Who Engages in Work–Family Multitasking? A Study of Canadian and American Workers

Abstract

This study examines the determinants of work–family multitasking using data from two large national surveys of workers—the 2011 Canadian Work, Stress, and Health Study and the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce. We find that the following groups—in both surveys—engage in frequent multitasking: (1) individuals with higher education and income; (2) executives and professionals, business owners, the self-employed, and supervisors; (3) those who work at home or some place other than away from home at a fixed location; and (4) those who work long hours, a second job, have job pressure, and receive more work-related contact outside regular work hours, and have more challenging work. Collectively, our findings elaborate on the determinants of multitasking—underscoring the differential and sometimes-unexpected influences of socioeconomic status, job-related demands, resources. Most importantly, our results suggest a remarkable degree of similarity in both the patterns among the determinants and their interrelationships among Canadian and American workers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Notes

  1. 1.

    Some readers might have concerns about the response rate. Although a potential problem associated with lower response rates is nonresponse bias in estimates (Babbie 2007), recent research has challenged the link between response rates and nonresponse bias (see Groves 2006; Curtin et al. 2000; Merkle and Edelman 2002). Nevertheless, we address the possibility that results were unduly influenced by nonresponse bias. In order to do this, we compared results from unweighted and weighted analyses in which we weighted the sample based on a key set of demographic statuses (e.g., gender, age, marital status, education) from the 2006 Canadian Census. We found few differences between the weighted and unweighted results. Winship and Mare (1992) argue that controlling for characteristics on which individuals may be under- or over-sampled adjusts for biases due to these characteristics; all of our analyses include a set of controls to adjust for this potentiality.

References

  1. Adkins, L. (2005). The new economy, property and personhood. Theory, Culture & Society, 22, 111–130.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Allvin, M., & Gunnar, A. (2003). The future of work environment reforms: Does the concept of work environment apply within the new economy? International Journal of Health Sciences, 33, 99–111.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Amar, A. D. (2002). Managing knowledge workers: Unleashing innovation and productivity. London: Quorum Books.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Arendell, T. (2001). The new care work of middle class mothers: Managing childrearing, employment, and time. In K. J. Daly (Ed.), Minding the time in family experience: Emerging perspectives and issues (Vol. 3, pp. 163–204). Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Ashforth, B. E., Kreiner, G., & Fugate, M. (2000). All in a day’s work: Boundaries and micro role transitions. Academy of Management Journal, 25, 472–491.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Babbie, E. (2007). The practice of social research (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bakker, A. B., Boyd, C. M., Dollard, M., Gillespie, N., Winefield, A., & Stough, C. (2010). The role of personality in the job demands-resources model: A study of Australian academic staff. Career Development International, 15, 622–636.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2007). The job demands-resources model: State of the art. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22, 309–328.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., De Boer, E. M., & Shaufeli, W. B. (2003). Job demands and job resources as predictors of absence duration and frequency. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 62, 341–356.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bakker, A. B., & Geurts, S. (2004). Toward a dual-process model of work-home interference. Work and Occupations, 31, 345–366.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Batt, R., & Valcour, M. (2003). Human resources practices as predictors of work–family outcomes and employee turnover. Industrial Relations, 42, 189–1120.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Baxter, V., & Kroll-Smith, S. (2005). Normalizing the workplace nap: Blurring the boundaries between public and private space and time. Current Sociology, 53, 33–55.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Bianchi, S. M., Robinson, J. P., & Milkie, M. A. (2006). The changing rhythm of American family life. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bianchi, S. M., & Wight, V. R. (2010). The long reach of the job: Employment and time for family life. In K. Christensen & B. Schneider (Eds.), Workplace flexibility: Realigning 20th-century jobs for a 21st-century workforce (pp. 14–42). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Blair-Loy, M. (2003). Competing devotions. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Bond, J. T., Thompson, C., Galinsky, E., & Prottas, D. (2003). Highlights of the National Study of the Changing Workforce, No. 3. New York: Families and Work Institute.

