WORK-LIFE BALANCE / SEP. 11, 2014
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Commuting Is More Stressful For Women Than Men

Stress is something that few of us want in our lives, and certainly not in our working lives.  It is undoubtedly one of the primary causes of disengagement with our work.  A recent study highlighted how stress levels at work correlated almost exactly with disengagement levels.

So stress is a big deal, both for our employers and for ourselves as individuals.  In a recent exploration of changing attitudes towards motor cars, the millennial generation revealed that they would overwhelmingly prefer to live closer to their workplace, thus reducing the stresses involved in their commute to work each day.

Research from the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield suggests, however, that not all employees suffer from a stressful commute in equal measure. It revealed that when it comes to our commute, it is women that tend to suffer the most.

It suggested that the mental anguish suffered by workers on their commute into work was disproportionately hitting female workers more than their male colleagues.

The report revealed that this was likely to occur because women are considerably more conscious of the sheer amount of time spent (nay wasted) commuting to and from work each day. They therefore tend to get a lot more stressed out by the various delays and complications that seem an inevitable part of most of our journeys into work.

Jennifer Roberts, professor of economics at the University of Sheffield, and lead author on the report explained:

"We know that women, especially those with children, are more likely to add daily errands to their commute such as food shopping and dropping-off and picking-up children from childcare. These time-constraints and the reduced flexibility that comes with them make commuting stressful in a way that it wouldn’t be otherwise."

Are men not contributing at home?

Now the controversial aspect of the study came when the researchers began to delve a bit deeper into their findings. They discovered that the mental stresses suffered during our commute to work was proportionate to the amount of domestic work we do at home.

So people that tend to do more of the domestic duties were found to find their commute to work much more stressful, and who does most of the domestic duties?  You guessed it.  The research found that the psychological effect of the commute on working mothers was a whopping four times as high as for working fathers of the same age.

Interestingly, it wasn’t just a parenthood thing, as the research also found that childless women who were in long-term relationships were more affected by their commute than men in the same boat.

The only women that weren’t found to have been affected were single women with no children, women who could work flexible hours or (lucky) women who had partners that contributed heavily to the various household duties, including childcare.

Dads don’t get off scott free

At the risk of bashing dads completely, it should be said that men with pre-school age children would also suffer a greater degree of stress than other men. Despite that, however, they still suffered a lot less than women, even those without a child.

Paul Dolan, from the London School of Economics, concluded:

"Of course men also experience competing demands on their time, and so it may simply be that they are less affected by the psychological costs of commuting."

All of which makes the attraction of more flexible working even greater, especially as we try and do more to engage women in the workforce. Oh, and it wouldn’t do any harm if men contributed a bit more at home too.

 

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