Work-related tweets, texts, e-mails -- even old-fashioned phone calls at home after business hours -- all take their toll on workers these days; but women are adversely affected by them more than men. That's from a recent survey of American workers, conducted by University of Toronto researchers.
Of course some people view communication technologies that help people stay connected to the workplace as brilliant solutions for balancing work and family life. After all, you can leave work early to watch your daughter's soccer game and still take work-related calls from the sidelines. But according to this survey, if you're a woman, you're more likely to feel guilty about it.
The researchers asked study participants how often they were contacted outside the workplace by phone, e-mail or text about work-related matters. They found that women who were contacted frequently by supervisors, coworkers or clients reported higher levels of psychological distress. In contrast, men who received frequent work-related contact outside of normal work hours were less affected by it.
"Initially, we thought women were more distressed by frequent work contact because it interfered with their family responsibilities more so than men," says lead author Paul Glavin, a doctoral candidate at the university. "However, this wasn't the case. We found that women are able to juggle their work and family lives just as well as men, but they feel more guilty as a result of being contacted. This guilt seems to be at the heart of their distress."
The findings show that many women feel guilty dealing with work issues at home even when the work-related contact doesn't interfere with their family lives. Men, on the other hand, are less likely to experience guilt when responding to work-related issues at home.
"Guilt seems to play a pivotal role in distinguishing women's work-family experiences from men's," says Scott Schieman, a University of Toronto sociology professor and lead investigator of the larger study that funded this research. "While women have increasingly taken on a central role as economic providers in today's dual-earner households, strong cultural norms may still shape ideas about family responsibilities."