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Work-Life Balance: Singles Need It Too
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Work-Life Balance: Singles Need It Too - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Singles Need It Too

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Singles Need It Too

In the much-discussed work-life balance equation, the "life" part of the conversation seems to revolve around families and children. Practical lists (including some published in this space) of accommodations for encouraging work-life balance are heavily flavored with kid-friendly, parent-friendly ideas. These are all wonderful concepts, of course, and nobody is suggesting for a second that children don't need or deserve the benefits of available parents who have flexible work arrangements, or that parents don't have supremely important responsibilities. Strong families make for strong communities, and we're all in favor of that.

While we continue to advocate for family-friendly arrangements, however, let us not leave singles out of consideration. Nobody is arguing that an evening cooking class, a weekend getaway to a neighboring state, a fantasy baseball draft, or a film festival are as critical to the long-term well-being of an unmarried employee as the need to nurse a sick child is to a mom, but forget about the specifics of our differing lives for a moment, and think about the broader categories into which they fit. Social interaction, personal growth, recreation, health, and love: they are all what we're really talking about with work-life balance, and while you and your family might nurture them through school trips to the organic farm or at after-school soccer games, the unmarried, childless people in the office will pursue them other ways, and they should be encouraged to do so without fear of the disapproving (some would say self-righteous) glances they often endure from colleagues.

Any unmarried, childless person who works alongside parents has a story or two to tell about a time he or she picked up some slack on behalf of colleagues who had to attend to some parental responsibility. On good, healthy teams, this is usually not a problem: we're all happy to cover for each other when the need arises. Yet singles often feel the burden of their colleagues' taking this spirit for granted. "I have to take my vacation that week," they'll say, "because my children are off from school," and the assumption is that whatever the singles in the office were thinking of doing that week isn't as important. Singles usually acquiesce, off course, because who's going to argue against that reasoning?

If we were talking about just an occasional trespass of this sort, we'd have little to debate, but what is the long-term, cumulative, de facto company doctrine if it's allowed to happen repeatedly, with all the burden of flexibility carried by the unmarrieds? Even those who have sort of given their lives over to their jobs, who honestly don't have other things on back-burners, run the risk of burning themselves out or (worse) losing some kind of non-work-related identity. For your company's own well-being, it seems prudent to encourage all employees, whatever their marital or parental status, to seek healthy, happy lives of which work is merely a part.

Chances are pretty good that you got to where you are by working extra, extra hard, but at what cost? Are you single, and do you need to take a lesson from your single employees in pursuing a balanced life? Model it for your teams, the singles and the marrieds, and let them all see that yours is a workplace that values every aspect of a balanced life. Then work with them, if necessary, to agree to mutually beneficial give-and-take from all parties.


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