Work Intruding on Family Time?

single parent resource

Work Intruding on Family Time?

Technology. One of the most ingenious inventions was the creation of email. It’s allowed us the capacity to communicate with people all over the world in an instant, keeps us abreast of current events, and most importantly, allowed those of us often housebound to feel connected to others and not totally sequestered from the world beyond.

Information and communication technologies, known as ICTs are providing increased work flexibility and the opportunity to leverage work tools such as email to keep us updated on what’s happening at the office even if we aren’t physically present. By tending to tasks outside the standard business hours, ideally, it should ease up some of the daytime if we need to attend to family obligations such as a sick child, a parent teacher conference or an after school sports event.

While there are numerous benefits, technology can also easily become the source of stress, family conflict, and disengagement if not kept in balance.

As ICTs have become more a part of our daily work function, it’s become the norm to be available outside the standard work hours, merging into what was once family time in the evenings or weekends when traditionally people weren’t in the office.

This blurring is cutting into those demarcations set between family and work and not allowing many to feel like they have the opportunity to take off their “work hat” and give their full attention to their family. After all, if one is granted flextime for personal options, they often feel these benefits will be taken away if they aren’t always immediately available when contacted. This inability to disengage from work carries with it serious consequences—psychologically, emotionally, and physically. It impacts not only the worker, but one’s children as well.

The unfortunate consequence of not being able to manage conflicting demands of work and family is role strain. It’s these different obligations and roles that each of engage in on a daily basis such as social organizations, family, and work. Role strain occurs as the result of our inability to meet these often conflicting demands (Goode, 1960).

While everyone has role strain at some point in time or another, for single parents it is often a constant. Ensuring work and family are taken care of, often without another person to lean on can seem overwhelming. We want to be everything to everybody, which is never a winning strategy.

In a recent study, researchers Larissa Barber and Alecia Santuzzi from Northern Illinois University coined the term “workplace telepressure” as the need to immediately respond to work communications and feel connected to what’s happening on the job, regardless of what’s going on around them.

What started out as a tool for flexibility—access to work email and other forms of work related technology outside of the workplace—is leading to stress, as the desire to respond immediately and stay engaged with colleagues is prohibiting the worker from “disconnecting” from work. Without these necessary barriers in place, telepressure can lead to psychological and physical stress, burnout, absenteeism, and sleep issues (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015).

For any parent, that’s not great news. As a single parent, this news is terrible. Nonetheless, the problem can be rectified. In order to stop telepressure from wreaking havoc on your life or ensure you aren’t going down that path, below are some key steps to assist in implementing those necessary boundaries.

Know Your Priorities

Determine what’s most important to you and ensure that takes top priority. If your main goal is to work into an executive level role before you are forty, chances are other areas of your life will suffer. Alternatively, if your children always come first, you’ll have to be comfortable with the fact you may have to turn down promotions that require extensive travel or time commitments so you aren’t away from them. Know where you stand and what you value. Writing it down is a good way to make it real. Refer back to this when put in potentially compromising situations.

Decide When You are Available

Determine specific hours you’ll be available and don’t answer calls, emails or text messages outside of those designated times. Take control of your schedule and solely dedicate that time to your personal life. Increased job control has been linked to decreased work-family conflict (Heponiemi, Elovainio, Pekkarinen, Sinervo, & Kouvonen, 2008; Kossek, Lautsch, Eaton, 2006)
Distribute Your Availability to Co-Workers and Clients

Let those you work with know exactly when your day ends and begins. Letting people know in advance of your schedule discourages them from interfering in family time. Setting expectations is crucial in establishing workplace boundaries. If they know you don’t take calls after a certain time or during specific hours, they’ll know exactly when to expect a response. Knowledge alleviates ambiguity. Just be sure to be consistent. Once you start breaking your rules, others will as well.

You Control the Device—Don’t Let It Control You

Smartphones were meant to make our lives easier, not complicate them. Sometimes just seeing the messages pop up creates stress. Make it a point to set your device so it creates ease, not havoc. Even if you aren’t available, if it’s going off, stress levels will increase. Ensure the settings don’t interfere with family time and when you are “present” you’re giving your family your full attention. Keep technology turned off when you don’t want family time interrupted.

People often forget we have choices about how we run our lives. Make decisions that reflect what you need to create a balanced foundation for you, your family, and career!


Barber, L. K., & Jenkins, J. S. (2014). Creating Technological Boundaries to Protect Bedtime: Examining Work-Home Boundary Management, Psychological Detachment and Sleep. Stress & Health: Journal Of The International Society For The Investigation Of Stress, 30(3), 259-264. doi:10.1002/smi.2536

Barber, L. K., & Santuzzi, A. M. (2015). Please respond ASAP: Workplace telepressure and employee recovery. Journal Of Occupational Health Psychology, 20(2), 172-189. doi:10.1037/a0038278

Goode, William J. (1960). A Theory of Role Strain. American Sociological Review, 25(4): 483- 496.

Heponiemi, T., Elovainio, M., Pekkarinen, L., Sinervo, T., & Kouvonen A. (2008). The effects of job demands and low job control on work-family conflict: The role of fairness in decision making and management. Journal of Community Psychology, 36, 387-398. doi: 10.1002/jcop.20200

Kossek, E. E., Lautsch, B. A., & Eaton, S. C. (2006). Telecommuting, control, and boundary management: Correlates of policy use and practice, job control, and work-family effectiveness. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68, 347-367. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2005.07.002

While there are numerous benefits, technology can also easily become the source of stress, family conflict, and disengagement if not kept in balance.
Sign up to receive the latest articles in your email!

Share this Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *