A friend of mine forwarded me a link to an NPR article about a new study published by The Families and Work Institutes as part of the on-going National Study of the Changing Workforce. I have been following much of the research coming out of this group for some time now, especially since these particular researchers have a rather large Sloan Family Foundation grant for their research.

I think it’s important to quickly mention one thing — I am not a real believer in the metaphor of Work/Life conflict or the notion that people are regularly in conflict with these two domains of their existence (Work and Life). I’ll post something soon to try and explain my disdain toward that metaphor (if you are very interested, you could always read Dr. Diane Halpern’s book, which is fantastic!). That being said, these researchers found in their study of 1,298 men that about 60% of the men surveyed, who were in dual-earner couples reported experiencing work/life conflict, higher than 47% for women. For men, this number is up from 35% in 1977; whereas for women, the number is up from 41% in 1977.

Okay, I am sure you are thinking of a hundred reasons why this might be (especially you women out there). I can think of a few valid explanations for this disparity:

  • Women have always reported Work/Life conflict, especially when they work both in paid and unpaid labor. Therefore, it is not surprising that women have not reported much higher amounts of work/life conflict over the past 30 or so years.
  • Much of the increases in reports of work/life conflict for men are most likely explained by the fact that men are more comfortable today talking about their work/life balance concerns. Add on the fact that many families need both partners working today (mostly because of financial reasons), you have (what I can only assume) a lot of explained variance.
  • Finally, I would suspect that more couples are having conversations today about what their work/life constraints entail; still, I would suspect that even while men report more work/life conflict, they still are not helping out at home as much as their female counterparts are. The notion that working, dual-earner wives perform more household labor than their husbands, even when they bring in more than 1/2 of the family income is almost becoming axiomatic in research, which is very troubling. In fact, this study hints at that by saying that working men with children work 3 hours more per week than same-aged men without children. Is work still an escape from family?

So, I have to give credit to the researchers for their rigor in this research. I do find many of the results to be interesting, but I am not sure how much this study speaks to underlying issues of working life here in the US. However, there is one thing that is reassuring in their results — men report that having more supportive supervisors helped them manager their work/life conflict. Yet again, we see the impact of support@work

What do you think?