Life beyond work

Childless single employees cannot find time away from work, just like employees who are married and have kids

Runner in the wild

New research from Michigan State University reveals a large number of employees who are single and without children have difficulty in finding the time or energy to cultivate non-work interests, just like the employees who are married and have kids.

“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,” said Ann Marie Ryan, MSU professor of psychology and study co-author.

Traditionally, companies have focussed on helping employees find “work-family” balance. But “work-life” should be the true goal to achieve, not work-family balance. believes Jessica Keeney, study co-author and recent doctoral graduate in psychology at MSU.

“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 Keeney, who works for APTMetrics, a human resources consulting firm. “Simply re-labelling programs from ‘work-family’ to ‘work-life’ is not enough; it may also require a shift in organizational culture.”

Ryan gives an example of an employee who wishes to leave early to train fro a triathlon. But his request is somehow not given as serious consideration as an employee who wishes to leave early to be with his son for a function.

The research encompassed two studies of nearly 5,000 university alumni. Almost 70 per cent of the participants were married and about 44 percent had one or more kids. The sectors they worked in were a wide variety including health care, business, education and engineering.

The study reveals three important “non-work” areas of life that get affected due to work commitments. First aspect is health: exercises go off the radar and appointments with doctors are postponed ad infinitum. “Family/friends” is the second dimension of life that gets affected. Finding time for loved ones gets difficult with mounting work pressure. The last on the list is leisure. Hobbies, reading and such activities are sacrificed at the office altar.

The findings were similar for workers with families as well as those without families. Each group reported challenges with maintaining friendships, taking care of their health and finding leisure time. Of course, all of this has negative effects above and beyond the challenges of balancing work and family.

The findings were published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior. The other co-authors were MSU doctoral graduates Elizabeth Boyd, Ruchi Sinha and Alyssa Westring.

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