Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unwittingly stirred up a national debate about work-life balance, one that experts say has the potential to influence some healthy lifestyle changes in some Canadians.
Conservative critics and skeptical Canadians have expressed concerns about the leader’s decision to take a personal day in the midst of his trip to Japan, just a day before the G7 summit in the Japanese city of Ise-Shima.
Trudeau cleared his schedule Wednesday to take his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, to a romantic inn to celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary – a decision he said is an example of “the kind of work-life balance that I’ve often talked about as being essential in order to be able to be in service of the country with all one’s very best.”
“I’ll see your hubbub about nannies and extra help and raise you an anniversary abroad. Bold,” Andrew MacDougall, a former communications director for Stephen Harper, quipped on Twitter.
And while there are some questions surrounding the logistics of taking a spa day in the midst of a political trip (the prime minister’s office wouldn’t say how many staff he has in tow — although Trudeau noted he personally paid for the getaway), some argued the move was a selfish waste of taxpayer dollars.
But some believe that Trudeau is setting a good example — one that more people should consider following.
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau took a stroll through Japan’s Ise-Shima region during the PM’s ‘day off’ for his wedding anniversary
“People generally need to try to create that kind of balance and take time off if it’s possible — especially when there are important events or occasions,” said Dr. Scott Schieman, a University of Toronto sociologist and Canada Research Chair in the social contexts of health.
“I think even the prime minister deserves a day or two. It’s a question of what’s reasonable — one would imagine that he probably works all the time.”
According to Schieman, multiple studies have shown that achieving a good work-life balance — or taking time to focus on yourself or your family when needed — can improve overall work ethic and performance. Not to mention it’s good for your sanity.
The 2011 Canadian Work Stress and Health study found roughly one in three Canadians feel overwhelmed by work and the demands of their job.
“The notion of work is a greedy institution,” Schieman said. “As much as we may love it or need it, it can be all-consuming and it really starts to take a toll on people.”
But Schieman believes all Canadians can achieve the kind of work-life balance that Trudeau appears to embrace.
His best advice for doing so: take a hard look at all of the roles you encompass — from your career, to your relationship or caretaker roles — and understand what it is people really expect from you.
If that means you think it’s important to spend your anniversary at a romantic inn to foster the health of your marriage, then do so.
“One of his core values is family and marriage. That is going to stabilize him in the long run because he is honouring something that is important to him.”
Schieman’s tips to achieve better work-life balance:
- Talk frankly with your supervisor about family needs and how you can make them fit while not compromising work quality.
- Be mindful of overextending yourself at work and watch for excessive role blurring. Protect the other parts of your life from spillover.
- Fully disengage and recharge mentally and physically — this might mean carving out time to ditch your smartphone and stay off the computer. Talk to your family about balance, fit, and their needs.
Urquhart’s tips for finding balance and rhythm in both your work and personal life:
- When it comes to work, pay attention to your natural rhythm. For example, what days are you more productive? Is there a certain time of day where you feel more creative? Try to adjust your daily duties to fit this rhythm.
- Learn how to recognize when you are overextending yourself.
- Take that four page “to do” list and shorten it to 5 or 6 things a day. Make sure that the things are bite size so you can actually achieve them.