Work-Life Balance Even Affects Those without Kids, Study Finds

Parents have reported before that trying to balance work and family obligations comes with career costs. But a new study from Rice University and the University of California, San Diego, shows that university workplace bias against scientists and engineers who use flexible work arrangements may increase employee dissatisfaction and turnover even for people who don't have children.

"As researchers, we're interested in understanding the gap between the traditional 9-to-5 work setting and what workers actually need," said Erin Cech, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice and the study's lead author. "The majority of parents are in the workforce today, yet the expectations and arrangements of work have stayed more or less the same as they were post-World War II. We're trying to understand this mismatch and its consequences."

The study, "Consequences of Flexibility Stigma Among Academic Scientists and Engineers," examined "flexibility stigma" — employers' and co-workers' negative attitudes toward employees who seek or are presumed to need flexible work arrangements to deal with child care responsibilities — at one university. The study found that people who reported an awareness of the flexibility stigma in their departments — regardless of whether they are parents themselves — were less interested in staying at their jobs, more likely to want to leave academia for industry and less satisfied with their jobs than those who did not report a flexibility stigma in their department. They also felt as though they had worse work-life balance.

"Flexibility stigma is not just a workers' problem," said study co-author Mary Blair-Loy, an associate professor of sociology at UC San Diego and founding director of the Center for Research on Gender in the Professions. "Workplaces where this bias exists are more likely to have a toxic culture that hurts the entire department, not only in terms of work-life balance but also retention and job satisfaction, which may affect department productivity."...

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Image: Adult business woman wearing a costume and supplied her newborn daughter in the office workplace via Shutterstock.

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