  17. Boswell, W. R., & Olson-Buchanan, J. B. (2007). The use of communication technologies after hours: The role of work attitudes and work–life conflict. Journal of Management, 33, 592–610.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Brett, J. M., & Stroh, L. K. (2003). Working 61 plus hours a week: Why do managers do it? Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 67–78.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Carayon, P., & Zijlstra, F. R. (1999). Relationship between job control, work pressure and strain. Studies in the USA and The Netherlands. Work & Stress, 13, 32–48.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Chesley, N. (2005). Blurring boundaries? Linking technology use, spillover, individual distress, and family satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 67, 1237–1248.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Clark, S. C. (2000). Work/family border theory: A new theory of work/family balance. Human Relations, 53, 747–770.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Coltrane, S. (2000). Research on household labor: Modeling and measuring the social embeddedness of routine family work. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 1208–1233.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Coontz, S. (1992). The way we never were: American families and the nostalgia trap. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Craig, L. (2006). Does father care mean fathers share? A comparison of how mothers and fathers in intact families spend time with children. Gender and Society, 20, 259–281.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Craig, L. (2007). Is there really a second shift, and if so, who does it? A time-diary investigation. Feminist Review, 86, 149–170.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Craig, L., & Bittman, M. (2008). The incremental time costs of children: An analysis of children’s impact on adult time use in Australia. Feminist Economics, 14, 59–88.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Craig, L., & Powell, A. (2011). Non-standard work schedules, work–family balance and the gendered division of childcare. Work, Employment & Society, 25, 274–291.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Curtin, R., Presser, S., & Singer, E. (2000). The effects of response rate changes on the index of consumer sentiment. Public Opinion Quarterly, 64, 413–428.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Darrah, C. N., Freeman, J. M., & English-Lueck, J. A. (2007). Busier than ever! Why American families can’t slow down. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Diestel, S., & Schmidt, K. H. (2009). Mediator and moderator effects of demands on self-control in the relationship between work load and indicators of job strain. Work & Stress, 23, 60–79.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Duxbury, L., Lyons, S., & Higgins, C. (2008). Too much to do, and not enough time: An examination of role overload. In K. Korabik, D. S. Lero, & D. L. Whitehead (Eds.), Handbook of work–family integration: research, theory, and best practices (pp. 125–140). Elsevier: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Economist. (2006). The new organisation. The Economist. http://www.economist.com/node/5380483. Accessed 23 January 23 2013.

