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Published: August, 2011; Vol 8, Num 3

 

Ultimate Juggling Act:
Work-Life Balance

Securing the projects that keep construction companies afloat and Laborers on the job often keeps signatory employers, business managers and business agents on the clock long after the workday has technically ended.

Alternate description

LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman
Armand E. Sabitoni

Fathers, Too,
Feel Stress of Parenting

Childrearing does not occur on the job, but it is a workplace stress as it often competes with workplace obligations. It is also why work-life balance is frequently regarded as a working mother’s issue. However, a survey from the Boston College Center for Work and Family finds that most working fathers want to be equally involved with childrearing – most still are not – and, like working mothers, struggle with work-life balance. Over half of nearly 1,000 participants said, if finances allowed, they would consider staying home with their children. Like many working mothers, fathers said job security and flexibility are more important than high income and opportunities for advancement. They also said that spending time with their children boosted their confidence as parents and that when employers support this goal, reduced turnover is the workplace benefit. The more satisfied fathers were with home life, the more likely they were to stay with their current jobs.

“Although necessary, these long hours can take a toll,” says LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “Stress builds up. Personal health, relationships and, even workplace productivity can suffer. For one’s health and for business, work-life balance is essential.”

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s response to life’s events and demands. Whether something positive – a promotion, a wedding or a new baby – or something negative – a pay cut, layoff, divorce or the death of someone close, these occurrences disrupt equilibrium. This causes stress which, positive or negative, the body perceives as a threat and reacts with a response called fight-or-flight. Heart rates and blood pressure go up and initially, energy increases. Pre-stress levels usually return when the “dangers” resolve. For a short time, this is ok.

However, stress resolution does not always arrive by close of business, especially in times of economic uncertainty. In fact, with BlackBerries, cell phones and email making it easy to stay connected to work even when not at work, stress can become chronic. Mentally and physically, this takes a toll.

The American Institute of Stress (AIS) says job pressures are the primary source of stress for Americans and an American Psychological Association (APA) survey finds that three-quarters of Americans list their jobs as a significant source of their stress. In addition to experiencing feelings of anger, irritability and of being overwhelmed, survey participants reported headaches, fatigue and upset stomachs.

The results of experiencing stress and its related symptoms are often both physical and emotional. They include diminished output, absenteeism and turnover and related medical, legal and insurance fees that cost the nation’s businesses $300 billion annually. Stress also keeps many Americans from using vacation leave. About half say that work demands get in the way of taking time off to unwind.

Another important aspect of our health that stress can directly affect is sleep. Stress contributes to the $16 billion annually spent in medical costs related to sleeping difficulties. Forty million Americans find restful slumber elusive and spend their time in bed tossing and turning. Stress also contributes to the nation’s obesity crisis. Over 75 million Americans, one third of the population, are considered obese and children are among those carrying the unhealthy weight. Seventeen percent of children and adolescents between ages 2-19 years are heavier than they should be. Many report feeling stressed and say their parents are also stressed. Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, and today, the number of Americans with this disease has reached nearly 26 million.

Some people respond to stress with unhealthy and potentially dangerous behaviors such as drinking alcohol, using drugs and tobacco, poor diet choices and inactivity. These behaviors can have negative consequences on health, family, finances and employment and will likely only increase stress rather than assist in resolving it.

While we may not be able to control certain things or situations, we can control how we respond to them and thus minimize our stress. For example, at the first sign of traffic, one person may start yelling, cursing and tailgating. Someone else – realizing that circumstances are beyond their control – will call an employer to let them know they may be late and then listen to the radio.

Appropriate ways to manage stress include:

Stress Management Assistance
From the LHSFNA

The LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Division offers a workshop on stress management in the workplace. For more information, call 202-628-5465.

Good Health equals Good Leadership, a brochure containing tips for managing stress, can be ordered through the  Publications Catalogue.

  • Recognizing symptoms like feeling overwhelmed or irritable;
  • Setting rules for turning off cell phones or BlackBerries when at home or establishing certain times for returning business calls;
  • Making a list of work and personal tasks according to priority;
  • Taking short breaks of a minute or two throughout the day to stand, stretch and breathe deeply;
  • Replacing unhealthy coping strategies like eating junk food, smoking or drinking alcohol with healthy behaviors like exercising, meditating or just talking with friends and family;
  • Taking care of health by eating right, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water and engaging in regular physical activities like going to the gym, walking and taking time off; and
  • Asking for professional support, accepting help from friends and family and, if available, taking advantage of stress management resources available through Member Assistance Programs (MAPs).

“Maintaining balance between work and life can sometimes seem like a job itself,” says Sabitoni, “but when you put a plan in place to manage both, the reward is reduced stress and increased productivity on and off the clock. Both your work time and your family time improve when your stress is well-managed.”

[Janet Lubman Rathner]