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Work-life balance suffers under COVID-19 pandemic: expert

Last Updated Mar 3, 2021 at 8:28 pm PDT

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One expert suggests the COVID-19 pandemic is blurring the lines between working hard and being a workaholic

Lieke ten Brummelhuis says it's particularly bad among those who live alone

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a challenge at the best of times. Now, one expert suggests working at home due to COVID-19 has only made that worse.

“At some point, there’s only so much TV you can watch,” admits Lieke ten Brummelhuis, Associate Professor of Management and Organization Studies at SFU’s Beedie School of Business. She is talking about why many of us tend to work more during the pandemic.

“If you’re not allowed to see people or friends outside and all sorts of outside activities are limited then many people work more because there’s literally nothing else to do,” she explains.

Ten Brummelhuis says it’s particularly bad among those who live alone.

“Those people, especially [those] who don’t have a lot of care responsibilities, who don’t have kids in the house, they tend to work more during COVID, just to do something useful with the time and because we have so much time now.”


Ten Brummelhuis says, anecdotally at least, it seems the pandemic has also made workaholism worse, adding healthcare workers and entrepreneurs are under particular stress during COVID-19.

Her research interests focus on employee well-being, including workaholism.

“The most healthy way of working hard is when you don’t have an obsession with your work,” she says.  “So, when you’re putting in a lot of hours and enthusiasm during the workday, but once you’re done with work, you close your laptop or you close the door behind you and you move on to another domain of life.  So the people who can let go and detach, engage effectively in other life domains, sleep well, those are the most healthy, hard-working people.”

“Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of people who can switch off,” Ten Brummelhuis admits.

Her lecture, Work Hard, Play Hard: The Role of Recovery After Work, part of SFU’s Presidents Faculty Lecture Series, happens Tuesday, March 9, between 6:00 and 7:30 p.m.