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Women who take work calls at home feel more guilty: study

So, you took a call from the boss this morning before you got out of bed. And you replied to a couple of e-mails on the weekend, too. All in the name of work-life flexibility, right? New research suggests that if you're a woman, there's a downside to all that multitasking.

Using a set of data from about 1,200 Americans, University of Toronto sociologists have found that with each successive work-contact a woman has while at home, she reports an increasing level of guilt, compared to men and women who don't field work communications outside the office.

One of the study's authors, sociology professor Scott Schieman, admits that the results may seem obvious, especially to women.

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"But you know, people talk about change all the time," he said in an interview. "You could argue that things have changed quite a bit and why would women feel more guilty? Men maybe are being held more accountable for family stuff now."

The study, which appears in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, controlled for factors including whether a woman had children, how many and their ages. They also controlled for types of jobs and the division of household labour in a woman's home. Across the board, regardless of these factors, women still reported more feelings of guilt the more work calls and e-mails they faced at home.

It may be, Prof. Schieman suggests, that despite women's gains in the workplace, they're having a hard time shaking ingrained "cultural norms" around the boundaries between work and home life.

Do you think those norms are shifting at all or is the pace glacial at best?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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