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Singles and the Work/Life Balance

It was one of those dreams where everything was moving in slow motion. I was running late and couldn’t get my car to go over 5 mph on my way to work. I was frantic because I had received a call from my boss asking me about a book that was going on-sale today, and I hadn’t done anything to publicize it. I had forgotten it was assigned to me, and I was panicking. Then my alarm clock woke me up, and I realized it was just  a dream … or more accurately, a nightmare. Work had started invading my sleeping hours along with my waking hours. I was failing at finding the work/life balance, and unless something changed, I was in for more restless nights.

Part of being a young adult means starting full-time work and learning to balance the 40 (or more) hours you spend at work with the rest of the hours in the week. And while different jobs require different working schedules, and even different seasons where the workload is heavier or lighter (hello accountants during tax season!), I think we all can agree that when our work/life gets out of balance, both parts suffer. But is the struggle different for singles in the workplace? With the average marrying age continuing to increase, bosses and HR policies will have to adjust. In this article “Single Employees Want ‘Work-Life’ Balance, Too,” the author writes that “A growing number of workers who are single and without children have trouble finding the time or energy to participate in non-work interests, just like those with spouses and kids, new research suggests.” While workplaces have traditionally offered work/family programs to help working parents balance their work responsibilities with family priorities, what about the single folks who don’t have those same priorities? And often those family priorities are something single folks long to have.

Take, for example, an employee who is single and without children and wants to leave work early to train for a triathlon, Ryan says. Should that employee have any less right to leave early than the one who wants to catch her child’s soccer game at 4 p.m.? ‘Why is one more valued than the other?’ Ryan says. ‘We have to recognize that non-work roles beyond family also have value.’ Childlessness among employees has been increasing in the United States, particularly among female managers, the study notes. Further, a large portion of employees today are single and live alone.

I hear singles sometimes complaining that they’re often volunteered for things at church because they’re single and people often (wrongly) assume that they must have more time to be involved in the absence of a spouse and kids. I wonder if bosses often assume the same thing about their single workers. Is there a difference between how workplaces view the work/life balance for married-with-kids folks and singles? Should there be? How have you learned to balance work and life, whatever your relationship status?

For me, finding that balance means setting boundaries (no checking email at home or on the weekends), finding an outlet when I’m stressed (exercise endorphins are a beautiful thing) and praying over my anxious thoughts or stressful situations at work, keeping in mind that I’m ultimately working for the Lord.

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