Thursday, 29 May 2014


Ever feel like escaping to the office after a long day at home? Sounds counterintuitive but according to a new Penn State study, that's exactly how many of us feel.
Woman in office
Photo credit: Musketeer/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Researchers measured levels of cortisol, the "stress hormone," in people at home and on the job and were surprised to find the levels were lower at work. And not only were both men and women significantly less stressed out at work, but women also reported feeling happier at work than at home. In addition, they found that people who work full time are healthier mentally and physically. So how is it possible that the place with the plasma TV, pillow-top mattress and chocolate stash is the more stressful environment for women?

Lead researcher Sarah Damaske, Ph.D., an assistant professor of labor and employment relations, sociology and women’s studies, has two ideas. "Women continue to do more work in the household and have less leisure time there than men. That means that when they come home from work, they are maybe feeling more harried than men are," she explains. In addition, she found that women have to make tough decisions about workforce participation, particularly when they have children, which means that those women who remain employed are choosing to do so because they are more likely to have found a job that works for their lives.

Being a working mom myself, I can see her points, but I wonder if part of it isn't also the pressure that women feel to excel in both spheres. If we work outside the home, we feel more pressure to make sure nothing slips by when we are home. We feel like we need to make up for the time we are missing with our kids and also stay on top of the groceries, laundry and piano lessons. Plus so many people are taking work home with them these days, blurring that line between work and home. So I can understand why it might be easier to go to the office where the only thing you have to focus on is work.

Although that may not be as true for parents. The researchers found that parents experienced a less significant drop in stress at work than non-parents. As any parent can tell you, this isn't totally surprising — kids have a way of complicating things whether or not you're physically with them. (Did I tell you about the time I got called to the principal's office three times in one day? For the same kid? I might as well have set up shop in her waiting room.) Plus juggling multiple schedules just means more stress. But Damaske, also a working mom, says there's a bright side.

"Kids are a natural stress reliever, helping parents to be less stressed at home [accounting for the smaller distance between work and home stress levels]" she says. "I think about my daughter and all the joy she's brought to my life. She's almost 2 and likes to dance when she's happy — so there's lots of dancing in my house these days. How could that not lower your stress?"

Aw, now I want to go dance with my babies. What about you? Do you feel less stressed at home or at work?


  1. This is extremely surprising to me because I always feel stressed at work while I am very chill when I am at home! In a way it is true that someone who works has a purpose and that might be a reason for why he would be less stressed at work. When you just stay at home without a clear objective or an unimportant one, you get a little stressed.

  2. Wow! I would never have expected stress levels to actually be lower at work. I agree with Carmen29's comment above. I feel like I'm most relaxed at home. I also think it's interesting that working adults with children experience similar levels of stress at both home and work. It really is true that being a parent is a 24/7 job within itself.

  3. "Kids are a natural stress reliever!"...NO they are not! We love our children dearly but for some of their development, children can be horrible, cruel, spiteful, hurtful and hard work. Children will ask for their PE kit 5 minutes before leaving the house, even though you asked them the night before if they needed anything. They will forget to tell you they needed a costume or cooking ingredients.

    For a mother at work, she can place her professional head on and be in control, she is respected. When the same woman is at home, sometimes she can feel unappreciated. Her work does not have a monetary value at home and therefore no proof of how valuable she is. The work done at work can be shouted about with a payslip to say "Here, I am contributing to our family, I am paying the mortgage, I am worth something!".
    It shouldn't be that way and it isn't for all mothers but it is for a lot of mothers.