Wanted: A life outside the workplace

February 21, 2013
Wanted: A life outside the workplace
Michigan State University psychology professor Ann Marie Ryan says people who are single and childless have difficulty finding time to pursue interests outside the workplace, just like those with spouses and kids. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

A memo to employers: Just because your workers live alone doesn't mean they don't have lives beyond the office.

New research at Michigan State University suggests the 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.

Workers struggling with reported less satisfaction with their lives and jobs and more signs of .

"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 or anything else," said 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, who works for APTMetrics, a human resources consulting firm. "Simply relabeling programs from 'work-family' to 'work-life' is not enough; it may also require a shift in ."

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."

among employees has been increasing in the United States, particularly among , 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 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.

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3.3 / 5 (3) Feb 21, 2013
Not to mention that many employers feel that there employees behaviour outside work must reflect well on them. Getting drunk and dancing on a table at a local bar can be considered a breach of professional ethics. They don't just own your time, they own you.

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