Parents may often bemoan the struggles of trying to maintain a balance between work and family demands, but it turns out they are better at it than those without children.
New research carried out by Massey University management professor Jarrod Haar compared the levels of work/life balance achieved by those with kids and those without. Of the 609 parents and 708 non-parents surveyed, 52% of parents felt happy with their work/life balance, while only 42% of those without kids felt they were achieving balance.
While both groups said balance was important, overall the parent group had better results. Haar said for parents is can be easier to maintain a clear line between work and non-work time.
“Parents are better at getting up and leaving the office at the end of the day,” he said in a statement. “It’s easy to flag going to the gym and stay at your desk, but you can’t decide not pick the kids up from day-care. Maybe parents are just a little more skilled at achieving that balance because they have to be.”
The survey highlighted that employers, managers and HR should not assume the need to strike a balance is only important for one group.
“It's not about kids or no kids. Everyone has multiple roles they are trying to balance. It might be work and sports or, if you're religious, your church – and that can be just as draining and hard to juggle as someone who has young kids,” Haar said.
“Work/life balance was equally important to both groups in the study, and in both cases achieving balance led to greater job and life satisfaction and better mental health. It’s a reminder to managers not to categorise people as parents or non-parents, and then assume the non-parents don’t have anything important going on.”
Haar said the key piece of advice to come from his research is the value of flexibility to individuals and companies.
“At a personal level my advice would be to take stock of all the things in your life and decide which are the important ones,” he said. “Focus on those and be a bit flexible with yourself if you don’t achieve the less important ones all the time.”
As for employers they need to recognise that work/life balance policies are good for everyone, not just those with children. Flexible start and finish times, for example, can benefit all employees.
“Accommodating the needs of parents is a good thing, but you can be single and childless and still lead a busy, stressful life. Policies that focus solely on parents must make single employees feel discriminated against at times.”
Key findings from the research:
37% of parents said they experienced above average levels of job burnout versus 48% of non-parents.
39% of parents said they experienced above average levels of depression versus 50% of non-parents
61% of parents said they had above average levels of job satisfaction versus 43% of non-parents
61% of parents said they had above average levels of life satisfaction versus 48% of non-parents.