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Women Feel Guiltier About Today’s ‘24/7’ Jobs

Study Shows Women Are More Distressed Than Men by After-Hour Emails and Calls From the Office
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 9, 2011 -- In today’s 24/7 global economy, a nine-to-five job is not standard anymore. From emails and texts to faxes and phone calls, it can be hard -- if not impossible -- to leave the office behind.

And women tend to feel a lot guiltier about receiving such work-related communications at home than men, according to new research in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

“Women seem to deal as well as men, but it causes more guilt,” says study researcher Paul Glavin, a PhD candidate in sociology at the University, of Toronto. Glavin and colleagues asked more than 1,000 workers how often they were contacted via calls, emails, texts, or other communication methods outside of the work place.

Women who said they were contacted frequently reported more distress than men. “In a logistical sense, women are dealing with work issues just as well as men. This is more about their reaction,” he says. Women tend to want to be everything to everybody, and when they are being pulled in different directions, they may feel guilt or resentment.

“We are seeing an increasing trend where work is spilling over to home, and as a consequence, if we are seeing women react and experience distress, we could see more accumulating health problems in the future,” he says. “Men are taking on more responsibilities in the household, but it seems that the changes that women have made in the work sphere are not matched by changes in domestic sphere.”

Draw Boundaries Between Work and Family

It’s a catch-22 for women in a lot of ways, says Louann Brizendine, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco and author of The Female Brain.

“Women tend to take on more flexible, home-based jobs so the boundaries blur even further. And they end up spending even more time at home doing their job,” she says.

“This study should not be taken to say that women are in any way less competent, less able, and less willing,” she says. “They just take it in more seriously when they get a contact from work.”

“Women do it and do it well, but they feel resentful and guilty if it’s taking time way from their family,” she says.

Multitasking isn’t easy when you want to give everything 150%, she says.

“If you get a [work] cell phone call when you are at a birthday party with your child, and miss a kid hurting yours, it’s not so simple to just drop it ,” she says. “It is about guilt at not being fully present when you are with your family.”

So what can a working mom do to stop the guilt?  “Impose boundaries,” Brizendine says. “If it’s an email issue, put your BlackBerry down until your kids are going to bed.”

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