Everyone Needs Work-Life Balance to Be Happy

New research sheds light on the unmarried or childless

With Facebook COO and women’s advocate Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, officially launching today (hopefully our copy is in the mail), work-life balance is at the forefront of conversation. At the crux of that conversation: women have typically struggled with the pressures of raising a family while maintaining high-profile careers. But while Sandberg argues that a woman’s choice of partner is critical for her success, another young woman, Michigan State University psychology professor Ann Marie Ryan, is publishing research that says people who are single and childless have difficulty finding time to pursue interests outside the workplace, just like those with spouses.

“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,” say Ryan. Workers struggling with work-life balance reported less satisfaction with their lives and jobs and more signs of anxiety and depression. The new research is published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior

Traditionally, companies have focused on helping workers find “work-family” balance. But, “Why is one more valued than the other?” Ryan says. “We have to recognize that non-work roles beyond family also have value.” She asks if an employee who is single and without children wants to leave work early to train for a triathlon, should that employee have any less right to leave early than the one who wants to catch her child’s soccer game at 4pm?

The study also notes that childlessness among employees has been increasing in the United States, particularly among female managers. The broader new concept is called “work-life” instead of work-family, though it remains largely conceptual. 

Image: (courtesy of 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.

Category: Psych

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