This week Beaton Consulting released a study on work life balance. Beaton’s main game is as advisors to professional services firms (law firms, accounting firms, etc). Every year they do a mammoth survey of those firms’ clients, to find out who is the best in each category. As a sideline, they tack on a few questions at the end about something topical – this year work life balance.
So the people surveyed are not a representative sample of employees; rather they are a representative sample of people who might buy professional services – generally senior knowledge workers. I was one of the 12,000 or so respondents, so I was very interested to see what the outcomes were.
There is a huge amount of data – with a data set that big you can get some quite interesting correlations. I’m not sure that I can do the data justice, but here are a few points that struck me on reading through the report:
- part time workers were more likely to feel “role overload” – those who at work are constantly feeling rushed and time crunched.
- of those Gen Xers completing the survey, a significant number more men (76%) had children than women (55%) – suggesting that if you were a woman and wanted children, you were more likely to leave this highly paid professional segment of the workforce
- Workers who have experienced significant family conflict with work are much more likely to be actively looking for another job
The authors’ recommendations from the data suggest that employers need to face some questions raised by this research:
1. Women with dependent care gravitate to certain sectors – and other sectors miss out on this source of talent.
– the study suggests that women who have dependents that they are responsible for caring for tend to gravitate to public sector and smaller company roles – so larger firms are missing out on talent
2. Why is it that male knowledge workers outnumber female knowledge workers by 3 to 1?
– the people who answered this study were overwhelmingly male. To me that’s not surprising, as they were also senior enough to be regarded as consulting clients, but a bit depressing, too.
3. Why do knowledge workers stay with their organisations for such a brief period?
– there is a strong association with work life conflict and intent to leave a company which suggests that getting work life balance right will help this issue enormously
4. Will firms have problems attracting and retaining staff if they ignore these issues?
– surely the answer to this one has to be yes
5. Will Australia’s fertility rates continue to decline?
– a bit more of a controversial question this one – our fertility rates appear to have improved lately, but I’ve argued before that that is a once off generational change that women are having the same (or smaller) numbers of babies later in their lives. This study certainly supports the notion that intense workplaces reduce the number of children their female workers have – and it can’t just be that the women who want to have children all go and work somewhere else.
On the whole, there was nothing enormously surprising in this survey. But it adds considerable statistical weight to the point that there is value to employers in providing flexibility – on average employees who are feeling less pressured, and with more access to flexibility are likely to be more content with their work, less likely to take sick days, and less likely to consider leaving the organisation.
Have a look at the Australian for some more commentary. As a whole it adds weight to my private conviction that the employers who get work life balance and part time work right will be enormously advantaged in the race to employ good people that is coming.