Work-life balance good for workers and employers, says CBS union boss

By Mark Squibb / September 1, 2023

Work-life balance. It’s one of the buzz phrases that seem to have popped suddenly into existence.

The simplest definition of work-life balance is the amount of time you spend at work versus the amount of time you spend outside of work. It may mean saying ‘No,’ to overtime hours to attend a family BBQ, or requesting time off to take a family vacation.

Judy Bishop, president of Conception Bay South CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) Local 3034, which represents council workers, said an appropriate work-life balance is not only beneficial to employees, but is better for businesses as well.

“We find employees feel a lot of stress, they tend to stretch themselves really thin, and we end up with more sick leave and stress leave,” said Bishop of employees who feel overworked.

She said during COVID, members of the fire department began working a 24-hour shift followed by three days off, as opposed to working three or four 10 to 14 hour shifts a week, and that helped firefighters to better balance their work lives and their personal lives.

“It’s worked really well in reducing sick leave and reducing the stress level of our employees,” said Bishop, who said that the scheduling changes, initially implemented as a response to the pandemic, have stuck.

Bishop encouraged employers to sit down with staff to discuss work-life balance, and to listen to their employees needs.

She said in many cases, work-life balance isn’t achieved by cutting hours, but by offering employees more flexible hours.

“It’s not that they don’t want to work, its just that some hours work better for some employees than others,” said Bishop.

She said workers with young children, for example, may require a more flexible schedule than the traditional 9 to 5.

“Sometimes our workers will request to work evenings and weekends because childcare is just not available to them,” said Bishop. “If we can accommodate workers so that they work evenings so that they’re home all day long with their smaller kids, or they’re working weekends and off during the week so that they’re at home with their kids, we try to do whatever we can within the parameters of our collective agreement to do so.”

Bishop admitted that work-life balance seems to be more of a concern among younger workers than more seasoned workers.

“We do notice it more with our younger workers than we do with the people who have been working for 35-plus years,” said Bishop. “The younger crowd seem to value their ‘family-togetherness’ more.”

Even so, said Bishop, an employee striving for a better work-life balance is not an employee that doesn’t want to work.

“They really want to work,” said Bishop. “They have a good work ethic. They just value their time home with their family. And if you work with them on their schedule, they’re some of the best workers we have.”

CUPE 3034 represents about 170 employees in Conception Bay South, including stadium staff, lifeguards, summer maintenance workers, firefighters, and snowplough operators.

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