25/07/2003

Employed mothers need less stress in workplace

Workplaces need to be less stressful if working mothers are to cope with the competing demands of families and careers, a new study has found.

Flexible hours and other ‘family friendly’ employment policies are of limited help to working mothers if their work spills over too much into their home life, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report.

Some mothers expressed concern that their job had a "negative impact" on the family particularly when they were overstretched at work. A number of fathers also felt uneasy about the demands placed on their partners at work and the effect that work-related stress could have on their children and their relationship with each other.

Researchers at South Bank University, who investigated the experiences of mothers with pre-school children working in contrasting workplaces – a large accountancy firm and hospital – found no evidence of mothers becoming more work centred at the expense of family life. Those who worked full-time were just as concerned to be there for their children and their partner as those working part-time.

The researchers suggest that ‘family-friendly’ policies can be improved by putting more effort into reducing stress in the workplace. More attention could be paid to controlling workloads, managing the intensity of work and ensuring that goals and targets are achievable in the time available.

Tracey Reynolds, a Research Fellow and co-author of the report, said: “Family-friendly workplace policies and practices may have helped some of the mothers we interviewed to modify their time schedules, but they were ineffective in helping them to deal with the stresses of paid work and the strains that they placed on family relationships.”

The researchers carried out interviews with 37 mothers and 30 fathers in couples with at least one child aged under 5 during 2001.

(GMcG)

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