workers are much more likely to be dissatisfied with the balance
between their work life and personal life than are married
workers. That is one of the key findings of a recent
survey conducted by Hudson, a global human resource consulting
The survey reported that 34
percent of unmarried workers were unhappy with their work-life
balance as compared with 18 percent of married workers.
That's a big discrepancy, especially considering the fact that
43 percent of the nation's workforce is unmarried.
a news story about the Hudson report, I wrote to
Barker, vice-president of human resources, Hudson North America,
asking her opinion as to why unmarried workers were nearly twice
as likely to be dissatisfied with their work life than married
workers. I did not receive a reply.
So I dug into my own archives and
found an e-mail from a 22-year-old restaurant manager who had no
problem explaining why she was upset:
"It's the single people
working long hours on the holidays, the worst hours on the
weekends, and we are always the first ones called up to work
overtime or relocate. This absolutely outrages me!"
Karen Wormwald is a freelance
writer who has spent a good deal of her life as a single person
working in an office setting. Earlier this year she wrote
an article for a human resources magazine where she listed a
variety of perks for parents:
flexible schedules, allowing time to be missed for
children's activities or illnesses with no loss of pay
no penalty for having the workday disrupted by
exemption from working overtime, weekends, or holidays
priority assignment for shift work
working from home to save on childcare expenses
on-site childcare or assistance with childcare expenses
subsidies or fully paid insurance coverage for
doesn't disappear just because employees with families can't do
it. That's where the single workers come in, she says, giving
the following personal example:
I was a single and childless manager, a married female
subordinate who supervised 10 employees got pregnant after
several years of trying. There was great rejoicing. When she
went out on maternity leave, I assumed day-to-day
responsibility for her department in addition to my own job.
One day during her leave, she brought her infant to the
office and brought the department to a standstill for an
incident left me silent and fuming. Had I said anything to
end the disruption, I knew I would have earned the 'total
witch' seal from all the other mothers."
resource consultants worry that too many perks for parents may
create resentment by singles those who don't get comparable
a business journalist in Washington D.C. wrote a story for
Gannett Newspapers in which she cited two experts who shared
Rest assured it was never
anyone's intent to exclude single people from the push for
balance, says Cali Williams Yost, president and CEO of Work +
Life Inc. in Madison, NJ, and author of Work + Life: Finding The
Fit That's Right For You.
But because working parents
presented a real and pressing need when many programs were
formed, "they just got more attention."
"We don't want resentment for
people and policies," says Bonnie Michaels, president of
Managing Work & Family Inc. in Evanston, IL, and author of A
Journey Of Work/Life Renewal. "And single people will resent it
if it's all for parents."
Michaels has advice for unmarried
employees looking for a company that promotes work-life balance
for everyone, singles included:
- Look to see if a prospective
employer has benefits which don't depend on whether an
employee is married or has children at home, like a health
club or wellness facility;
- Ask if the company offers
tuition reimbursement programs, volunteer opportunities,
sabbaticals or the opportunity to work from home.
- But dig even deeper. If you
identify a company that provides such across-the-board
benefits, make sure to talk to single employees who work
there so you can better gauge the business culture.
- Ask about their supervisors'
attitudes toward work. Ask how many single employees have
taken all their vacation time.
The results of the Hudson survey
on work-life balance should not really surprise anyone,
considering the way in which singles are being devalued and
shortchanged in many American workplaces.
Single employees should expect
and demand the same benefits as working parents. Single
people have a life outside of work which, to them, is just as
valuable as the personal lives of married workers or those
Employers who truly respect
diversity in the workplace should reexamine personnel policies
to ensure that all workers are treated equitably. With a
little creativity and determination, they should be able to find
the right balance between "family friendly" and "singles
friendly" human resources practices.
Unmarried workers should not be
expected to express satisfaction with their own work-life
balance if the workplace policies and corporate benefits
programs are themselves out of balance.
Unmarried America 2005
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and