  33. Elliott, J. R., & Smith, R. A. (2004). Race, gender and workplace power. American Sociological Review, 69, 365–386.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Frenkel, S., Korczynski, M., Donoghue, L., & Shire, K. (1995). Re-constituting work: Trends toward knowledge work and info-normative control. Work, Employment & Society, 9, 773–796.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Gajendran, R. S., & Harrison, D. (2007). The good, the bad, and the unknown about telecommuting: Meta-analysis of psychological mediators and individual consequences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1524–1541.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Galinsky, E., Bond, J. T., Kim, S. S., Backon, L., Brownfield, E., & Sakai, K. (2005). Overwork in America: When the way we work becomes too much. New York: Families and Work Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Glavin, P., & Schieman, S. (2012). Work–family role blurring and work–family conflict: The moderating influence of job resources and job demands. Work and Occupations, 39, 71–98.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Golden, L. (2001). Flexible work schedules: What are workers trading off to get them? Monthly Labor Review, 124, 50–67.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Green, T. K. (2005). Work culture and discrimination. California Law Review, 93, 623–658.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Grotto, A., & Lyness, K. (2010). The costs of today’s jobs: Job characteristics and organizational supports as antecedents of negative spillover. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 76, 395–405.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Groves, R. M. (2006). Nonresponse rates and nonresponse bias in household surveys. Public Opinion Quarterly, 70, 646–675.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Hackman, R. J., & Oldham, G. R. (1975). Development of the job diagnostic survey. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60, 159–170.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Hackman, R. J., & Oldham, G. R. (1980). Work redesign. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Härmä, M. (2006). Work hours in relation to work stress, recovery and health. Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment Health, 32, 502–514.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Hays, S. (1996). The cultural contradictions of motherhood. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Heisz, A., & Larochelle-Cote, S. (2006). Summary of: Work hours instability in Canada. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Hill, J. E., Carroll, S. J., Jones, B. L., Buswell, L. A., Fackrell, T. A., & Galovan, A. M. (2011). Temporal workplace flexibility and associated work–life outcomes for professionals. In S. Kaiser, M. Ringlstetter, D. R. Eikhof, & M. Pina Cunha (Eds.), Creating balance? International perspectives on the work–life integration of professionals (pp. 209–223). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Hill, J. E., Hawkins, A. J., Ferris, M., & Weitzman, M. (2001). Finding an extra day a week: The positive influence of perceived job flexibility on work and family life balance. Family Relations, 50, 49–58.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Hill, J. E., Hawkins, A. J., & Miller, B. C. (1996). Work and family in the virtual office: Perceived influences of mobile telework. Family Relations, 34, 293–301.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Hochschild, A. R. (1997). The time bind: When work becomes home and home becomes work. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Ironmonger, D. (2004). Bringing up Bobby and Betty: The inputs and outputs of childcare time. In N. Folbre & M. Bittman (Eds.), Family time: The social organization of care (pp. 93–109). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Jacobs, J. A., & Gerson, K. (2004). The time divide: Work family and gender inequality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Kalleberg, A. L. (2011). Good jobs, bad jobs: The rise of polarized and precarious employment systems in the United States 1970s–2000s. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, American Sociological Association Rose Series in Sociology.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Karasek, R. A. (1979). Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: Implications for job redesign. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24, 285–308.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Karasek, R. A., & Theorell, T. (1990). Healthy work: Stress, productivity, and the reconstruction of working life. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Kelly, E. L., & Moen, P. (2007). Rethinking the clockwork of work: Why schedule control may pay off at work and at home. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 9, 487–506.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Korabik, K., McElwain, A., & Chappell, D. B. (2008). Integrating gender–related issues into research on work and family. In K. Korabik, D. S. Lero, & D. L. Whitehead (Eds.), Handbook of work–family integration: research, theory, and best practices (pp. 215–232). London: Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Kristensen, T. S., Bjorner, J. B., Christensen, K., & Borg, V. (2004). The distinction between work pace and working hours in the measurement of quantitative demands at work. Work & Stress, 18, 305–322.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Lee, Y. S., & Waite, L. J. (2005). Husbands’ and wives’ time spent on housework: A comparison of measures. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 328–336.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Lyness, K. S., Gornick, J. C., Stone, P., & Grotto, A. G. (2012). It’s all about control: Worker control over schedule and hours in cross–national cotext. American Sociological Review, 77(6), 1023–1049.

