Despite grueling commutes, deadlines, and difficult bosses, people experience less stress at work than they do at home, according to a new study conducted by Pennsylvania State University and the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF).
Researchers measured levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the bloodstreams of men and women and then had them answer questions about their happiness levels while at work and at home. They found that both men and women were less stressed in the workplace than at home, and women were significantly happier during the workday than men. Interestingly, this was more true for nonparents than parents. The findings also confirm previous research, which found that people who work experience better physical and mental health than those who don’t.
“We didn’t study why men and women were less stressed at work, however, one reason could be that work performed outside the home is generally perceived as more valuable than work done at home,” the study's lead author Sarah Damaske, PhD, assistant professor of labor and employment relations, sociology, and women’s studies at Pennsylvania State University, tells Yahoo Shine. “And one reason parents may be less stressed at work is because despite everything we’ve heard about how children complicate people’s lives, kids also provide a happy outlet.”
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As for why women may be happier at work, it might be because they have even more work waiting for them when they get home. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, women spend six extra hours on housework and three extra hours on childcare than men every week. Meanwhile, when men get home, they're more likely to kick back and relax.
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According to Damaske, the solution for a happier, less stressful life boils down to work-life balance, made possible when employers offer flexible schedules (telecommuting, paid sick days, and maternity and paternity leaves, for example) so employees can tend to both professional and private needs. Whether you've got flexible hours or punch a clock, try adopting these three at-home rituals to make your work stress melt away.
Change out of work clothes immediately: Lounging on the couch wearing a pencil skirt isn't comfy. The minute you arrive home, kick off your shoes, and throw on yoga pants or whatever makes you feel relaxed. A change in outfit will help foster a change in mindset.
Check work email only one time at home each night: A recent study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, and U.S. Army researchers found when people cut down on email, they stop multitasking and experience less stress. Since avoiding your inbox isn’t realistic during the workday, check only once when you get home to avoid an unhealthy cycle. Research presented in January at the British Psychological Society's annual occupational psychology conference found that stressed people check their phones more often because they experience “phantom” alerts (thinking they heard email pings when they didn’t). Scary.
Exercise whenever you can: It doesn’t matter whether you like to work out in the morning or the evening — any amount of exercise will help you sleep better. According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2013 Sleep in America poll, 83 percent of people who exercised whatever the time of day reported sounder sleep than those who didn't exercise at all.