percent of those who experienced a high level of conflict. Stress is known to be associated with many health problems, including depression, ulcers and heart disease. Work-to-family conflict also is linked with psychological well-being. Survey respondents with high levels of work-to-family conflict were far more likely, compared with those who reported low levels of such conflict, to say they felt a high degree of burnout (63 versus 11 percent) and depressed mood (56 versus 26 percent). Individuals experiencing high levels of work-to-family conflict, compared with survey respondents with low conflict, were also more apt to report their personal health as poor. Moreover, those who experience high levels of conflict were more likely to indicate that they had gone into work while sick, in some cases possibly exacerbating their illness.

Those reporting high levels of work-to-life conflict were also more likely than other survey respondents to have visited a medical expert during the previous six month period. Linda Duxbury and Chris Higgins estimate that these extra trips to the doctor costs the Canadian health care system more than $400 million annually.

Finally, those with high work-to-family conflict also missed more personal commitments because of work demands. While one in four with a low level of conflict indicated that they’ve missed a personal commitment, three times that number, or 79 percent, of those with high levels of conflict report having done so.

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