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Mental Load Test

A project by

Idea and method

Who is responsible for Digital Mental Load Test?

How does the scoring work?

The tasks listed are weighted according to the frequency with which they need to be performed. Four points are awarded for tasks to be performed daily or more frequently. For weekly tasks, three points are awarded. For monthly tasks, two points are awarded. For annual tasks, one point is awarded. The subdivision into “Do I” and “Remember I” is done in order to map the mental load, i.e. the cognitive care work that takes place in the head, as well.

What is Mental load?

Mental load refers to the burden of the everyday, invisible responsibilities of organizing household and family in the private sphere, coordinating and mediating in teams in the professional context, and maintaining relationships and absorbing the needs and sensitivities of everyone involved in both spheres ( For example: The person who brings a child to the pediatrician’s appointment is doing care work and helping out. The mental load, however, is borne by the person who, in addition, has researched the doctor and address, has found out about and decided on childhood vaccinations, has reminded the child of the appointment, has made it without it conflicting with other appointments, knows where the vaccination card is and that the child needs an excuse for school swimming the following day. Mental load is cognitive care work.

What is care work?

“Care work describes the unpaid and paid (re-)productive activities of caring and looking after others. Care work begins with the care of newborns and childbearing, extends to the upbringing, education and care of children, family and professional care and support in the event of illness or disability, to help for self-help, among friends, neighbors and acquaintances, to care for the elderly, care for the dying and care for the grave”. (Almut Schnerring & Sascha Verlan at Following the scientific care debates, we understand care work as synonymous with the term care work as a generic term for all paid and unpaid work that occurs in the household and in the care and nursing of other people. A distinction can be made between direct and supportive care work: Direct care work is that WITH AND AT other people. Supportive care work is done FOR other people. According to care economist Mascha Mandörin (et al.), care work is “life-sustaining, vital activities without which societies would not be able to exist and economic growth would be impossible.” (ibid. 2006: 283).

How to compare work load including work at a job and care work?

If both parents work a similar number of hours at their jobs, the fair distribution of care work should be about 50:50. If you have a different distribution of paid work time, you can try to calculate a fair distribution of care by adding the number of hours for paid work and the number of hours for care work and dividing the total by two. This is the number of hours each person should contribute. A week of care work is about 98 hours when children do not go to daycare or school. With daycare and/or school for 8 hours per weekday, there are about 58 hours or correspondingly fewer hours.

Person 1 works 40 job hours
Person 2 works 20 job hours.
The offspring goes to daycare/school/other care for 40 hours per week.
The total working time (wage+care) in this case is: 20+40+58 = 118 hours.
This total is divided by two. 118/2 = 59 hours per person.

To get to 59 hours, person 1 works 40 hours on the job and does 19 hours of care work per week. Person 2 works 20 hours on the job and does 39 hours of care work.
The percentage difference between the care hours of person 1 and person 2 is the individual care gap. This corresponds to a fair distribution of the care burden that can be recorded in this way. The care gap at the expense of person 2 could then be up to 105%.

This calculation proposal is only an approximation. Keep in mind that this test is not yet able to capture the full extent of invisible work. Use it and such calculations as a conversation starter, not as an objective measure!

Where did the evaluation of the percentage go?!

Your feedback has made it clear how important the percentage evaluation (This corresponds to xxx percent of all care work) is to you to assess your work performance.

At the same time, there were the most comments on this: In the test you can tick whether you are doing something or thinking about something – regardless of whether you share the task 50/50 or maybe take on 75%. In the percentage calculation, this task counts fully. If your partner ticks the same tasks, then they count as full in his/her calculation. So it is possible that a couple has more than 100% work output in total.

Your (and also our!) wish would be to make the answers in the questions more fine-grained, so that e.g. you could tick: I-remember-to-do-it 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%. Of course, there can still be a total of more than 100% if the partners do not agree…

Unfortunately, we are currently unable to implement this extension of the mental load test because we do not have the capacity to do so. If you would like to support us so that we can continue, we would be happy to receive a donation!

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