    Google Scholar 

  62. MacEachen, E., Polzer, J., & Clarke, J. (2008). ‘You are free to set your own hours’: Governing worker productivity and health through flexibility and resilience. Social Science and Medicine, 66, 1019–1033.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Malone, T. W. (2004). The future of work. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Mattingly, M., & Sayer, L. C. (2006). Under pressure: Gender differences in the relationship between free time and feeling rushed. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 205–221.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Maume, D., & Bellas, M. (2001). The overworked American or the time bind? Assessing competing explanations for time spent in paid labor. American Behavioral Scientist, 44, 1137–1156.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Maume, David J., & Purcell, David A. (2007). The ‘over-paced’ American: Recent trends in the intensification of work. Research in the Sociology of Work, 17, 251–283.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Mauno, S., Kinnunen, U., & Ruokolainen, M. (2006). Exploring work- and organization-based resources as moderators between work–family conflict, well-being, and job attitudes. Work and Stress, 20, 210–233.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Medalia, C., & Jacobs, J. A. (2008). The work week for individuals and families in 29 countries. In R. J. Burke & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), The long work hours culture: Causes, consequences and choices (pp. 137–157). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Merkle, D., & Edelman, M. (2002). Nonresponse in exit polls: A comprehensive analysis. In R. M. Groves, D. A. Dillman, J. L. Eltinge, & R. J. A. Little (Eds.), Survey nonresponse (pp. 243–258). New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Milkie, M. A., & Peltola, P. (1999). Gender and the work–family balancing act. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 476–490.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Mills, M., & Täht, K. (2010). Nonstandard work schedules and partner quality: Quantitative and qualitative findings. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 860–875.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Mirowsky, J. (2013). Analyzing associations between mental health and social circumstances. In C. Aneshensel, J. Phelan, & A. Bierman (Eds.), Handbook of the sociology of mental health (2nd ed., pp. 143–165). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Mirowsky, J., & Ross, C. E. (2003). Social causes of psychological distress (2nd ed.). Hawthorne, New York: Aldine De Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Moen, P., & Yu, Y. (2000). Effective work–life strategies: Working couples, work conditions, gender, and life quality. Social Problems, 47, 291–326.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Morrison, D. L., Cordery, J. L., Girardi, A., & Payne, R. (2005). Job design, opportunities for skill utilisation and job-related affective well-being. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 14, 59–80.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Nelson, M. (2010). Parenting out of control: Anxious parents in uncertain times. New York, NY: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Newell, S., Robertson, M., Scarborough, H., & Swan, J. (2002). Managing knowledge work. Palgrave, UK: Basingstoke.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Nippert-Eng, C. (1996). Home and work. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  79. Offer, S., & Schneider, B. (2011). Revisiting the gender gap in time-use patterns: Multitasking and well–being among mothers and fathers in dual-earner families. American Sociological Review, 76, 809–833.

    Google Scholar 

  80. Olson-Buchanan, J. B., & Boswell, W. R. (2006). Blurring boundaries: Correlates of integration and segmentation between work and nonwork. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68, 432–445.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Presser, H. B. (1994). Employment schedules among dual-earner spouses and the division of household labor by gender. American Sociological Review, 59, 348–364.

    Google Scholar 

  82. Redman, T., Snape, E., & Ashurst, C. (2009). Location, location, location: Does place of work really matter? British Journal of Management, 20, S171–S181.

    Google Scholar 

  83. Reskin, B. F., & Ross, C. E. (1992). Job, authority, and earnings among managers: The continuing significance of sex. Work and Occupations, 19, 342–365.

    Google Scholar 

  84. Roxburgh, S. (2002). Racing through life: The distribution of time pressures by roles and role resources among full-time workers. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 23, 121–145.

    Google Scholar 

  85. Sayer, L. C. (2007a). More work for mothers? Trends and gender differences in multitasking. In T. van der Lippe & P. Peters (Eds.), Competing claims in work and family life (pp. 41–55). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elger.

    Google Scholar 

  86. Sayer, L. C. (2007b). Gender differences in the relationship between long employee hours and multitasking. In B. A. Rubi (Ed.), Workplace temporalities: Research in the sociology of work (Vol. 17, pp. 405–435). Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

  87. Schieman, S. (2010). Suppression effects in social stress research and their implications for the stress process model. In W. R. Avison, C. S. Aneshensel, S. Schieman, & B. Wheaton (Eds.), Advances in the conceptualization and study of the stress process: Essays in honor of Leonard I. Pearlin (pp. 53–70). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  88. Schieman, S. (2013). Job-related resources and the pressures of working life. Social Science Research, 2, 271–282.

    Google Scholar 

  89. Schieman, S., & Glavin, P. (2008). Trouble at the border? Gender, flexible work conditions, and the work–home interface. Social Problems, 55, 590–611.

    Google Scholar 

  90. Schieman, S., & Glavin, P. (2011). Education and work–family conflict: Explanations, contingencies, and mental health consequences. Social Forces, 89, 1341–1362.

    Google Scholar 

  91. Schieman, S., Kurashina, Y., & Gundy, K. V. (2006). The nature of work and the stress of higher status. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 47, 242–257.

