Ever feel overwhelmed trying to balance work and home life? Well, you are not alone.

“People who report being very or completely in charge of their work schedules are much more likely than others to report multitasking at home. The same people, in turn, report more work-family conflict,” says researcher Scott Schieman, a University of Toronto sociologist.

Schieman examined data from a large sample of American workers to explore the factors that increase work-family interference. That is, the frequency that work-related conditions spill over into non-working life.

“Most people probably would identify schedule control as a good thing — an indicator of flexibility that helps them balance their work and home lives. We wondered about the potential stress of schedule control for the work-family interface,” he said. “What happens if schedule control blurs the boundaries between these key social roles?”

“We were motivated by the fact that this is a common stressor that can have consequences for psychological and physical health, as well as the quality of social relationships,” said Schieman.

Schieman and PhD student Marisa Young asked study participants their experience of work-family interference, the nature of work life, and a range of other socio-demographic variables. Some questions they asked the participants were to outline whether they control the start and end of their work day, whether they work at home and multi-task, and whether they experience conflict between those two roles.
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“We found that many work-related demands were related to higher levels of work-family interference. But we also found that some things that people see as resources (like schedule control at work) were also related to higher levels of work-family interference,” said Schieman.

Schieman has also noted that “[they] found several surprising patterns. People who are well-educated, professionals, and those with job-related resources report that their work interferes with their personal lives more frequently, reflecting what we refer to as “the stress of higher status.” While many benefits undoubtedly accrue to those in higher-status positions and conditions, a downside is the greater likelihood of work interfering with personal life.”

Asked if he found these findings shocking, Schieman said, “not so much “shocking” but more surprising because most people assume that some higher status work conditions should be related to less stress, not more stress.

“We found the opposite in some cases. The findings for schedule control were the most interesting. Long work hours were related to more work-family interference among people who had the most schedule control — this was unexpected based on the “flexibility” model.”

“Some key work-related conditions are central influences on these stressful processes and outcomes. So, if people are aware of these things, they might be able to cope more effectively with them,” said Schieman.