Contrary to popular belief, work-life balance and work flexibility issues aren’t primarily women’s issues. In fact, in some cases it is men who use work-life benefits more frequently and are more likely to say that their work is interrupted for personal or family reasons, according to survey results released today by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence. The survey was conducted online on APA’s behalf by Harris Poll from July 14-16, 2015, among 902 adults who are employed either full time or part time.

Not what you'd expect

The survey found that men are more likely than women to report utilizing some work-life benefits more frequently (once a week or more), including child care benefits (9 percent vs. 2 percent), personal time off (9 percent vs. 4 percent), flexible schedules regarding how many days a week they work (15 percent vs. 9 percent), paid leave (7 percent vs. 1 percent), unpaid leave (9 percent vs. 3 percent), life management resources, such as access to concierge or relocation services (8 percent vs. 2 percent), and phased transitions, including gradual return from leave (8 percent vs. 1 percent). Men were also more likely than women to say their employer offers many work-life benefits, which could contribute to these disparities.

More men also report non-work issues interrupting work, including taking care of personal or family needs during work (46 percent vs. 38 percent), responding to personal communications during work hours (64 percent vs. 56 percent) and handling personal or family responsibilities when they are working from home (35 percent vs. 22 percent).

Bringing work home

Similarly, men are more likely than women to say work interrupts their non-work time. More than a quarter of men say they regularly bring work home (30 percent vs. 23 percent), work during vacations (31 percent vs. 19 percent), allow work to interrupt time with family and friends (31 percent vs. 19 percent) and bring work materials with them to personal or family activities (26 percent vs. 12 percent).

In general, working parents — with at least one child under the age of 18 in the home — report greater utilization of non-work support and flexible work arrangements, more non-work issues interrupting work (55 percent vs. 42 percent) and more work interrupting non-work time (36 percent vs. 25 percent). However, they also report better work-life fit (81 percent vs. 71 percent), higher work engagement (46 percent vs. 40 percent), stronger family identity (82 percent vs. 57 percent), more boundary control (78 percent vs. 67 percent) and higher overall life satisfaction (59 percent vs. 52 percent).

The key to a good work-life fit

“The lesson for employers here is that while many men and women say that they struggle to balance their work and personal lives, having access to flexible work arrangements and control over how they manage those boundaries is key to a good work-life fit,” said David W. Ballard PsyD, MBA, the director of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “Employees whose jobs fit well with the rest of their lives are more engaged and motivated, report higher levels of job satisfaction, have better work relationships and are less likely to say they intend to leave the organization in the next year.” 

Women are more likely than men to say they have control over whether they are able to keep their work and non-work lives separate (79 percent vs. 70 percent), invest a lot of themselves in family (77 percent vs. 67 percent) and feel like they have gotten the important things they want in life (67 percent vs. 58 percent). Women also reported higher levels of work motivation (80 percent vs. 72 percent), job satisfaction (74 percent vs. 66 percent) and having a positive relationship with their boss or supervisor (80 percent vs. 71 percent), and were less likely to say they intend to leave their job in the next year (26 percent vs. 36 percent). 

Although 51 percent of working Americans say their employer offers flexibility for when they work, less than half report having flexible options in terms of the number of hours they work (43 percent), how many days per week they work (40 percent) and the location where they work (34 percent). Even fewer U.S. workers tap into work-life benefits, with just a quarter or fewer using work-life benefits once a month or more.