Men equally concerned with work-life integration: Study

Many managers believe ideal worker has few personal commitments
||Last Updated: 05/19/2011

When it comes to work and family, men and women are more alike than different, despite the widely held assumption male identity is rooted in work while women place a higher priority on personal or family life.

That’s according to study a global study by WorldatWork and WFD Consulting that sought to understand how organizations can remove the stereotypes and barriers that prevent men from using work-life offerings, as well as what prevents leaders and managers, who are often men, from supporting the use of work-life options.

In terms of work identification and personal/family identity, there is little difference among generations or between men and women, found the survey of more than 2,300 men and women working in Brazil, China, India, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. However, work identification registers much higher in emerging markets than in developed ones.

"Working men and women around the world seek the same holy grail: Success in both their work and family lives," said Kathie Lingle, executive director of WorldatWork's Alliance for Work-Life Progress. "The assumption that male identity is rooted in work and not family is a major impediment to the effective integration of employees' work and family lives."

Finding time for family is especially challenging for men, and both men and women seek more personal time for exercise and hobbies, found Men and Work-Life Integration: A Global Study. In terms of solutions, flexible work arrangements dominate the list of most valued options for both men and women.

Financial stress is a top work-life issue across country and gender, and the top issue for most. Employees increasingly spend part of their on-the-job time addressing financial concerns.

Business leaders around the world have bought into the business case for work-life effectiveness and have programs and policies in place. However, these programs are often ineffective because managers still believe the ideal worker has few personal commitments, found the study. One-half of managers in the emerging markets and four in 10 managers in developed markets believe the most productive employees are those without a lot of personal commitments.

Even executives who say they are committed to work-life integration often believe the risks of implementing such programs outweigh the benefits, found WFD and WorldatWork. When companies do have programs in place, both men and women report penalties for using work-life benefits.

Employees in emerging markets are almost three times more likely to experience a penalty for using flexible work arrangements or other work-life options than those in developed markets.

"Leaders must give voice to their own stories of work-life integration, warts and all," said Peter Linkow, president of WFD Consulting. "This would be a powerful step toward reducing employees' fears that utilizing the benefits they have been given will jeopardize their careers. This is especially important in a climate where financial stress and job security are top-of-mind for workers."

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