The pressures of the 2014 workplace

Interesting research recently described in the Journal of Science & Medicine by Prof Sarah Damaske and colleagues, indicated that people have significantly lower levels of stress (cortisol levels) at work compared to home. The findings were true for men and women, though women derived more stress-lowering benefit from work than men did. Women also reported being happier at work than at home. Conversely, men said they are happier at home than at work.

This information is based on sound research from 122 individuals, regular daily saliva samples for cortisol testing as well as mood checks and is quite ground breaking. The pressures perceived by women to maintain family wellbeing whilst working seem to be the key findings and probably proves what many of us have believed for some time – working 8 ‘till 6, managing child/elder care, cooking, cleaning (all be it with help from their partner) seems to be taking a toll on women’s health to the extent that they feel happier at work than at home.

However both men and women were a lot less stressed on the weekend – when they were home – than on the weekdays. What does this tell us? It’s not so much that people prefer to be at work rather than at home or with family, it’s that trying to do both in the same day, is challenging. This balancing act is undoubtedly affecting many employees’ health and is a challenge for all of us to look at our personality traits, our drivers in life, our beliefs and values and explore if we can reduce the pressures we put on ourselves (e.g perfect partner, mother, father daughter, son, friend ….as well as our social expectations). Once we have been honest, some brave decisions on how to balance all aspects of life will result in better mental and physical health.

About Ann McCracken

Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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