The notion of worklife – or work-life balance – alludes to an equal share of work and downtime. However, recent studies have shown that women appear to be losing out on the latter due to having more domestic commitments than men.

According to Gender and the Economy, women – even women that work full-time – spend more time on average on household responsibilities than men. This was substantiated by a Statistics Canada report, which found that women do 50% more unpaid work in the home than men. And, as a result, women reported being “less satisfied with their work-life balance.”

The same study found that men and women aged 25-54 work around the same number of hours per day, but when it comes to housework and providing care, there was vast disparity. Women spent an average of 3.9 hours every day on unpaid housework – 1.5 hours more than their male counterparts. This time was shown to be taken out of paid working hours, with men spending 1.3 more hours per day at their place of employment than women.

Women spend an average of 3.9 hours every day on unpaid housework – 1.5 hours more than their male counterparts
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Across the pond, a UK study found that British women do 60% more housework than men. This spanned tasks including cooking, childcare and housework. When it came to providing transportation, though, men were found to put in more unpaid hours than women.

In the Netherlands, Dutch women are reported to spend around nine hours per week more on unpaid housework than men.

And our own research found that men are more likely than women to pursue a serious hobby outside of the office – 22% versus 17%. And likewise, volunteer – 20% of men compared to 15% of women.

Men were found to be more likely than women to pursue a serious hobby outside of the office – 22% versus 17%
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These findings suggest that when it comes to the worklife concept, flexibility is not only a ‘nice to have’ for women, but a true necessity. Although rather than be afforded leisure time, much of their day is split between a higher volume of both paid work and unpaid labour compared to men.

The great childcare debate

One of the main differences between men’s and women’s roles uncovered through our research was in relation to caregiving responsibilities. Whereas 44% of men said they have dependents at home, a much higher percentage – 60% – of women do. And women are more likely to be the chief caregiver.

A recent study by The Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) at the Rotman School of Management, though, aims to prove these patterns are changing, thanks to the “new” dad persona.

In-depth interviews were carried out with 31 fathers in professional positions, working spouses and children under the age of four. The findings revealed that “tensions can arise if workplaces are not flexible enough to accommodate more demanding fatherhood roles.” Moreover, being visible as someone “capable of juggling competing roles” was considered “a way to gain respect amongst coworkers.”

As parenting has changed over time, perhaps rather than being a gender specific issue, when the needs of any care-giving employees are not met, worklife is simply not possible.

So, while the worklife concept is unsurprisingly appealing to office-based employees, when it comes to achieving balance, there are vast differences depending on the level of responsibility a person has both in and outside of work. And, more importantly, how their employer facilitates this.

Our research, in addition to many other studies, has found that, ultimately, both men and women want more control over their day-to-day. But in reality, it’s more achievable for some over others. Clearly, flexibility in the workplace has never been more in demand.

Anette Timmer EMEA Marketing Director Carpets/Workplace

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