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For the third time this week, Sharla rummages through the over-the-counter medications in the break room. Jesse, the nursing supervisor, decides to investigate . "You seem to be taking a lot of acetaminophen and ibuprofen lately. Is everything okay with you?" Sharla sighs , "Life is fine. I am getting frequent mild headaches, and I think it's because I have too much to do every day with no breaks. There's work, kids, husband, school activities, dance lessons, soccer, recitals, chores, errands..." Sharla's voice trails off. Jesse has heard these comments often from full-time nursing staff with children at home. While overall life satisfaction may be fine, role overload can cause stress for many.


Employment, household upkeep, child rearing, errands, caring for aging parents, civic responsibilities, and other activities place working adults in multiple, and often time-consuming roles. This can leave little or no time for adequate rest of mind, body, and spirit, and it can lead to physical ailments such as chronic headaches, fatigue, malaise, depression, and poor productivity (Murray, 2001).


Working adults with children at home express high levels of emotional well-being; however, these individuals also report a particularly time pressured existence (Zuzanek, 1998). Multiple roles are a lifestyle staple for most home care clinical staff.


Although limiting the number of roles performed may ease overload, many find it difficult to choose where to cut back. To begin the process of reviewing where a reduction could be accomplished, Murray (2001) suggests addressing certain issues (see sidebar).


A structured approach to role reduction is one of transforming a harried lifestyle into a comfortable rhythm of existence. It is often initially difficult to entertain the idea of streamlining or omitting life roles. However, the benefits of doing so might include less fatigue and improved performance in valued areas both at home and at work.




Murray, R. B., & Zentner, J. P. (2001). Health promotion through the life span. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. [Context Link]


Zuzanek, J. (1998). Time use, time pressure, personal stress, mental health, and life cycle satisfaction from a life cycle perspective. Journal of Occupational Science, 5 (1), 26-39. [Context Link]

Role Reduction Issues to Address


1. Identify and write down the roles performed. Specify tasks and time required for completion. Note any possibilities for streamlining tasks.


2. Set priorities associated with each of the roles listed above. Negotiate with spouse, children, coworkers, and other involved participants tasks that can be delegated. Identify who will take specific responsibilities to balance the workload. Assess whether a role is essential or optional, and consider cutting nonessential roles.


3. Allocate tasks based on skill, age, availability, and fairness. If possible, rotate tasks. If no one is available for task delegation, consider eliminating that role, or another less essential role. Explore the possibility of task delegation in the workplace with coworkers and supervisors.


4. Be assertive. Practice saying "no." Hold others accountable for the performance of their own work. If "no" is too difficult to say, try "I will think about it and get back to you later." This gives extra time and distance to develop resolve for limiting role overload.


5. Develop a support network of coworkers, family, friends, neighbors, child care providers, and professionals to be accessed periodically when role demands become unusually high.


6. Rechannel emotional investments to reflect what provides the most life satisfaction, and then concentrate on performing well in those areas.


7. Assess progress monthly. Review effectiveness of interventions and address old or new problem areas. Embrace the concept of flexibility and mediation.


8. Negotiate change where problems exist.



Source: Murray and Zentner, 2001.