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Disconnecting from Work: The Varied Experiences of Canadian Workers

Are Canadians having trouble finding the right balance between work and family? Are they finding it difficult to disconnect from work when their regular shift or work day is done?

For many, particularly those who have spent much of the past two years working from home, the pandemic has blurred the boundaries between work and family. With child care centres closed and learning moved online, countless employees have become experts at taking Zoom calls with infants on their laps, or jumping from their own spreadsheets to help with their children’s multiplication tables or art projects. Parents who have had to spend at least part of their regular work days keeping their children from putting the family pet in the clothes dryer have had to catch up on work late in the evening or at the crack of dawn.

A person at a desk writing on an Ipad with a laptop open in front of them. Two children are on the couch playing in the background

Key findings

Only one in three employed Canadians say they can often find the right balance between their job, the work they do to care for their households, and the things they like to do for themselves

Older workers and self-employed workers are among those most likely to often find the right balance; professionals (such as teachers, nurses and therapists) are among the least likely to often do so

About one in three employed Canadians always or often continue to do work after their regular work day or shift is over

Boundaries were blurred long before anyone had heard of COVID-19, in many cases due to advances in technology. Computers and smartphones allow workers to bring the ofce home with them; they are constantly connected to work by phone, email and instant message. This is both convenient and invasive. Even if bosses don’t insist that their teams check their email after hours, the ping of a new message landing in the inbox can upend the mood of anyone trying to relax at home after a busy day at work.

With these scenarios in mind, the Ontario government recently proposed legislation to make it easier for employees to disconnect from work. According to the provincial government, the proposed legislation would require employers with 25 employees or more “to develop disconnecting from work policies” that would “make it easier for people to relax and spend quality time with their loved ones.”

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