    Google Scholar 

  92. Schieman, S., Milkie, M. A., & Glavin, P. (2009). When work interferes with life: Work–non-work interference and the influence of work–related demands and resources. American Sociological Review, 74, 966–988.

    Google Scholar 

  93. Schieman, S., & Reid, S. (2008). Job authority and interpersonal conflict in the workplace. Work and Occupations, 35, 296–326.

    Google Scholar 

  94. Schieman, S., & Young, M. (2010a). Is there a downside to schedule control for the work–family interface? Journal of Family Issues, 31, 1391–1414.

    Google Scholar 

  95. Schieman, S., & Young, M. (2010b). The demands of creative work: Implications for the stress in the work–family interface. Social Science Research, 39, 246–259.

    Google Scholar 

  96. Schneider, B. (2009). Method differences in measuring working families’ time. Social Indicators Research, 93, 105–110.

    Google Scholar 

  97. Schneider, B., & Waite, L. (2005). Being together, working apart: Dual career families and the work–life balance. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  98. Smith, R. A. (2002). Race, gender, and authority in the workplace. Annual Review of Sociology, 28, 509–542.

    Google Scholar 

  99. Spink, A., Cole, C., & Waller, M. (2008). Multitasking behavior. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 42, 93–118.

    Google Scholar 

  100. Steiber, N. (2009). Reported levels of time-based and strain-based conflict between work and family roles in Europe: A multilevel approach. Social Indicators Research, 93, 469–488.

    Google Scholar 

  101. Tausig, Mark, & Fenwick, R. (2011). Work and mental health in social context. New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  102. Thompson, C. A., & Prottas, D. (2006). Relationships among organizational family support, job autonomy, perceived control, and employee well-being. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 11, 100–118.

    Google Scholar 

  103. Valcour, M. P. (2007). Work-based resources as moderators of the relationship between work hours and satisfaction with work–life balance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1512–1523.

    Google Scholar 

  104. van den Broeck, A., Vansteenkiste, M., Witte, H. D., Soenens, B., & Lens, W. (2010). Capturing autonomy, competence, and relatedness at work: Construction and initial validation of the work-related basic need satisfaction scale. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83, 981–1002.

    Google Scholar 

  105. van der Doef, M., & Maes, S. (1999). The job demand-control (-support) model and psychological well-being: A review of 20 years of empirical research. Work and Stress, 13, 87–114.

    Google Scholar 

  106. Vosko, L. F. (2000). Temporary work: The gendered rise of a precarious employment relationship. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  107. Voydanoff, P. (2005). Consequences of boundary-spanning demands and resources for work-to-family conflict and perceived stress. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 491–503.

    Google Scholar 

  108. Voydanoff, P. (2007). Work, family, and community: Exploring interconnections. Mahwah, New Jersey: Routledge Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  109. Wharton, A. S., & Blair-Loy, M. (2006). Long work hours and family life: A cross-national study of employees’ concerns. Journal of Family Issues, 27, 415–436.

    Google Scholar 

  110. Winship, C., & Mare, R. D. (1992). Models for sample selection bias. Annual Review of Sociology, 18, 327–350.

    Google Scholar 

  111. Zick, C. D., & Bryant, K. W. (1996). A new look at parents’ time spent in child care: Primary and secondary time use. Social Science Research, 25, 260–280.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

A grant award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) supports this study (Funding Reference Number: MOP-102730; Scott Schieman, P.I). We also acknowledge the Families and Work Institute and all those whose efforts provided the support for and access to the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Scott Schieman.

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

See Table 4.

Table 4 Pair-wise correlations between focal variables for CAN-WSH (below the diagonal, N = 5,809) and NSCW (above the diagonal, N = 3,484)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Schieman, S., Young, M. Who Engages in Work–Family Multitasking? A Study of Canadian and American Workers. Soc Indic Res 120, 741–767 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-014-0609-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • Multitasking
  • Work–family interface
  • Job demands-resources model
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Work–family conflict