Is Stress at Home Holding You Back at Work?

Is Stress at Home Holding You Back at Work?

Last week, a coworker came into our office, set her bags down, and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  The rest of us assumed it was exhaustion from the morning hustle and bustle, but was there more to it?  Is it possible that she was glad to be away from stress at home? Is stress at home holding you back at work?

This coworker is a busy mother of three small children, with aging parents and a husband who is not in great health.  Our office provides a quiet, comfortable, adult space.  Could some people actually prefer time at work over time at home?

Research supports the fact that some employees are happier at work than at home.  An article appearing in the Washington Post (2014) examined the results of a Journal of Science and Medicine study of workers’ mental health throughout the day.  The study revealed that the stress hormone, cortisol, was lower at work than at home, especially for women (Schulte).  Sociologist Sarah Damaske explained: Women were much happier at work than at home. And men were only moderately happier at home than at work.” Overall, people who work were found to be in better health (physical and mental) than those who do not work.

People get rewarding feelings when they complete tasks at work, and often there is less multi-tasking, especially in lower-income jobs.  “At home, women juggle multiple roles such as housekeeping, parenting, and the emotional work of the family.  These have been called the second and third shifts by sociologists” (Fondas).  The weekday combination of work and home in the same day were most stressful because of the combination of the two environments.

Top Causes of Stress

Top causes of stress at home include imprisonment, death of loved ones, home damage and illness, according to the British Psychological Society.  Also listed are relationship problems, money problems, planning a wedding, and identity theft.  Out of the top 10 causes, only “being fired” and “starting a new job” were work-related stresses (British Psychological Society).

Financial worries and living paycheck to paycheck also keep many employees from doing their best work.  Stress can lead to decreased creativity and damaged team morale (

Home Life

Many people’s hardest work of the day starts at 5 pm.  Pulling up to the driveway and walking into the house may mean walking into a fight among teenagers, a kitchen full of dirty dishes, an hour drive to a sporting event, or handling all of the above as a single parent.   It might mean calling a doctor back to get test results or going to the hospital to sit with a loved one. Stress at home may contribute to why we stay in jobs we hate. 

Stress Holding You Back at Work

We all know how important it is to practice good self-care, but sometimes we don’t realize how stress at home ties into this self-care.

As an employer or fellow co-worker, keep in mind that we never know what our coworkers are dealing with.  Sometimes, a bad mood or snappy comment is a result of home stress and is not really work-related.  Try to be respectful and patient.

Personally, be aware that your home life may be affecting your job performance.  You may be overlooked for a raise because you are unable to find solutions that help you focus.  You may be distracted by constant I-phone messages from home.  See if there are ways to mitigate these situations.

The American Psychological Association recommends keeping a journal to track stressors, exercising daily, eating healthy, building in fun activities to your time outside of work, setting boundaries, and learning how to relax.

At Artemis Consultants, we strive to find excellent employer/employee job fits, and this includes positions that fit the whole person—at work and at home.

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