WFD Consulting research: Work-life balance is not a gender issue

When it comes to work and family, men and women are more alike than different according to a study from WFD Consulting and WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress (AWLP).

The Global Study on Men and Work-Life Integration surveyed more than 2,300 men and women in international organisations with 500 or more employees. Respondents came from the UK, the US, Germany, Brazil, China and India.

The findings include:

Work and Personal Identity. In terms of work identification and personal/family identity, there is little difference among generations or between men and women. 

Instead, the tangible difference is between emerging and developed countries, with work identification registering much higher in emerging markets than in developed ones.

Managing Work and Family Life. According to the survey, finding time for family is especially challenging for men, and both men and women seek more personal time for exercise and hobbies. 

In terms of solutions, flexible work arrangements dominate the list of most valued options for both men and women.

Financial Stress. This is a top work-life balance issue across country and gender, and the top issue for most. Employees increasingly spend part of their on-the-job time addressing financial concerns. 

Employers can ease this stress by increasing employee assistance programmes (EAPs), offering financial counselling programmes, and being as transparent as possible about the corporate financial situation and job security.

Leadership Attitudes. Business leaders around the world have bought into the business case for work-life effectiveness and have programmes and policies in place. 

However, these programmes are often ineffective because managers still cling to the notion that the ideal worker is an employee with few personal commitments. 

Half of managers in the emerging markets and four in 10 managers in developed markets believe that the most productive employees are those without a lot of personal commitments.

Organisational Culture. Even executives who say they are committed to work-life integration often believe the risks of implementing such programmes outweigh the benefits. 

When organisations do have programmes in place, both men and women report penalties for using work-life benefits. 

Employees in emerging markets are almost three times more likely to experience a penalty for using flexible work arrangements and/or other work-life options than those in developed markets.

Kathie Lingle, executive director of WorldatWork’s AWLP, said: “Working men and women around the world seek the same holy grail: success in both their work and family lives.

“The assumption that male identity is rooted in work and not family is a major impediment to the effective integration of employees’ work and family lives.”

Peter Linkow, president of WFD Consulting, added: “Leaders must give voice to their own stories of work-life integration.

“This would be a powerful step toward reducing employees’ fears that utilising the benefits they have been given will jeopardise their careers. This is especially important in a climate where financial stress and job security are top-of-mind for workers.”

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