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The Effects Of Stress On Single Parents’ Work Life Balance

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Executive Summary

Stress is a common issue in today’s organizations. More particularly employees have been noticed to suffer from it in most organizations. The main issue discussed in this paper is about how stress affects the life of single parents, and the challenges they face to balance work-life and family. It has become hard in this current generation to become self-independent, especially as parents. Social, economic and financial hardships are the main reasons for the initial stress among single parents. There are several points related to the topic being examined in this paper:

  • Why is stress important in the life of single parents?
  • What are the consequences of the problems?
  • The impact that stress has on their life.
  • What causes stress and stressors in their life.
  • Effects that are caused by stress in their work-life balance.
  • Solutions to the problems identified through case studies.
  • Recommendations: Flextime and Telecommuting.
  • Followed by a valid conclusion.

Introduction

Finding a healthy balance between one’s career and one’s life beyond the workplace has been a particular challenge in organizations today as single parents must ensure health, social, and economic factors. Single parents experience strains amongst work, childcare responsibilities, and leisure activities as they need to divide their time accordingly. The hardships of juggling between various aspects of their lives can lead to stress and can affect their mental health, resulting in a lack of social life, as well as hinder their performance in the workplace. In order to mitigate these problems, organizations can implement alternative work arrangements such as flextime and telecommuting. This delves into the issue of how stress affects the work-life balance of single parents.

Problem Identification and Impact

Work-family conflict often arises when single parents fail to meet the demands of both work-related tasks and childcaring duties. Stress is an unpleasant psychological process that happens due to environmental pressures. The stress that single parents encounter originates from the problems that they endure, which are two-fold. Internally, they often experience work-family conflict at home, whether it be taking care of their children or having time to relax. Externally, they encounter organizational challenges such as meeting deadlines with performance targets or working overtime. The internal and external problems that single parents face are interrelated and play an important role in the work-life conflict. Comment by Rachel Cheng: add citation Comment by Rachel Cheng: langton resource

Motivation is the intensity, direction, and persistence an individual demonstrates in obtaining their goals. The implications of stress on single parents can result in a negative impact on their levels of motivation in the work environment. For most individuals, the basic Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory shows a hierarchy of five needs, starting at the lowest level of physiological needs, and moving up the hierarchy to safety needs, social belonging needs, self-esteem needs, and finally, self-actualization needs. Basic needs must first be fulfilled before satisfying any higher needs. As single parents, they must also think of the basic needs of their children. As mentioned before, organizations can improve motivation and alleviate other stress factors by implementing solutions. For instance, flextime can be used which is an arrangement where employees have the flexibility to set their own hours, but still work for a common core period each day. Telecommuting is another possible solution that allows individuals to work away from the office, such as from home, a library, or even a coffee shop. These solutions provide some autonomy for single parents resulting in better management for their complex work-life balance.

The Importance of Work-Life Conflict

Juggling between various factors places a significant amount of stress on the everyday lives of single parents. For instance, single parents do not have a partner whom to share childcaring responsibilities with or have another source of disposable income. A limited amount of time and energy each day hinders their ability to properly allocate their time amongst work, childcare, and leisure. In turn, single parents must look at opportunity costs such as sacrificing their own leisure time to take care of their children or losing a few extra hours of sleep in order to spend more time with them (Bakker and Karsten, 2013, p. 174). Furthermore, in terms of economic hardships, single parents may forfeit their leisure time to meet work deadlines, or take on extra shifts to earn additional income for their family (Bakker and Karsten, 2013, p. 174). Long work hours or strict deadlines can place an insurmountable level of stress on single parents, leading to the stress being taken home with them. Comment by Rachel Cheng: add citation

Causes of Stress

One of the biggest issues that single parents face is the difficulty that arises between work and family demands. As a single parent, their top priority is to provide for their children. Stress can be caused by a number of reasons, from deadlines to performance targets to coworkers. Thus, determining the balance between fulfilling their own needs and the needs of their children can be stressful. On the one hand, they need to look after themselves, and on the other, they need to be a financial position that allows them to give their children material goods, or to be there for children both emotionally and socially (Hertz & Ferguson, 1998, p. 16). As previously mentioned, these conflicts are immensely incompatible for individuals as they only having a fixed amount of time and energy to dedicate to various roles and tasks.

