Single Employees Need Work Life Balance Too

Single Employees Need Work Life Balance Too

A growing number of employees who are single and without children have trouble finding the time or energy to take part 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.

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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.”

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And if you stop and think about it, what she says makes a lot of sense. Here's an example. Jane wants to leave early one day because she needs to get to her kid's soccer game. Chances are that her boss will say yes.

Joe would also like to leave early because he's training for a big triathlon in a few days. The boss would probably say no, or at least raise an eyebrow.

But why? Why is Jane more valued than Joe? The fact is that companies need to realize that non-work roles beyond family also have value. And this is especially important right now, as childlessness among employees has been increasing in the United States, particularly among female managers. Further, a large portion of employees today are single and live alone.

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The Michigan 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).

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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.

The biggest challenge for managers who are forward thinking enough to try to help improve work life balance for employees – which will increase employee satisfaction, and thus productivity and job satisfaction – however is to make sure that any new policies apply to everyone, not just those who have kids.

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