FSU researcher: Many employees feel guilty about working too much

Feeling pangs of conscience about the hours you spend at work instead of home with the family? You’re far from the only one. Research by a Florida State University management professor shows many U.S. workers feel guilty that their jobs don’t allow them to spend as much time at home as they would like.

Wayne A. Hochwarter, an associate professor of management in FSU’s College of Business, gathered data from 700 employees across several industries to determine the role that guilt has on work and health outcomes. Findings from this research show that almost 50 percent of all respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I feel guilty about the time I am unable to spend with my family due to work."

Further, such guilt was associated with:

  • Decreased job satisfaction
  • More interpersonal conflict at work
  • Higher levels of job-related distress
  • More general anxiety
  • More negative attitudes (feeling jittery, overwhelmed)
  • Higher perceived expectations from others
  • Unrealistic, and often distress-inducing, expectations of oneself
  • More physical pain at work (headaches, backaches)
  • Higher rates of burnout
  • Fewer close relationships

Not surprisingly, women and those responsible for the care of dependents reported more guilt.

In most two-person U.S. households, both parents are employed. Further, American employees work more hours each year than their counterparts in all other industrialized nations, including Japan and Germany. The fact is that parents are working more than at any other time in history, causing many dependents to be at home without supervision for several hours per day. It has been documented that crime, unwanted pregnancies and substance abuse increase dramatically when children are left unattended.

According to Hochwarter, "The current economic picture does not support the possibility of either parent spending less time at work and more time at home." A recent CNN article documenting that fewer organizations are offering their employees flexible work arrangements supports this view.

"Family problems often constitute the No. 1 reason that workers visit their employee assistance program," Hochwarter said.

Hochwarter’s research has been submitted for presentation at the 21st annual conference of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, scheduledfor May 2006 in Dallas.