For years now, work-life balance has been an important catchphrase in the Canadian workplace – both for workers looking for the right job fit, and for employers considering retention strategies. But have we been looking at it through the wrong lens?

Randstad Canada’s latest Workmonitor survey revealed some troubling insights about Canadian workers’ lack of ability — or willingness — to leave their work at the office. Our study shows more than half of Canadians don’t mind handling work-related matters on their own time. A whopping 65 per cent of men and 50 per cent of women say they respond immediately to work-related calls and emails outside office hours, and 40 per cent even do so while on holidays simply because they like to stay connected.

While the numbers are surprisingly high across all age groups, 18 to 24 year olds seem to be driving the trend. Their survey responses indicate they are anywhere from 12 per cent to as much as 25 per cent more likely to stay involved while outside the office than the average worker.

It’s hard to ignore the fact the definition of workplace is changing. A new generation of workers — ones who are connected, always-on multitaskers — are less mindful of the boundaries between workspace and personal space. And while more than half are willing to take work home, nearly an equal number say they regularly deal with private matters during office hours. For Canadian employers, it’s a clear sign that the needs and behaviours of workers are evolving, and we need to pay attention.

The Workmonitor numbers are proof there is a new normal when it comes to work-life balance. The question is what happens to work-life balance considerations when employees themselves aren’t willing to let go? Should Canadian businesses help their employees relearn how to recharge?

Employers have a responsibility to ensure the well-being of their employees and help them strike the right balance between their work and personal lives. Companies need to encourage their workers to disconnect completely from time to time, and be careful as managers not to blur the lines between home and work. Finding that balance can be tricky, because (as the survey underscores) not all employees embrace the opportunity to disconnect and recharge. In fact, more than three quarters say they’d like to be able to choose between taking time off, and receiving cash in lieu of vacation time.

Perhaps it’s time to evaluate workplace policies and find ways to evolve them to address the realities of today’s employees — strike the right balance, you might say.

Tom Turpin is president of Randstad Canada, the country’s largest staffing, recruitment and HR services provider.

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