Feeling the time crunch

How’s your sense of well-being these days? Feeling a bit stressed? If so, you have company

Melanie Berezan holds onto her laptop and daughter Catalina while (from left) Josh

Melanie Berezan holds onto her laptop and daughter Catalina while (from left) Josh

How’s your sense of well-being these days? Feeling a bit stressed? If so, you have company

More Canadians are feeling crunched for time as they try to balance the demands of home and work, according to a new report.

The report released Tuesday by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing explored the use of time, leisure and culture in Canada. It relies largely on data collected in Statistics Canada surveys over the course of nearly two decades, and offers a summary of various studies examining quality of life.

The report found that the proportion of Canadians reporting they experience a lot of pressure on their time grew from 16.4 per cent in 1992 to 19.6 per cent in 2005.

While single parents with young kids were the most-time crunched group, when it came to the gender split, women felt the pressure more than men — nearly 23 per cent compared to close to 17 per cent.

“The time crunch pressure seems to be growing, moreso on women than on men, but the fact that it’s growing generally is a bit of a concern,” said Roy Romanow, chair of the CIW Advisory Board.

One in four employed Canadians were responsible for caring for an elderly dependent, while one in five had responsibilities for caring for both children and seniors.

It’s an experience Erica Wells encountered while helping to take care of her husband’s 84-year-old father before he passed away last December, while she was looking after family and managing with work.

But as a mortgage broker, the Vancouver mother of two said she’s seen clients in a similar position, with many of them bringing elderly parents into their homes.

They’re then using whatever support network is in place for their children, like a live-in nanny for example, to look after the parents while the husband and wife are at work, she said.

While fewer Canadians are working longer hours, the proportion of adults working non-standard hours — weekends, evening, nights, and rotating shifts — jumped from nearly 23 per cent in 1992 to around 25 per cent in 2008.

Greater consumer demand for services outside of weekday hours, the rise in urban sprawl and workplace technologies like email and smartphones increasing demand on employees to be “perpetually on call” among the trends reshaping our time, leisure and culture activities.

Vancouver-based mother-of-four Melanie Berezan says technology has helped her work more efficiently.

Berezan, owner and co-founder of GirlGetStrong.com, an online women’s fitness magazine, relies on her laptop and iPhone to make her office portable, particularly when taking her kids to activities.

“The flipside of that is it’s harder to turn it off,” admits the 38-year-old, whose children range in age from five to 11.

Berezan said she’s found a way to allocate her time, doing work while her kids are at school or practices, while setting aside family time from 5 p.m. until bedtime.

“Then if I have the energy, it’s back to work time again — and the occasional date night,” she added, laughing.

Both Berezan and Wells said they curb use of their gadgets. Berezan said she makes sure to turn off the devices during her kids’ games. And Wells, who co-writes the blog survival4moms.com, said now when she heads to the park with her children the BlackBerry stays home.

Romanow said while the report doesn’t have a specific set of solutions, he’s calling for a “serious national dialogue” both on how Canadians lead their lives and how they can get more balance into them.

The former Saskatchewan premier said we need to explore whether community resources and supports are needed to ease the pressure on families, as well as how best to develop family-friendly policies for workers to help them be more productive.

“I think sometimes we suffer from the notion that the more hours we work, the more productive the company really is or the business or the individual is and the reality is that’s not the case,” Romanow said.

“We’re human beings, we’re not machines, and if you don’t have leisure time and recuperation and refreshment, you’re going to be less effective.”

Some notable findings in the report:

• The proportion of teens aged 15-17 who had a meal each day with their parents plunged from 64 per cent in 1992 to 35 per cent in 2005.

• Time spent on social leisure activities declined from 15 per cent in 1998 to 12 per cent in 2005.

• Attendance at arts performances dropped from 15 million to 13 million in 2001-2006.

• The proportion of children and adolescents participating at least weekly in an organized extra-curricular activity remained relatively stable. However, the fact that 17 to 25 per cent of Canadian kids and youth weren’t regularly participating in any organized sport or lesson is “of considerable concern.”