In a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource, men ranked work-life balance as a higher priority than did women, and workers younger than age 50 valued it more highly than did baby boomers. (Meanwhile, the Census Bureau reports, the number of stay-at-home dads has increased by more than 50 percent since the mid-1980s.)
What might this mean for managers? Some expert advice:
Check the assumptions at the door. It's important to make sure biases aren't creeping in subconsciously. For example, when extra work comes along, do you assign the burden—or the opportunity—equally among your team members? Or do you favor the employees who you assume will have fewer obligations at home? Do your team members have an informal system for covering each other to make sure work gets done? Who ends up holding down the fort—the older men? It's a challenge for managers to make sure work-life balance is an accessible goal for the whole team. But it's important.
Think beyond the family. When work-life balance first became a hot workplace topic, we often heard from younger workers—the same men, we imagine, who now aim to put family first—that the family-friendly focus was itself biased. It's still a good point. The "life" half of work-life balance shouldn't be narrowly defined as "the needs of parents of young children." Your single, childless or older workers also have lives, and the more you can do to help them succeed both on and off the job, the happier they'll be, and the more insight and energy they can bring to bear on your team's work.