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Are We Working Too Hard?

August 28 2008 - We all seem to be working longer hours but does that mean we are working hard? The 'Hardest Working Canadians Study' conducted for Workopolis has identified the top three factors that determine hard work:

  • a high degree of responsibility
  • a high level of concentration or mental effort, and
  • a heavier than average work load

About a third (32%) of 4,107 Canadians surveyed by Environics Research Group btween June 12 and July 23, 2008 said they were working 'too hard'. But 59% thought their work levels were 'just right' and a further 9% said they were not working 'hard enough'.

While 40% of respondents aged 50+ said they worked too hard only 20% of 16-24 year olds sais the same.

Patrick Sullivan, President of Workopolis said:

"As Canadians continue to work harder and harder, are we in fact working any better or smarter? Longer hours don't necessarily mean increased productivity.

"The bottom line: assess the reasons why you're working hard. Do you have an intrinsic drive or are there external factors being placed on you?"

Reasons for working hard

Respondents to the survey said they worked hard because:

  • It's expected of them (51%)
  • It's just the nature of the job (48%)
  • Their work environment is understaffed (41%)

25% said they could not leave work behind, with another 22% saying they worked hard for the money. Respondents in the Western Provinces were most likely to cite understaffing as the reason for working hard. Intriguingly, women were more likely than men to say they worked hard to prove themselves (38% versus 31%). Conversely, men were more likely to do so in order to advance their careers (37% versus 31%).

Who works hardest?

While 61% of managers in the survey thought they worked harder than their employees - because of increased responsibility - only a quarter of staff agreed with them. Most employees thought they worked just as hard (45%) or even harder (30%).

In occupational terms, the following five profesions were rated as the hardest workers:

  • Mothers - because of the high amount of responsibility, and non-standard work hours
  • Nurses
  • Air traffic controllers
  • Surgeons
  • Fire-fighters

Stress, mental concentration, physical effort and even danger were cited as essential factors for the final four professions.

How do we cope?

While 72% of respondents said that exhaustion this was the most significant indicator of too much work, stress, lack of work/life balance , time away from the family and working too many hours were also mentioned. The following coping mechanisms were cited:

  • Taking some 'me' time was most popular, followed by exercising, taking acation days, drinks out and delegating more.
  • 15% admitted to taking a sick day when they were working too hard
  • 20% said they would approach their bosses about overwork
  • .
  • Non-managers were most likely to approach colleagues for help, while managers tended to delegate more.

Patrick Sullivan said:

"While it's important to find coping mechanisms to relieve stress and remove yourself from a difficult situation, the next step is to resolve the problem is through communication

"Employees who find that they are unable to cope with the pressure need to speak up and look to your manager for advice on how to improve the situation. It may mean that additional support needs to be hired or that some of your work is delegated to others, but it is critical to find a solution rather than simply relying on a temporary escape."

Canadians can find additional information and take a quiz to see if they are working too hard at

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