American opinions toward family and work are changing. Mothers are choosing to lean in, men are taking time off to rear their children, and some workers are choosing not to have kids at all. So why do we talk about work-life balance mostly in the context of raising a family and maintaining a career?
(Photo Credit: ** RCB **/Flickr)
Not Everybody Has Kids
Not only are women waiting longer to have children, opting to have their first child in their 30s, rather than their 20s, but a record number of women are opting to not have kids at all, according to the 2014 U.S. Census data. What this means is work-life balance increasingly includes a “life” outside of work that lacks kids. Does this lack of children somehow diminish a worker’s time away from the cubicle? Popular opinion once ostracized couples who chose not to have children, but thankfully, the tide is turning into a more tolerant worldview. Understanding that not having children, either by choice or circumstance, isn’t some kind of failing is also key to bringing inclusivity and diversity into our lives at work, and at home.
Everybody Needs Leave Time
Allowing large chunks of time away from work, possibly paid, is a great resource for all employees, not just moms and dads. The U.S. needs to improve its famously stingy paternal leave, but that’s not the only opportunity for change in American corporate culture. Everyone, even child-free workers, can benefit from time away from work, whether that takes the form of more vacation time or a sabbatical.
If that sounds like an unbelievable luxury, consider: paid time away from your job is more than just a vacation from your cube trolls, it’s time for adult education and recharging your brain. Maybe you want to spend a month traveling abroad, learning about other cultures. Or possibly you want to take time off from work in order to immerse yourself in a new set of skills like a language or emerging technology. Instead of being forced to squeeze life lessons into a weekend or evening course, employees of all stripes benefit from time away from spreadsheets in order to grow as (gasp) human beings.
Everybody Likes Flex Schedules
Flex-time is worth more than just picking up or dropping off a child from school or daycare. For workers who don’t have children, it also means a chance to not be a part of the commute problem. Being able to start or end a work day late means fewer cars on the congested highways during rush hour, or a chance to breathe on a usually crowded bus or train.
Companies should want to inspire regular exercise, and all the great mental health benefits and health insurance savings that go along with it. It’s in their best interests to let workers actually have time to get to the gym in the morning (or evening) by letting them visit when their bodies want to be in motion.
Overall, policies that embrace a work-life balance are beneficial to everyone, especially if they include everyone — not just parents. If you’re a manager, you can start by cultivating a holistic balance for all employees, not just working parents. After all, happier workers are more productive workers. Plus, don’t we all deserve some time to cultivate lives outside of work?
Tell Us What You Think
Does your work embrace a work-life balance for everyone (or anyone)? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.