December 13, 2008
More autonomy at work means less work/life balance?
The University of Toronto released an interesting study this past week: According to the study, which relied on data culled from a 2002 survey of more than 2,600 U.S. workers, the more autonomy and control over your work schedule you have, the more likely you are to bring your work home with you.
Specifically, the study found that:
1. Those who have more say in what time they start and finish working each day experience blurrier lines between work and family life. In other words, it's not uncommon for them to a squeeze in a little work during evenings and weekends. Curiously, the study found that men are guiltier of this than women.
2. While men and women in more autonomous jobs are more likely to blur their work and personal life, men with more autonomous jobs are more likely than women with autonomous jobs to be contacted by the office outside of traditional business hours.
3. Men and women who are contacted by the office outside normal business hours experience some tension with family members as a result, but only when they have less autonomy at work (i.e., less power).
The University of Toronto describes these findings as "surprising," which, honestly, surprises me.
Being able to dictate your work hours often goes hand in hand with working 30 to 60 minutes (or more) from home before or after your hit the office each day so that you don't have to spend quite so much time at the blasted office. Also, as a freelancer who predominantly works from home, I can tell you that bringing work home or taking work calls and emails during non-business hours is always a recipe for conflict with family members or domestic partners who don't blur the boundaries between work and personal life themselves. Finally, I'm not sure what to make of the gender discrepancies in this study; those don't ring true from what I've seen.
How about you, readers? Do you think having more autonomy at work and in your work schedule makes for a fuzzier work/life balance? Has an increase in your autonomy at work lead to more spats with those you live with (due to you working from home more)? Or has it made your life more balanced all around?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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