Children improve work/life balance

MULTI-tasking parents cope better with the demands of modern-day life than their childless counterparts, new research reveals.

A Massey University study, conducted by School of Management professor Jarrod Haar, found parents were better at achieving a healthy work/life balance compared to those without children.

About 600 parents and 700 individuals without children were asked how well they balanced work and non-work commitments.

Findings showed 52 per cent of parents felt happy with their work/life balance, while only 42 per cent of those without children said they achieved a satisfactory level of balance.

Prof Haar said it was often easier for parents to separate work and non-work time.

"Parents are better at getting up and leaving the office at the end of the day.

"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 daycare," he said.

"Maybe parents are just a little more skilled at achieving that balance because they have to be."

All survey participants agreed that achieving a health work/life balance led to greater levels of satisfaction at home and in the workplace.

It was also important in achieving better mental health, feedback showed.

Prof Haar said an individual's perception around how well they were managing various work and social commitments factored into achieving a healthy work/life balance.

"You could have 100 things on and think, 'Woohoo, I'm really achieving here'. Or you could have two things on and think, 'Oh, I can't handle this'," he said.

"It's about your perceived ability to cope - if you're somehow managing to do it all to your satisfaction, then go for it. One person's exhaustion is another's exhilaration."

Prioritising was key, Prof Haar said.

"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. Focus on those, and be a bit flexible with yourself if you don't achieve the less important ones all the time."

Managers keen to get the most from all employees need to implement policies for parents and those without children, he said.

For example, flexible start and finish times benefited all employees, he said.

"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."

The study was published in the International Journal of Human Resource Management in May.

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Stressful lives:

  • 52 per cent of parents felt they were achieving above average levels of work/life balance versus 42 per cent of non-parents.
  • 37 per cent of parents said they experienced above average levels of job burnout versus 48 per cent of non-parents.
  • 43 per cent of parents said they experienced above average levels of anxiety versus 54 per cent of non-parents
  • 39 per cent of parents said they experienced above average levels of depression versus 50 per cent of non-parents
  • 61 per cent of parents said they had above average levels of job satisfaction versus 43 per cent of non-parents
  • 61 per cent of parents said they had above average levels of life satisfaction versus 48 per cent of non-parents.

Source: Massey University

Topics:  lifestyle mental health parenting stress

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