Perhaps it is a sign of the times, or more accurately the hypercompetitive environment of the 21st century, but single workers are now reporting difficulties in having time to relax and recreate outside the work setting.
Researchers from Michigan State University say a growing number of workers who are single and without children are having trouble finding the time or energy to participate in non-work interests — just like those with spouses and 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 Dr. Ann Marie Ryan, MSU 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, said 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. “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 said. 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 said. “We have to recognize that non-work roles beyond family also have value.”
Demographers say childlessness among employees has been increasing in the United States, particularly among female managers. Additionally, a large portion of employees today are single and live alone.
Investigators performed two studies on 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.
Study participants worked in a wide range of industries including health care, business, education and engineering.
Investigators discovered 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 said 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 findings were published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior.
Source: Michigan State University