Women bear brunt of role overload

Reprinted from "Women's" issue of Visions Journal, 2004, 2 (4), p. 13

According to a study produced for Health Canada, Work-Life Conflict in the New Millennium, job satisfaction and organizational commitment have declined in the last decade, just as high job stress and absenteeism have increased.

So it stands to reason that the physical and mental health of Canadian employees has deteriorated over time, from 44% reporting stress in 1991 to 55% in 2001. Sadly, this is having an impact on the very group that has been struggling for decades to have a stronger and more high-level presence in the workplace, because it’s among women that the level of stress, burnout and depressed mood are more in evidence.

“Gender plays a big role,” says Linda Duxbury of Carleton University, the study’s principal investigator. It’s not clear, the researchers say, whether women report these symptoms because they are more observant of their mental state, are less able to cope with multiple stressors or—the one I’d bet on—they have “added stressors associated with paid employment to their lives with little decrease in the stressors associated with their family roles.”

Tack on motherhood, which can be associated with much more stress than fatherhood, and it’s clear that women are bearing the brunt of this role-overload scenario. Up to 75% of career mothers reportwomen bear brunt of role overload role overload at a time when we’re moving in a declining labour market, Duxbury points out.

You would think, she says, that “we’re going to make sure that we keep everybody. But in order to do that, we’ve got to allow them to contribute at work and at home.”....

But whatever the gender, the impact on employees of work-related stress and conflict between work and family life is tangible. For the employee, we’re looking at absenteeism, deteriorating mental and physical health and a low level of commitment to their work. For the employer, we’re looking at a disturbing lack of enthusiasm for work. Only about half the 30,000-plus employees who participated in this study are satisfied with their job and view their organization as an “above-average” place to work. “One in three reports high levels of job stress and one in four is thinking of leaving their current organization once a week or more.”

The result: a loss to the employer in terms of cold, hard cash. According to the research, “the direct costs of absenteeism due to high work-life conflict are approximately $3 billion to $5 billion per year. “When both direct and indirect costs are included in the calculations,” the report states, “work-life conflict costs Canadians approximately $4.5 billion to $10 billion per year.”...

 
Notes

Excerpted with permission from Nebenzahl, D. (2003, December 31). The Prince George Citizen, p. 31

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