Work and childcaring duties are major stressors for single parents, as they tend to make them feel as if they are constantly “on call.” Some single parents are able to address childcaring responsibilities after work, but many others are unable to do so. This is because they have to work overtime due to the nature of their occupation or because of economic hardships. Moreover, single parents may put in more hours to better financially support themselves and their family. Due to this, a key resource single parents often miss out on is having a social network (Hertz & Ferguson, 1998, p. 19). Many do not have family or friends who can alleviate the stress by taking on childcare responsibilities, cooking meals, or cleaning the house. With many young children dependent on their parents, they require a lot of assistance. For example, they may need their parents to pack their lunches for them or ensure that they have clean clothes to wear. This forces single parents to either find time to do it themselves in their jam-packed schedules or to hire outside help, putting a strain on their finances. Single parents may need to decrease their consumption today in order to sustain themselves in the future. This can often lead to a lifestyle change in consumer choices (Hertz & Ferguson, 1998, p. 18). Rather than shopping at fresh supermarkets or high-end clothing stores, single parents may need to turn to low-cost grocery stores or second-hand stores to satisfy their needs. A lack of resources makes the choice between work and family harder as single parents do not have anyone to rely on but themselves.

Effects of Stress

While reasonable levels of stress can be viewed as a good thing, high levels of stress can have serious effects on individuals. As single parents struggle to find a healthy balance between their work life and personal life, it can come at a cost, whether it be physically or economically. This ultimately affects one’s health, economic performance, and job satisfaction.

Stress can cause health implications both physiologically and psychologically. People who prioritize their work at the expense of their health may skip meals and stay up late to meet deadlines and performance targets. This, in turn, may result in physiological complications such as high blood pressure and heart attacks or psychological implications including burnout and lower job satisfaction (Sharma, 2015, p. 1). Health is very important, and when one’s health is compromised, individuals may look after themselves before they dedicate themselves to their work. This is because of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which places one’s basic needs above all else. If individuals cannot meet their basic needs of adequate amounts of sleep or a balanced diet, nothing else matters. Until their basic needs are met, single parents will be demotivated to fulfill their work-related needs.

As stress levels build up, lone parents may feel dissatisfied with their jobs. Job satisfaction is a person’s general attitude toward their job. Higher job satisfaction is linked to employees being more engaged, resulting in higher levels of productivity and performance (Erro-Garcés & Ferreira, 2019, p. 936). Productivity is the combination of both the efficiency and effectiveness that takes place in an organization. A lack of job satisfaction tends to lead to people to become more and more demotivated and unsatisfied with their job. Accordingly, they will put in less effort and will not perform as well as before. People may do what is expected of them, but nothing more, and begin to slowly demonstrate withdrawal behaviours which are actions that individuals take to disconnect themselves from the organization. This may result in people calling in sick to work, arriving late, or even quitting which ultimately has a negative impact on the organization (Erro-Garcés & Ferreira, 2019, p. 936). Therefore, organizations being the profit maximizers that they are, should find ways to ensure that employees are satisfied, allowing them to perform better and contribute to a company’s overall profitability (p. 936)(Erro-Garcés & Ferreira, 2019, p. 936).

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Recommendations and Implementations

Case Studies Analysis

Many companies have challenges with turnover in the face of their employees’ work-life imbalance. The job satisfaction of employees, especially front-line workers, is crucial to the success of the company. Satisfied employees are usually more friendly and responsive, which customers appreciate. Also, satisfied workers are less likely to leave the company, which has shown to be beneficial for customers having these familiar faces better serve them. Consequently, customer satisfaction is achieved. Companies today rely on various methods, primarily telecommuting and flextime, to increase the job retention rate and improve the business’s success.

One example is the First Tennessee Bank that received numerous customer complaints and incurred costs due to employee turnover (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p.6). The bank investigated the reasons behind the turnover problem and discovered that the employees’ work-life imbalance was the prevailing issue. Both working and childcaring were difficult to be managed for the employees (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p. 6). As a result, employees left the company to focus on domestic duties. The bank decided to implement a series of programs to improve the situation. For the employees, the one that helped the most was flextime. With flextime, employees could enjoy working with a flexible work schedule catered to their needs. The outcomes from the implementation of flextime were favourable. Around 60% of the employees agreed that the company’s plans were flexible and the bank has saved over $3 million dollars in turnover costs (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p. 6). As employees are satisfied with their job, they are willing to stay in the company and better perform. Therefore, customer satisfaction levels also increased. The bank’s customer retention rate was around 96%, compared to the industry’s average of 87% (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p. 6) . Both the high employees’ satisfaction levels and high customer retention rates are proven to the flextime program’s success.

