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Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century

futurework: Chapter 3 - Box 3.3 -The Stress Box

With the dramatic shift of women from households to workplaces, the hours American families work in paid jobs have increased significantly, making less time available for children and other family responsibilities. Competing demands of work and family have overburdened many Americans. Struggling to meet the needs of both job and family, they have little, if any, time left over for themselves.

A 1997 report revealed that 26 percent of employees felt emotionally drained by their work often or very often, and 36 percent felt used up at the end of the workday often or very often.52 Such constant feelings of being overwhelmed can affect work, health, and family life.

Sleep deprivation also contributes to high anxiety levels. Many workers try to squeeze more time out of a day by sleeping less. Research indicates that Americans are sleeping an average of seven hours per week night, an hour less than experts say is needed. All of these pressures can add up to a day-to-day routine full of fatigue, stress, and the sense of being pulled in too many directions with too little time.

An obsolete network of resources, many argue, may exacerbate these pressures. Both in the community and the workplace, resources that do not sufficiently respond to the overburdened working family—be they traditional work scheduling, ad hoc child care, or even inflexible service hours for home repair—only make achieving a workable balance more of a struggle.

Innovative thinking—in the workplace, in the community, and in government policy—is needed to create options that better meet the needs of the American family.

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