Work/Life Balance Is Important for Single People Too
3:30 pm, February 25th | by Colette McIntyre
Typical conversations about work-life balance usually center around the difficulties of being a working parent, but a new study from Michigan State University aims to remind employers that every worker needs a life. Even single, childless employees are struggling to fit non-work interests and relationships into their schedules.
The research combined two studies of approximately 5,000 university alumni, 70 percent of whom were married or in a domestic partnership and 40 percent of whom were parents. MSU researchers created a scale that could measure how work permeated all aspects of life, expanding the concept of “work-family” balance to “work-life” balance. The scale’s forty-eight items ranged from inquiries about whether or not the participant had time to take care of his/her health to questions about hobbies and interests. Anne Marie Ryan, study co-author and MSU professor of psychology, said the study found little difference between workers with families and those without. Even single workers admitted that they struggled to maintain friendships, take care of their health and participate in leisure activities. Work interference with education, not family, was the most oft-cited reason for job dissatisfaction and the biggest incentive to quit. A job’s conflict with family obligations explained less than 15 percent of the participants’ varying levels of health and happiness.
Ryan and her co-authors’ conclusions suggest that companies must begin focusing on the broader concept of “work-life” balance, extending help to even childless employees. “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,” said Jessica Keeney, co-author and recent doctoral graduate in psychology. “Simply relabeling programs from ‘work-family’ to ‘work-life’ is not enough; it may also require a shift in organizational culture.” Regardless of marital status, workers unable to achieve work-life balance reported less satisfaction with their lives and careers and exhibit more signs of anxiety and depression. Interestingly, women were more likely to self-report a work-life imbalance than their male peers.
It is time to change our conversations on work-life balance; as Ryan says, “we have to recognize that non-work roles beyond family also have value.” Thank you MSU researchers for pointing out that just because my agenda doesn’t include styling a preschooler’s hair into a colonial up-do for a late President’s Day pageant doesn’t mean that I’m open to sleeping under my desk à la Marissa Mayer. Child or not, that’s just crazy.
[Photo via Shutterstock]