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Participants needed for course on balancing work, life

Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
(217) 333-5802; b-james3@illinois.edu

10/22/2002


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Work and home: Two worlds that most parents juggle daily. How to balance the two so the pressure of one doesn’t overwhelm the other is the focus of a five-part program under development by University of Illinois Extension.

Beginning next month, the program’s first segment, "Intentional Harmony: Balancing Work and Children," will be tested with parents in the
Champaign-Urbana area. Participants will receive a free meal and a small honorarium, said program director Angela Wiley, an Extension specialist on family life issues and professor of applied family studies in the department of human and community development.

The official program, "Intentional Harmony: Balancing Work and Life," will be launched statewide in January 2004. Eventually it will be available nationwide, Wiley said. Each of the five segments will include workshops and supplemental materials delivered through traditional mail or by e-mail.

"One of the needs of the ever-changing American family is balancing work and life," Wiley said. "In Extension, we have been surveying the landscape to determine what issues are most important for families – what we need to respond to."

The other four programs will cover maintaining psychological and social well-being while working, balancing work and partner pressures, balancing work and extended family issues, and enhancing relationships with supervisors and co-workers.

"On-job stress tends to influence families negatively when people experience overload or conflict between work and family," Wiley said. "It is not the actual job stressors, but the internal distress response that matters. Different stress may bother you at one time and not at others, depending on what all is going on in your life."

The idea of the new curriculum is to help people take control of stress so that their response does not negatively affect other people at home and work, she said.

"We need to learn to leave the work at work and cope with the stress, not suppress it," Wiley said. "We need to find ways to manage it so when we do come home we are available. We need to come home and pay attention to spouses and children."

The current trends in work-life issues also suggest that employers need to be more sensitive to family stresses. Employers, she said, must recognize that family problems reduce work performance, cause employee withdrawal and increase absenteeism.

Employers should be more accommodating to employee concerns such as child-care, doctor’s appointments, getting children to and from school and care-giving for elderly relatives, she said. The issue that is most stressful for people about work is generally a lack of autonomy and flexibility, Wiley said.

For the trial first course next month, participants must be able to attend one two-hour workshop at the University of Illinois Extension Center office in Champaign, 801 N. Country Fair Drive.

Each participant also will take part in several brief interviews by phone about how they are balancing work stresses and parenting. A complimentary meal and free childcare will be provided. Participants may choose one of three dates for the workshop: Nov. 9, noon-2 p.m.; Nov. 16, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.; or Nov. 18, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Interested working parents should get in touch with Betty Scott at (217) 333-3790 or b-scott@illinois.edu by Nov. 5.