Women feel home work queries guilt
Published 09/03/2011 | 08:54
Women who respond to work queries at home are far more likely to feel guilty than men, research suggests.
Answering emails and phone calls from colleagues causes women psychological distress even when it does not interfere with family life, according to experts at the University of Toronto.
Men, on the other hand, are less likely to experience guilt when responding to work-related issues in the home.
Experts suggest women feel guilty because they perceive they are under-performing at home when dealing with work queries, even though they are not.
The study, published in the US Journal of Health and Social Behavior, suggests newer technologies are having an impact on health and wellbeing in the home.
Lead researcher Scott Schieman said men and women may come across different expectations over the boundaries separating work and family life.
"Guilt seems to play a pivotal role in distinguishing women's work-family experiences from men's," he said.
"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.
"These forces may lead some women to question or negatively evaluate their family role performance when they're trying to navigate work issues at home."
Paul Glavin, from the University of Toronto who worked on the study, said: "Initially, we thought women were more distressed by frequent work contact because it interfered with their family responsibilities more so than men.
"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 study was based on more than 1,000 American workers.
The researchers said women felt guilty about answering work emails and calls even when there was no obvious impact on family life.
"These results suggest that work contact may not necessarily inhibit the performance of domestic roles, but they still can have health implications in the form of negative self-appraisals and the feelings of guilt that may arise when the boundary separating work and family life becomes blurred."
The "perception" some women have that they are failing to meet expectations "may have negative consequences for wellbeing", they added.
The authors concluded: "Frequent work contact is associated with more feelings of guilt and distress among women only.
"The findings underscore the importance of focusing on gender and emotions in work-family interface processes, as well as their implications for psychological health."