Many of us live a stressful life, juggling multiple priorities – work, kids, spouse, household chores and the associated chaos. Pressures at home are so much that a research published by the Journal of Science and Medicine last year mentioned that we are less stressed out at work than at home. This is not to say we don’t like being with our spouses or kids or not doing the laundry and other stuff…it just means that our stress levels – as measured by cortisol, a stress hormone – are significantly lower when we are in the office.
I can relate to the study, because my concentration and efficiency levels go up when I am in the office – a point also proven by the researchers. At home, the expectations of my family are high with regards to helping them out in some way. If I am not able to, my own guilt creeps in. The result being I feel pressurized to perform on all accounts. Hence, my performance goes down by not being able to focus on any given task and I feel tense.
Within the genders, research points out, women feel more relaxed at work as compared to men, who consider home just marginally better. And this is understandably so, as women have tasks lined up at home when they return from work – parenting, housekeeping, emotional work of the family, and others. It is not only the work itself, but the associated planning, organizing and keeping track of it all also that adds to the stress. When they are at work, they only have to perform one role.
The reason for men feeling slightly better at home as compared to women is because our responsibilities have hardly changed over the years or decades. Many of us still don’t like doing the laundry (an example post with some humor is here) or even cleaning up after the kids. The result being, our working spouses have taken up considerably more workload.
Considering that both men and women are a lot less stressed out on the weekends – when they are home – than on the weekdays, points out that it is more of a multi-tasking issue than anything else. It’s the juggling across multiple competing tasks that is killing us during weekdays, which is not the case on weekends, when most of us are not working.
The findings are particularly disturbing as high stress levels contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, inflammation and cancer, and many other mental and physical disorders. An earlier research concluded that cortisol can act like a contagion and spread like a virus through the family. It can even alter the DNA in children.
The way to overcome the issue is to make the juggle more manageable. A research funded by the National Institute of Health has found out that a creative workplace policy like Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) can help. It evaluates employees by their performance, not when, where, how or the hours they put in. It has been found to lead to lower stress levels, improved health, mood and employee commitment and loyalty.