My life is a work in progress, poll finds, with most parents less worried about or able to manage it than those who have less time
Most working parents admit their lifestyle is less than perfect. But they admit they are not happier than those without children in their lives, according to a new survey that highlights workplace culture and the competing demands of work and family life.
More than two-thirds of parents surveyed by UK human resources firm Towers Watson said they struggled to balance work and home, the poll found. They rated workload and expectation of work/life balance as their biggest challenge.
The proportion of parents under-performing at work because of work or family pressure was high, according to the results of the poll of 1,001 working parents and carers of children aged eight to 15. Parents felt embarrassed about missing work or school events and that this negatively affected their reputation at work.
The struggle to make work-life harmony a reality was shared by parents with a young child. Of those with a child under five, 21% felt they had struggled with balancing work and family, compared with 9% of parents with two or more children.
Karen Roberts, a partner at Towers Watson, said parents needed to acknowledge their work and personal lives and make time for “me” time, regardless of their location or income bracket.
“Make time for you, whether it’s a brisk walk, cooking for yourself, or even a relaxing yoga or massage,” she said. “We need a new approach to work-life balance. It’s more talk than walk. Parents need to acknowledge that they don’t have time for everything but we need to make time to create balance for our work-life relationships.”
Even the most supportive employer can have its work/life balance challenged by demand for flexible working.
Steve McIlwee, founder of the Office Hourly Actors Association (Ocha), said the number of work-life balance problems he faced was “substantial” but all companies should improve their policies. McIlwee set up Ocha after he felt his job was destroying his well-being.
“I feel for the person who’s never been told about the struggle with work-life balance,” he said. “When you’re of average height, you want to be able to run as much as you can. So when you’re working all hours of the day, your waistline doesn’t expand, nor does your back. In my case it’s not that I didn’t have enough time; I had so much to do, I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s a big equation and it has huge consequences.”
Skye Grant, a spokeswoman for the Observer Motherline support service, said: “It is incredibly common for mothers and fathers to be unable to set aside the time for work/life balance.
“But it is not just time wasted that is of concern, but the way working parents juggle many other things – from the pressures of childcare to exams, and every day being bombarded with emails and work demands. It is quite clear that these are bigger challenges than the stress of the work/life balance itself.”