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September 9, 2015 | Volume 9 | Number 8
September 9, 2015
The line between people’s work and non-work lives continues to blur, with four out of ten working Americans (42 percent) saying they take care of personal or family needs during work and about a quarter reporting that they regularly bring work home (26 percent), work during vacations (25 percent) and allow work to interrupt time with family and friends (25 percent). These were among the findings of a survey by the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence. The survey was conducted online on APA’s behalf by Harris Poll from July 14-16, 2015, among 902 adults who are employed either full time or part time.
Six in ten working Americans say they respond to personal communications during work hours and almost five out of ten (48 percent) report regularly responding to work communications during personal time.
Although technology allows communication to span work and non-work boundaries, a majority of U.S. workers say they control the boundaries between their work and personal life and decide whether they keep them separate. People also report investing a lot of themselves in both work (61 percent) and family (72 percent).
Although 51 percent of working Americans say their employer offers flexibility for when they work, less than half report having flexible options in terms of the number of hours they work (43 percent), how many days per week they work (40 percent) and the location they work from (34 percent). Even fewer U.S. workers tap into work-life benefits, with just a quarter or fewer using work-life benefits once a month or more.
Despite the blending of work and personal time and relatively infrequent use of work-life benefits, working Americans report a fairly good fit between their work and non-work lives (5.3 on a 7-point scale).
“The lesson for employers here is that while many men and women say that they struggle to balance their work and personal lives, having access to flexible work arrangements and control over how they manage those boundaries is key to a good work-life fit,” said David W. Ballard PsyD, MBA, the director of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “Employees whose jobs fit well with the rest of their lives are more engaged and motivated, report higher levels of job satisfaction, have better work relationships and are less likely to say they intend to leave the organization in the next year.”
Results suggest that fit is primarily driven by people’s control of boundaries around their work and non-work lives, as well as the extent to which they identify with their work role. Work identity and fit contribute to work engagement, with stronger work identity and feeling like work is a good fit with the rest of life related to higher levels of work engagement. The biggest driver of overall life satisfaction was work engagement, with work-life fit and family identity also playing significant roles.
Contrary to popular belief, work-life balance and work flexibility issues aren’t primarily women’s issues. In fact, in some cases it is men who use work-life benefits more frequently and are more likely to say that their work is interrupted for personal or family reasons.
The survey found that men are more likely than women to report utilizing some work-life benefits frequently (once a week or more), including child care benefits (9 percent vs. 2 percent), personal time off (9 percent vs. 4 percent), flexible schedules regarding how many days a week they work (15 percent vs. 9 percent), paid leave (7 percent vs. 1 percent), unpaid leave (9 percent vs. 3 percent), life management resources, such as access to concierge or relocation services (8 percent vs. 2 percent), and phased transitions, including gradual return from leave (8 percent vs. 1 percent). Men were also more likely than women to say their employer offers many work-life benefits, which could contribute to these disparities.
More men also report non-work issues interrupting work, including taking care of personal or family needs during work (46 percent vs. 38 percent), responding to personal communications during work hours (64 percent vs. 56 percent) and handling personal or family responsibilities when they are working from home (35 percent vs. 22 percent).
Similarly, men are more likely than women to say work interrupts their non-work time. More than a quarter of men say they regularly bring work home (30 percent vs. 23 percent), work during vacations (31 percent vs. 19 percent), allow work to interrupt time with family and friends (31 percent vs. 19 percent) and bring work materials with them to personal or family activities (26 percent vs. 12 percent).
Women are more likely than men to say they have control over whether they are able to keep their work and non-work lives separate (79 percent vs. 70 percent), invest a lot of themselves in family (77 percent vs. 67 percent) and feel like they have gotten the important things they want in life (67 percent vs. 58 percent). Women also reported higher levels of work motivation (80 percent vs. 72 percent), job satisfaction (74 percent vs. 66 percent) and having a positive relationship with their boss or supervisor (80 percent vs. 71 percent), and were less likely to say they intend to leave their job in the next year (26 percent vs. 36 percent).
In general, working parents — with at least one child under the age of 18 in the home — report greater utilization of non-work support and flexible work arrangements, more non-work issues interrupting work (55 percent vs. 42 percent) and more work interrupting non-work time (36 percent vs. 25 percent). However, they also report better work-life fit (81 percent vs. 71 percent), higher work engagement (46 percent vs. 40 percent), stronger family identity (82 percent vs. 57 percent), more boundary control (78 percent vs. 67 percent) and higher overall life satisfaction (59 percent vs. 52 percent).
The Work-Life Survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association July 14-16, 2015, among 902 adults age 18+ who reside in the U.S. and are employed full time or part time. A full report is available online (PDF, 1.97MB).
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.
APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence works to enhance the functioning of individuals, groups, organizations and communities through the application of psychology to a broad range of workplace issues. The center houses the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, a public education initiative designed to engage the employer community, raise public awareness about the value psychology brings to the workplace and promote programs and policies that enhance employee well-being and organizational performance.
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