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Work or Home - Where is Your Happy Place?


This isn't new news - Gallup says only 30% of Americans are engaged at work.  The Gallup data, similar to other studies on employee engagement, identify respectful and empathetic managers, clear communications and a sense of purpose as key drivers of engagement.  A piece in last week's New York Times opined on the reasons that people hate their jobs  and indicated that only 13% of workers are engaged in their jobs worldwide.  Why do people hate their jobs?   The authors of the New York Times article have done extensive workplace research with the conclusion that "workers today are exhausted, emotionally depleted, unfocused, and lacking purpose. It is no surprise they are disengaged." Their findings include the following insights about workers:

  • 59% don't regularly get at least 7-8 hours of sleep and/or often wake up feeling tired
  • 69% have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time and are easily distracted during the day, especially by email
  • 58% say there are significant gaps between what they say is important in their life and how they actually live

So the answer must be better work-life balance, right?  Evidently not.  In new research from Penn State, Assistant Professor Sarah Damaske and her team found that most people experience lower levels of stress at work than at home.  Hunh?  It must be those working mothers, right?  In fact, Damaske's research shows "that women as well as men have lower levels of stress at work than at home. In fact, women may get more renewal from work than men, because unlike men, they report themselves happier at work than at home. It is men, not women, who report being happier at home than at work."

What are we to make of this apparent contradiction?  People aren't engaged at work, but they are more stressed out at home?  I have no rigorous research to back this up, but I have a hypothesis.  At work, most of us put at least some effort into presenting a best version of ourselves to others.  We are (mostly) courteous.  If we have something negative to communicate, we do so in a non-emotional way.

Roles and responsibilities are defined.  You have your turf, I have mine.  We collaborate as needed, but we don't interfere in each other's jobs or critique each other's performance in a hurtful way.

If it is true that many people are less stressed at work than they are at home, could the solution at least start with us minding our manners with the ones we love at least as well as we do with the ones we work with?

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