A new British study suggests team-working and other modern employment practices can put as much strain on a woman’s family relationships as working an extra 120 hours a year.
The study of the British workers finds that while British employers have maintained long-term career relationships with employees in spite of competitive market pressures, they have devised ways of extracting more effort and higher performance.
These practices include team-based forms of work organization, individual performance-related pay, and policies that emphasize the development of individual potential.
Such human resource management practices are thought to be good for staff morale as well as an essential ingredient of successful modern business performance. Yet, finds the research, the pressure to perform which they generate has a detrimental effect on employees’ families.
Women’s family relationships are more adversely affected by such employment practices than men’s. In addition, both women and men are more likely to become anxious about childcare arrangements when placed under pressure by workplace practices.
Women are also less likely to get help at home from male partners if the men have jobs in which they face the pressures of modern human resource management.
A significant new source of stress in the modern workplace is surveillance. The research shows that more than half – 52 per cent – of all British employees report that a computerized system keeps a log or record of their work.
This picture is confirmed by employers, with managements of one in five workplaces reporting that all employees are now covered by computer-based monitoring systems.
The spread of surveillance has led to a sharp increase in work strain, reflected by feelings of exhaustion, anxiety and work-related worry. There is an overall 7.5 per cent rise in strain among employees whose work is checked by surveillance systems compared with those in similar jobs which are controlled by more traditional methods.
Evidence of work strain is particularly strong among administrative and white-collar staff in places such as call centers, where it rises by 10 per cent among employees whose work is continually checked by surveillance systems.
“Computers and IT systems are bringing surveillance to most workplaces,” comments Michael White, who co-directed the research study. “Now for the first time we can see how this development is damaging employees’ well-being.”