Another example is Texas Instruments, an American technology company that has faced a high turnover rate. In the face of this problem, the company has also received a number of requests from employees for an increase in work flexibility (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p. 7). Thus, the company decided to conduct a “needs assessment” within the company to identify the causes of the company’s low retention rates (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p. 7). Following the assessment, the management discovered that many employees struggle to accommodate both work and personal needs, such as childcaring, with their time. The work-life conflict employees were facing caused their high stress levels and job dissatisfaction, which led to low productivity in the workplace. Consequently, many employees left the company to focus on their personal needs. The company decided to implement various flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, to increase job retention rates (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p. 7). Employees were permitted to telecommute occasionally to meet their personal needs on a case by case basis (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p. 7). For example, employees could opt to telecommute to take care of their sick children at home. The results of implementing telecommuting were positive. As the employees experienced less stress, they were more effective at work and willing to continue working (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p. 7). As a result, the company’s retention rates improved. Moreover, this flexible work arrangement allowed the company to better collaborate with overseas business partners and companies (how?), which led to an improvement in the business’s success (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p. 7). One of the reasons could be that employees developed “broader and diverse skills” while helping to cover for their co-workers “in times of flexibility” (McGuire & Brashler, 2006, p. 7). This is a major indicator that telecommuting is a successful work arrangement for the company.

Flextime

Implementing flextime as an alternative work arrangement can mitigate stress levels and create a better work-life balance. Flextime gives employees autonomy and responsibility, allowing them some choice in when they want to work and where they want to work. Single parents can plan their schedules in a way that enables them to get their work done effectively and efficiently while still managing time for their children. Being able to fulfill both work-related and family-related responsibilities is a vital aspect of a single parent’s life. Comment by J Wong: @michelle i added this part b/c it was in the article you sent. should i still take it out? Comment by Michelle Intharangsy: It’s fine if you find it in the article. Just thought it sounded a bit like telecommuting.

Not only do employees benefit from flextime, but so do employers. Flextime is positively correlated with many positive outcomes, the biggest being organizational effectiveness. A main priority of organizations is to be profitable, and higher productivity tends to lead to more satisfied employees, resulting in higher levels of motivation and more effort being put in. As individuals work harder, they become more valuable to the company, fulfilling the company’s goal of generating a profit. Other positive results are lower absenteeism and turnover in the workplace, and more employees being punctual. With the flexibility of flextime, it can reduce the number of short-term leave and people calling in sick to work. Because many employees view flextime as a positive and important benefit, they do not demonstrate withdrawal behaviours such as coming in late to work.

On the other hand, flextime does carry some negative elements with it, such as constraints due to the nature of the job. In manufacturing firms, the atmosphere typically involves employees to be present as they need to work together to complete tasks. If flextime were implemented in these environments, the absence of one individual requires another to pick up the slack, causing dissatisfaction. However, for the majority of jobs, from accounting to finance to IT companies, implementing flextime is a very viable option. Another problem that arises is the fact that the job of a supervisor becomes more complicated if flextime is introduced. This is because they lose a portion of their autonomy to lower level employees and this can be seen as unfair in some circumstances. While it is true that this is a negative factor, supervisors will still have the opportunity to carry forth decisions like before. It will only be harder as they must make adjustments to new changes. Despite this, the majority of employees will benefit from flextime as not everyone is a supervisor. As mentioned before, flextime results in higher performers and ultimately greater profits. Because the pros outweigh the cons, companies who implement flextime as an alternative to traditional work hours will thrive over those who do not.

Telecommuting

Telecommuting is another possible solution to a single parent’s work-life balance. As mentioned previously, telecommuting is a schedule in which employees can conduct some of their working hours away from the office. This can be beneficial for single parents for a number of reasons. One benefit to telecommuting is that single parents are given an adaptable work schedule that provides better autonomy and greater flexibility. Telecommuting allows single parents to work when they feel most efficient and energized. This can be in the morning before they take their children to school, when their children have gone to bed, or whenever else best suits their needs. Being able to work beyond the office also allows single parents to be there for their children whether to attend a soccer game, ballet recital or in unexpected situations such as getting a fever or getting injured. Telecommuting can relieve some of the stress that single parents endure and contribute to a better work-life balance.

