New research, published today in the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) journal Transactions, reveals the emotional impact experienced by the partners and families left behind by mobile workers.
The three-year study, carried out by human geographers David Bissell, Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, and Andrew Gorman-Murray, Professor at Western Sydney University, looked at the families of highly mobile workers in Australia. While previous research has investigated the impact on mobile workers themselves, the effect on the families of mobile workers remained under researched, until now.
Nearly all of the 60 participants reported feelings of disorientation due to the transient life of one member of their household. Through interviews, the everyday challenges faced by ‘left behind’ partners came to light – from the constant making and breaking of routines, to a sense of unfamiliarity and distance when the mobile worker returns home.
The effects of mobile work on families are highly gendered; all but one of the partners interviewed were women. These women face the challenge of keeping their households afloat in the periodic absence of their partner, shining a light on how emotional labour is required to sustain distanced connections.
In one example, a participant revealed that the family dog no longer recognises her husband, and that he returns from working away as a “different person”, unrecognisable to his parents.
The research recommends that governments globally pay more careful consideration to policies regarding mobile workers, and the ethical implications such work provokes. Offering counselling to families and partners could be one option, and employers could consider limiting the number of days workers spend away from home.
Associate Professor Bissell said:
“In challenging economic times, mobile work for one partner is sometimes the only option which allows families to remain living in their community, rather than uprooting to somewhere else. However, the intense emotional burdens that are shouldered by the families involved can end up pushing relationships to their limit.”
The issue of mobile work is one that affects many countries. The highest rates of mobile work are in North America and Europe, and in Australia the number of mobile workers increased by 37% between 2006 and 2011. They now comprise over 2% of the Australian workforce.
For further media enquiries, please contact the RGS-IBG’s Press Officer, Giulia Macgarr, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7591 3019.
The Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) is the learned society and professional body for geography. Formed in 1830, our Royal Charter of 1859 is for 'the advancement of geographical science'. Today, we deliver this objective through developing, supporting and promoting geographical research, expeditions and fieldwork, education, public engagement, and geography input to policy. We aim to foster an understanding and informed enjoyment of our world. We hold the world's largest private geographical collection and provide public access to it. We have a thriving Fellowship and membership and offer the professional accreditation 'Chartered Geographer’. www.rgs.org
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, a journal of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), is one of the foremost international journals of geographical research. It publishes the very best scholarship from around the world and across the whole spectrum of research in the discipline. Link to the journal: https://rgsibg.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14755661
By placing a booking, you are permitting us to store and use your (and any other attendees) details in order to fulfil the booking.
We will not use your details for marketing purposes without your explicit consent.
You must be a member holding a valid Society membership to view the content you are trying to access. Please login to continue.
Join us today, Society membership is open to anyone with a passion for geography
Cookies on the RGS website