Women Experience Guilt Over Work-Life Balance

With the blurring of boundaries between work and family responsibilities, there is a rise of concern regarding psychological well-being and increased stress. This study looked into this blurring of the two domains and the associated guilt and stress. Results showed that this type of distress and guilt, when demands from workplace intrude into family time, affect only the women. Authors noted that this guilt rises as more calls come in from the workplace while the women are with their families. “The findings underscore the importance of focusing on gender and emotions in work-family interface processes, as well as their implications for psychological health.”

Studies have shown that there is a rise in the level of stress and guilt if workplace demands overflow into family time. Studies have also revealed that this stress leads to physical and psychological damage to the individual. It has been seen that this guilt that arises out of this crossing of the boundaries of work and family roles is often understudied. There have been no studies that explore this guilt as an emotional impact of failing to perform in a role. This study attempted to explore the psychological and emotional impact of such blurring of roles and crossing of boundaries between work and family times.  Authors feel this guilt may be important factor in predicting “work-family problems and well-being”.

* The study was a part of the “Work, Stress and Health Survey” that conducted telephone interviews of adults from 50 United States in 2005.
* A total of 1,042 participants were included in the analysis after two phases of interviews.
* All participants were asked about their psychological distress, work-related calls while they were with the families and the associated guilt. Data on other factors such as age, sex, marital status, control position at workplace etc. were also collected.

Results/Key findings
* Results revealed that men were contacted more often after work and had a higher duration of work per day. Men also had more control over others at work and had more authority than did women.
* Calls from the workplace, while the subjects were with their families, was associated with guilt. The conflict that arose between work and family roles caused more guilt in women than men.
* Results also showed that women were more psychologically distressed if they received calls from the workplace while with their families.

Next steps/Shortcomings
Authors agree that there might be some lapses in the parameters that were used to assess the guilt and stress associated with work-family confrontations. They suggest longer studies with a larger population to better understand the issues of guilt. They also write that the guilt may also arise in the opposite direction when work is affected with family time. This too needs investigation, they write.

This study explores a hitherto unexplored area of guilt that arises when work and family roles encroach on each other. It is seen that women are more distressed and feel guiltier than men if they are called up by co-workers and colleagues while they are with their family. This study, “advances knowledge on this subject by demonstrating the relevance of work-family role blurring and feelings of guilt, as well as the ways that men and women experience these processes differently.”  Authors suggest that this gives a key to future researchers for separating female from male workers while studying work-family conflicts. Further long term studies can show the emotional impact of this conflict on women.

For More Information:
Boundary-Spanning Work Demands and Their Consequences for Guilt and Psychological Distress
Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2011
By Paul Glavin; Scott Schieman; University of Toronto, Canada

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.