MICHIGAN STATE (US) — A growing number of workers who are single and without children have trouble finding the time or energy to participate in non-work interests, just like those with spouses and kids, new research suggests.
The findings, published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, show that workers struggling with work-life balance reported less satisfaction with their lives and jobs and more signs of anxiety and depression.
“People in the study repeatedly said ‘I can take care of my job demands, but then I have no time for working out, volunteering in my community, pursuing friendships, or anything else,'” says Ann Marie Ryan, Michigan State University professor of psychology and study co-author.
Traditionally, companies have focused on helping workers find “work-family” balance. The broader new concept is called “work-life,” though for many employers it remains just that—a concept, says Jessica Keeney, study co-author and doctoral graduate in psychology who works for a human resources consulting firm.
“As organizations strive to implement more inclusive HR policies, they might consider offering benefits such as flexible work arrangements to a wider audience than just parents,” says Keeney. “Simply relabeling programs from ‘work-family’ to ‘work-life’ is not enough; it may also require a shift in organizational culture.”
Take, for example, an employee who is single and without children and wants to leave work early to train for a triathlon, Ryan says. Should that employee have any less right to leave early than the one who wants to catch her child’s soccer game at 4 p.m.?
“Why is one more valued than the other?” Ryan says. “We have to recognize that non-work roles beyond family also have value.”
Childlessness among employees has been increasing in the United States, particularly among female managers, the study notes. Further, a large portion of employees today are single and live alone.
The research encompassed two studies of nearly 5,000 university alumni. Roughly 70 percent of the participants were married or in a domestic partnership and about 44 percent had one or more children living at home. The participants worked in a wide range of industries including health care, business, education, and engineering.
The three areas in which work interfered the most for all participants were health (which includes exercising and doctor’s appointments); family; and leisure (which includes hobbies, playing sports, and reading and watching TV).
Ryan says the findings were similar for both workers with families and those without. Each group reported challenges with maintaining friendships, taking care of their health, and finding leisure time—and this had negative effects above and beyond the challenges of balancing work and family.
Source: Michigan State University