Another advantage of telecommuting is that it efficiently saves time from the everyday commute to and from work. Commuting is especially stressful in high-traffic and congested areas. Taking away that factor allows for better time management. They can do things such as housework or use the time to decompress. Having even this small amount of time to be more productive and get things done, or to relax, is a huge stress reliever for parents. Single parents can also most importantly, take this time and spend it with their kids.

Lastly, telecommuting will help single parents save money. If they do not have to commute, they will not need to spend money on parking, gas, or a transit pass. Furthermore, telecommuters can adjust their schedule around their child’s school schedule, extracurricular activities, and appointments, decreasing the total number of hours required for daycare or babysitting. Therefore, this can reduce the amount of money they spend on childcare. The money saved on childcare can be used to buy other goods and services, ultimately creating more flexibility within their budget.

Like flextime there are definitely so negatives that may arise from telecommuting. One could be that the boundaries between work and life can become too intertwined. Most children are too young to distinguish the difference between their parent’s role as a parent and their role as a professional at home. This can result in a decrease in performance by single parents as they may be constantly having to help their child who is confused why they cannot be always readily available. Another issue with telecommuting is that there is less interaction between coworkers. Having face-to-face connections with colleagues in the workplace is essential for a trusting environment. Without these interactions, there can also be a decreased opportunity in collaborative activities such as networking events. Lastly, depending on the individual, they can actually be less motivated. There are many distractions in other environments that do not come up in the work environment like children, television and pets. It also does not help that the boss cannot regularly check in. Regardless, telecommuting has still been proven to be beneficial in organizations. Individuals will just need to find a balance suitable to their overall needs for the best results.

Conclusion

Our group has done enough research on the topic to find out that stress is mainly caused due to inflexibility and financial pressures for single parents. Also, not being able to spend personal time for themselves and with their children’s are primary causes of stress and stressors. These factors turn out to cause burnout, decrease job satisfaction, increase in absenteeism rate, lower morale, etc that has been discussed over the paper. To support our analysis, we have researched various case studies of big companies which allowed us to evaluate the problem and provide recommendations that organizations can easily implement. Flextime and telecommuting proved to be most beneficial for single parents at little to no cost for the company. These flexible work arrangements are key to reducing the stress of single parents, leading to a healthier work-life balance.

References

  1. Hertz, R., & Ferguson, F. (1998). Only one pair of hands: Ways that single mothers stretch work and family resources. Community, Work & Family, 1(1), 13-37. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13668809808414695
  2. Hamilton, E. (2003). Bringing Work Home. Advantages and Challenges of Telecommuting https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/centers/cwf/research/publications/researchreports/Bringing%20Work%20Home_Telecommuting
  3. Carlson, D. S., Hunter, E. M., Ferguson, M., & Whitten, D. (2011). Work–Family Enrichment and Satisfaction. Journal of Management,40(3), 845-865. https://journals-sagepub-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/doi/full/10.1177/0149206311414429
  4. Bakker, W., & Karsten, L. (2013). Balancing paid work, care and leisure in post-separation households: A comparison of single parents with co-parents. Acta Sociologica (Sage Publications, Ltd.), 56(2), 173–187. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1177/0001699312466178
  5. Konrad, A. M., & Yang, Y. (2012). Is using work-life interface benefits a career-limiting move? An examination of women, men, lone parents, and parents with partners. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(8), 1095–1119. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1002/job.1782
  6. Brenke, K. (2016). Home Offices: Plenty of Untapped Potential. DIW Economic Bulletin, (8), 95–104. http://proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=113663219&site=bsi-live&scope=site
  7. Brashler, P., & McGuire, J. F. (2006). Flexible Work Arrangements: Selected Case Studies. https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1007&context=legal
  8. Erro-Garcés, A., & Ferreira, S. (2019, May). Do better workplace environmental conditions improve job satisfaction? Retrieved from http://proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct&db=bth&AN=135228496&site=bsi-live&scope=site
  9. Sharma, E. (2015, October). A Study of the Factors That Cause Occupational Stress Among Blue-Collar Employees. Retrieved from https://web-a-ebscohost-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bsi/detail/detail?vid=7&sid=0361cd17-27f3-4770-bb85-3a8b47f1a5b9@sdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9YnNpLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ==#AN=111883018&db=bth

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The Effects Of Stress On Single Parents’ Work Life Balance. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-effects-of-stress-on-single-parents-work-life-balance/
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