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Home more stressful than work – study

By Independent Team & Agencies

New study finds people are more relaxed at work than at home

Many working class people would say their jobs are stressful. Many would possibly mention unreasonable targets, unappreciative bosses, low pay, bad working environments, and too little leisure time.

So would they rather stay at home?

Well, according to a new study on work versus home stress levels, most men would not care much whether they were at home or work. It’s a different, and unexpected, story for women. Most of them, according to the study, are more stressed at home than at work.    To find out why, an American NPR radio reporter sampled a few women.


One mother, Tonija Navas, was dropping-off her kids at school when she was asked what stressed her out most during her day.  “Getting the kids up, getting them dressed, packing their lunches,” said Navas, who works at an international NGO.

“I am at ease,” she says with a laugh of the time when the kids are at school, “— and then I have to pick them up. It starts all over again.”  For Jason Hamacher, a massage therapist, a major stressor is “feeding (the kids) breakfast. It drives me insane,” he said. “I have to distract my 1-year-old with a toy, maybe some kind of video, which I hate doing but it’s the only thing that works.”

You can’t quit home!

Now — surprise — it’s not just parents who feel more stressed at home. The study finds that work is even more of a haven for people without kids, like Leigh Hartless.

She said she feels stressed just thinking about everything she has to do once she gets home from work.

“If your job is that stressful, you can quit,” Hartless says. “But your personal life? You can’t quit your personal life.”

If work is so blissful, why then do many people complain about it?

That is what prompted the main researcher, Sarah Damaske, and her colleagues to attempt to know, objectively, whether being at work any harder than being at home?

Damaske is a professor of labour and employment at Pennsylvania State University. Her study involved 122 people who were asked to swab their saliva six times a day for three days. The saliva was tested for levels of cortisol, a biological marker of stress.

In addition to testing saliva samples, researchers also asked participants how they felt throughout the study. Men reported no big changes across the day, but Damaske says women were significantly more likely to say they were happier at work.

These sentiments do not surprise Arlie Russell Hochschild, a sociologist with the University of California, Berkeley. She made waves in the late ‘90s, when her book `The Time Bind’ asserted that for some people, home life had become so stressful that work was a refuge.

Hochschild remembers asking, “Where do you feel really good at what you do? Relaxed? Appreciated?”

“People would say, ‘Well, gosh. Actually, if I’m doing the right thing at work, chances are my supervisor’s clapping me on the back,’ “ Hochschild says. “ ‘But if I’m doing the right thing at home, with my teenager who wants the car and is mad at me, I’m doing the right thing but I’m not appreciated.’ “

“At work, people are potentially completing tasks. They’re able to focus their attention and accomplish things, both those with low and high incomes. They’re not multitasking,” Damaske told The Washington Post newspaper, “We tend to think that jobs are rewarding if they’re professional, but actually people with lower incomes have more stress reduction at work.”

That is possibly why The Washington Post’s report on the study started off by proclaiming that “science says some people go to work to relax”.

It went on: “If you think about it, this makes sense since, for many, work is typically a routine. Every day you take the same route to the office, sit at the same desk with the same pens and the same computer. Even the bad parts are usually stable. Now there is finally a study that confirms this scientifically.”

Endless chores to blame?

However, when it comes to rating their own stress levels, there was a gap between genders. “Women may get more renewal from work than men, because unlike men, they report themselves happier at work than at home,” according to the study. “It is men, not women, who report being happier at home than at work.”

“Part of this might be women are leaving work and then cooking dinner and doing the dishes,” Damaske says. “Even though men are doing more than they did 30 years ago, it’s still not an even distribution.”

The seemingly endless household chores may be less rewarding than work you are paid for. And at home there is less of a division of labor than in a traditional office setting.

Parents reported feeling less stressed at work than at home, which is not as surprising, as the study suggests. However, parents did have higher stress levels than non-parents.

For most people, as a 2005 Families and Work Institute study showed, almost 90% of workers polled feel they do not have enough time in their day to meet their work targets. Therefore, as they attempt to strike a balance between work and home responsibilities, most blame their work.

Conclusions from the study suggest that cutting back on work to solve work-family conflicts is not the solution.

“Companies should consider adopting family-friendly policies that allow workers to continue getting the health benefits of employment while still being able to meet their family responsibilities.”

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