A new study found that for most parents, work is regularly and negatively spilling over into home life.
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mother staying up late to work while child sleeps
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Since the publication of the 1989 book, The Second Shift, moms in particular have been juggling a day of work followed by a "second shift" of domestic work. But now, we're clearly looking at what might be considered a third shift, thanks in great part to technology. Being able to work whenever, from wherever is amazing, but it also comes with cons, like the pressure to blur if not utterly obliterate lines between our professional and personal lives. The 2020 Modern Families Index, an annual report out of the U.K. and now in its 8th year, highlights this global issue. The Index surveyed 3,090 working parents and one of the key findings was that work is consistently and negatively spilling over into home life, disrupting everyday activities as well as health and wellbeing.

What Parents Said About Work-Life Balance—or Lack Thereof

They're pressured to be on 24/7.

One glaring example: 44% check their emails or do other work at night. Over half (51%) said this happens often or all the time. The parents who were struggling with this particular work-life divide tended to be in more senior roles, and cited workload pressure (40%) and manager expectation (35%) as the main reasons, according to the report. Only 25% were doing this through choice.

There are pros and cons of technology.

On the other hand, 56% of respondents, and more fathers than mothers, said that technology had allowed them to achieve more work-life balance. Yet, technology did increase work hours for 48%.

They want less blurred boundaries.

All in all, parents said they'd prefer less blurred boundaries between work and home. And no surprise—those who felt boundaries were too blurred also reported having poorer wellbeing.

Domestic work and childcare still isn't shared equally between the sexes.

The report authors point to separate research that less than a third of parents said they share childcare equally, note. On average, women spend 26 hours a week caring for children or doing household chores. That compares to just 16 hours for men.

The Takeaway

"Work expanding into family time is unlikely to have positive outcomes, especially if this is persistent and long term," the authors note. They also point out that their findings paint "a consistent picture of many jobs being simply too big to fit into a working day, requiring extra time just to stay on top of things. Over the long term, this is likely to be unsustainable, as parents look to downshift or find an employer offering a better work life balance." For that reason, they encourage both employees and employers to consider the issue of "work overspill."

The bottom line, according to Jane van Zyl who runs Working Families, the charity behind the report: "The research makes clear that jobs need to be 'human-sized,'" she told the BBC. Meanwhile, we need to do better when it comes to equally divvying up domestic work and childcare.