891 Feeling strained by the expectation to be available – gender differences of employees in small and medium-sized enterprises

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The increasing use of digital media such as mobile phone, e-mail, messenger services etc. enable a permanent availability of employees, which may lead to mental strain. This study focuses on possible gender-specific differences in feeling strained by the expectation to be permanently available for colleagues, superiors, or customers.


A psychological risk assessment has been carried out with 933 employees within the framework of a collaborative project (‘RegioKMUnet’), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Data were collected from October 2016 to June 2017 in 10 small and medium-sized enterprises by paper and online surveys. The basic question was if the respondents had to be short-termed available during their free time or working time and whether that led to mental strain. Data were analysed using IBM SPSS 24.


The sample consisted of 569 male and 364 female respondents. 85.6% of the males and 80.1% of the females reported they had to be available during their working time. The expected availability led to mental strain for 59.2% of the men and 50.3% of the women. During free time 32% males and 17.5% females stated they had to be available. For 51.8% of the men and 37.5% of the women this led to a feeling of being strained.


A chi-square test confirmed the gender difference of strain during free time (p=0.042).


In general the mental strain caused by the expectation of availability is stronger for men, with a significantly higher share during working time. In the free time the distance is even greater but inconclusive due to low case numbers. Additional research is needed to clarify if mental strain caused by availability is confirmedly greater for men. Furthermore possible influence by part-time and full-time working as well as the kind of work activity should be considered.

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