SETTING WORK-LIFE BOUNDARIES
IS GOOD FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES
AND GREAT FOR BUSINESS
By Melissa Campeau
Line up any 10 of your employees – six of them are feeling
overloaded, according to the Canadian Mental Health
Association (CMHA). A full 58 per cent of us feel we’ve got
too much going on when it comes to our responsibilities at
work, at home and in our community.
There are a host of reasons for this. Corporate downsizing
has meant many employees are expected to pick up extra duties.
Members of the so-called sandwich generation are coping with the
dual demands of raising children and caring for ailing parents. Add
our 24/7 mobile technologies to the mix, and the lines between
“work” and “the rest of life” tend to blur. Between the lack of boundaries,
external pressure and our own internalized high expectations,
there’s a powder keg of tension in most workplaces, just ready to
THE TROUBLE WITH THE HUSTLE
With no clear delineation between work life and personal life, both
elements can suffer. When regular morning workouts are delayed or
cancelled in favour of responding to emails, for example, or family
dinners are routinely interrupted by business calls, stress levels can
soar. Personal lives can tread heavily on work hours, too: an employee
may spend unproductive hours at his desk, distracted by worries
over an ailing parent or fielding calls about a child with special needs.
Instead of “doing it all” and “having it all,” many people experience
a persistent sense of doing many things poorly. They feel
neglectful of their health, guilty about missing their child’s concert
or dissatisfied with their performance at work.
SIGNS OF OVERLOAD
Employees who are overwhelmed by either their personal lives
or work duties – or both – are at risk of feeling like they’ve lost
control and may find themselves constantly fatigued and unable to
“Someone experiencing those symptoms isn’t going to give their
best performance at work,” said Linda Marmen, director, Corporate
Resources for the CMHA Ontario in Toronto.
There’s also the issue of presenteeism, where an employee may appear
to be busy – or even log lengthy hours in the office – but isn’t
“There are people who will keep taking on more and more work,”
said Marmen, “but they’re not finishing things or working well.”
While many people will be acutely aware of feeling out of control
or unbalanced, others can slip into this state without realizing
“Often, it’s up to a manager to notice that something is wrong,”
MENTAL HEALTH AT RISK
If left unchecked, constant stress can lead to burnout – a state of
emotional and physical exhaustion that makes a person incapable of
functioning at work (or at home).
“Burnout is certainly the extreme outcome,” said Sheryl Boswell,
B2B and B2C marketing lead for Monster Canada. “That’s the
breaking point. Employers should get ahead of problems well before
you have a burnout situation.”
For someone with an underlying mental health issue, prolonged
stress can contribute to the presentation of an anxiety or mood
disorder. In fact, Statistics Canada reports that employees who consider
their days to be quite a bit or extremely stressful were three
times more likely to suffer a major depressive episode, compared
with those who reported low levels of general stress.
Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock.com 16 ❚ JULY/AUGUST 2015 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL