We've all walked in the door from work, dead tired. We're unable to move, let alone think
about fixing something to eat for the children or head back out the door for soccer
This is a common lament for working parents, and even those
who have no children, but are living with a significant other, find they have little
energy for their personal life after a grueling day on the job.
But overwork and exhaustion are felt by single people, as
well. It's just that no one really wants to hear about it.
Dr. Mary Young, a work/family expert in Boston, has studied
the conflicts felt by single people when trying to balance their personal life and work,
and finds that many of those in focus groups were members of Generation X -those born
between 1963 and 1977.
"They would tell me that they come home and they're too
tired to even call back friends who have left messages for them. They just plop on the
couch, and when Friday night comes around, it's impossible to even think of going out.
They just collapse."
One of the reasons that it is important to study Generation X
needs -and those of single baby boomers -is because they feel left out when employers look
at offering benefits for working parents, she says.
"Just like working parents, they want to be able to
leave work on time and not feel guilty," Young said. "They want support for
their needs outside of work, and want to feel that they have legitimate personal needs,
just like those with families. They don't want to be trivialized or dismissed, and not
seen as noble or commendable as working parents."
She said that Generation X and others single workers believe
it is unfair that they often are not seen as "caring" about their jobs, and
would like companies and co-workers to recognize that stress from work also negatively
impacts their lives.
"I think we need to realize that single people have a
much greater need for a healthy social network," Young said. "No one needs to be
totally defined by the workplace."
She said that companies didn't care "one whit"
about balancing work and family issues until women significantly began to fill the job
ranks and those issues directly impacted a company's ability to recruit and retain top
"Generation X (has) great leverage with many companies
because of their highly desirable skills, so we may see things begin to change regarding
the way work/life benefits are structured," she said.
Specifically, Generation X has already begun changing the
recruitment process by asking about such benefits. Young points out that Intel found at
least half of students interviewed asked about work/life balance, compared with only 20
percent making such queries five years ago.
She added that many of those in her focus groups saw this
period of great stress and hard work as only temporary. "They wanted to get married
and have kids, and they knew they couldn't maintain this pace, and didn't want to."
Young said the key is offering enough flexibility to workers
so that individual needs can be met without any judgment from others.