I’m a social psychologist, but when I’m asked to assess someone’s work-life balance, I’m more interested in what they say about their values, how they view their work, and whether they’ve taken steps to address the issues they’ve raised.
That’s how I feel about the work of my colleagues, but it also gives me an opportunity to explore how they think about their own lives.
In my personal work, I’ve noticed that many people, even those who profess to be deeply dedicated to their work and to others, tend to fall into one of two categories: those who tend to be more critical of their own work and those who don’t.
When I ask people if they feel like they’ve been “bamboozled,” for example, they’re more likely to answer yes, and if they have, they say it is because they’ve given themselves too much credit for their success.
I also have noticed that some of my most trusted colleagues seem to feel that way.
In the workplace, we’re all on the same team, and it’s hard to avoid being biased.
But in my personal life, I feel a sense of belonging that comes from being on the receiving end of our colleagues’ honest and unflinching assessments.
Here are three of the things I think most people need to learn about the research on the work-home balance effect.1.
A lot of work is not really about work.
A study of more than 1,400 American workers showed that just one in three workers reported having an “unfair advantage” in the workplace.
That suggests that many of us, even if we’ve been diligent about our work, don’t really want to work there.
Instead, many of our work is done outside the workplace—often by friends and family members, or by freelancers or contractors—and our work doesn’t always align with our values.2.
When we don’t get the credit we deserve, it’s because we’re lazy.
A large study of workers in the United States found that the proportion of employees who say they’re getting “too much credit” for their work is roughly the same for men and women.
But men who work long hours, or those who work more than 50 hours a week, are more likely than women to attribute their work-day productivity to laziness.3.
We’re less satisfied with the work we’re doing if we feel we’re not getting rewarded for our work.
When working hours are reduced, it can take a lot of pressure off of us to do our jobs well, and we may not feel as if we’re getting a lot in return.
Research shows that when working hours for low-paying jobs are reduced by 15 to 25 percent, we feel less satisfied.
The study’s authors also found that when workers felt that they were getting the same amount of credit for work that they would get for doing the same job in their normal work, they were more likely in the middle of the workweek to be unhappy.4.
We don’t see the value in having a good relationship with our boss.
We may feel a strong desire to work for him, but if that’s not the case, we may be less motivated to be as good a colleague as we’d like.
It’s not hard to see how people can feel frustrated and less effective if they’re working with someone who doesn’t really value them as individuals or as employees.5.
When work isn’t rewarding, we get less satisfaction in our personal lives.
Studies have found that people who report high levels of work-family conflict are also more likely, on average, to have lower levels of happiness and self-esteem.
A 2009 study of 1,000 workers, for example:1.
In one-third of those with the most conflict, their relationships with their families were significantly less fulfilling than those in the other third.2