Why Work Surprisingly Isn’t Your Biggest Stressor
After a day of deadlines, back-to-back meetings, and dealing with difficult coworkers, it’s unlikely that you feel like your job is doing anything to lower your stress levels. But that’s exactly what new research from the Council on Contemporary Families has found.
Although other research from previous years has found that almost 90 percent of workers felt they either never had enough time in the day to do their job or that their job required them to work very hard, it turns out that home stress is still higher. When Penn State researchers recently asked 122 working adults to self-report their stress levels at various intervals throughout the day and to take a swab measuring their levels of cortisol, a major marker of stress, they found that people actually had significantly lower levels of stress at work than they did at home. That goes for both men and women—in fact, it seems that women actually get more renewal from being at work, reporting that they’re happier at work than at home. Men, on the other hand, reported being happier at home. The one exception in Damaske’s research was high-income workers, who had equal amounts of stress at work and at home.
This research, explains study author Sarah Damaske, may explain why people who work are in better physical and mental health than those who don’t. Damaske’s research in 2012 found that even mothers who work full time through their twenties and thirties report better health at age 45 than mothers who stayed at home or worked part-time.
Ladies, don’t start sleeping in the office just yet—Time brings up the point that what this study doesn’t measure is whether women are still working once they get home, saying that “For many men, the end of the workday is a time to kick back. For women who stay home, they never get to leave the office. And for women who work outside the home, they often are playing catch up with household tasks.”
Plus, they point out, tasks at home—and their rewards—aren’t as clear-cut as your tasks in the workplace, adding that at home, “Not only are the tasks apparently infinite, the co-workers are much harder to motivate.”
But is the problem really with home, or is the pressure to attain work-life balance the thing that’s really stressing us out? Recent research found that both men and women—especially parents—feel the pressure. In fact, contradicting Time‘s point, recent research has actually found that dads are busier than ever, spending nearly triple the time on child care, and more than double the time on housework, than their fathers and grandfathers did. And research from Insights in Marketing found that about 75 percent of men surveyed said their first obligation was to home and family.
Not that women get off easy. Over half report that trying to balance family and work leads to increased stress. The resolution might not be in striking that perfect balance, but in finding the right job—one that, says Damaske, allows workers “to continue getting the health benefits of employment while still being able to meet their family responsibilities.”
How do you balance work at home responsibilities? Where do you feel more stressed?