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(Graham Roumieu for The Globe and Mail)
(Graham Roumieu for The Globe and Mail)

More creative work means more stress Add to ...

You're thrilled that your job gives you the chance to be creative. But could that creative work actually be the cause of your stress?

According to a study from the University of Toronto, people who engage in creative work are more likely to experience greater job stress, and are more likely to receive work-related e-mails, phone calls and text messages outside work hours.

"There certainly are many upsides to creative work, but our study also documents what people would probably say are downsides - feeling overwhelmed, excessive pressures," says sociology professor Scott Schieman.

For the study, published in the journal Social Science Research, Dr. Schieman examined the results of a survey of more than 950 U.S. workers from a variety of sectors. The respondents were asked how often their work intruded on their family and personal life and to rate how creative their jobs were.

Those who scored high on the creative work index were not necessarily employed in creative industries, such as designing or writing, Dr. Schieman explains. Rather, regardless of their sectors, their occupations allowed them to learn new things, to solve problems, and to develop their skills and abilities.

Dr. Schieman says the study found that not only did those performing such complex work feel greater job pressure, they also tended to experience more conflict between their work and family roles.

"The biggest piece that we really wanted to get across is it seems like the stress that we're talking about has more to do with the blurring of work and the rest of your life," he says.

One of the ways people can reduce that stress is to be more aware of when work seeps into their private lives, he says.

Talk to friends and family members about the extent to which your work phone calls and e-mails disrupt your time with them, he suggests, adding that the next time a boss or client contacts you at home, you might consider what would happen if you didn't answer.

"I think some people think that more negative things would happen than actually would."

Once you've determined how your job affects the other areas of your life, try to maintain clear divisions between your work and family roles, he suggests. "When you're working on work stuff, work on work stuff. When you're dealing with family stuff, really try to compartmentalize."

Paradoxically, however, though juggling work tasks outside office hours appears to increase stress, the study showed that merely thinking about work does not, Dr. Schieman says.

"What we think is… for people who have a chance to learn new things, to solve problems and develop new skills, thinking about work when they're not working is probably filled with a lot more fulfilment and enjoyment," he says. "[It's]almost like a hobby, like a puzzle that you really want to solve."

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