That extra burden | Sunday Observer

That extra burden

An emanating question is “do females actually encounter greater stress level compared to their male counterparts in post-modern working environments?” Research on occupational stress originally posited that there is a blurred difference between the amount of stress men and women experienced at work.

Moreover, men and women experienced a similar level of burnout as envisaged in a review of 183 studies on occupational stress. Progressively studies evidenced that working women are likely to report more life stress than men (Watson, Goh & Sawang, 2011).

In this backdrop work stress and its management has become a dubious topic. Work stress is an undesirable psychological process that occurs in response to environmental pressures. Literature shows there are two types of 'stress'- i.e. challenge and hindrance, experienced by individuals.

While the stress of challenge is related to workload, pressure to complete tasks and time urgency, hindrance keeps you from attaining work-goals (Robbins, Judge & Vohra, 2013, p. 603).

Further, stress is categorized by demands and resources. Every employee, irrespective of gender, faces work-related demands.

Demands are responsibilities, pressures, obligations and uncertainties in the workplace. Resources are assets within an employee’s control that is used to resolve the demands.

At this juncture it is worthy to discuss the female’s responsibility towards the household.

Studies reliably illustrate that when both husband and wife work full-time outside the home, the latter carries remarkably greater household responsibilities.

Traditionally, in the majority of Lankan households the cleaning, shopping and managing of finances is carried out by the wife.

However, what is the effect of household responsibilities on work stress? A woman experiences stress from two major stresses - work she is paid for (Paid-work stress) and work she is not paid for (unpaid work stress).

The latter is the household/family responsibilities shouldered by woman employees.

In this light, it is certain that if both spouses work the same number of hours, it is expected that the wife’s total workload is greater. This causes a higher stress level even if work-related stress alone is not too high.

Employee Work Stress= Paid-Work Stress + Unpaid Work Stress

It can be said that paid-work stress doesn’t differ between the genders, but unpaid work stress clearly does, between the genders. It is also important to fathom the potential sources of stress and their consequences on the working class.

Potential sources of stress are threefold, environmental, organizational and personal factors. The consequences of stress are threefold as well.

These are, physiological, psychological and behavioural symptoms of employees. In this backdrop it is valuable to study the different unpaid work stresses that affect occupational stress in employees depending on the gender.

Personal factors are delved into and thereby trifurcated into family problems, economic problems and personality (Parasuraman & Alutto, 1984). While female employees bear household responsibilities it is implied that family problems and economic issues become a part of their unpaid work obligations.

Further, the feminine persona of female employees contributes towards both, paid and unpaid work pressures. In anticipation of resolving these demands such employees use resources within their scope.

These stresses experienced by females emphasize negative aspects on occupational stress level.

Personal factors such as, marriage problems, relationship issues, children’s concerns aggravate the occupational stress level as unpaid work stress and life stress gradually increase. Irrespective of the income level, economic problems demand effective money management and managing the spending, based on the earnings.

These increase unpaid work pressures generally borne by females.

It is paramount to discuss the consequences of experienced stress. Physiological symptoms such as, headaches, high blood pressures and heart diseases are frequently experienced by females over males.

Unpaid work stress could even lead to anxiety and depression which are psychological symptoms. Further, absenteeism from work is a behavioural symptom shown by most female employees (UN Gender studies, 2016).

Indeed unpaid work stress and its impact on occupational stress is a gender-driven science.

(The writer is a Researcher in Management)