I have met a few employers lauding their work/life balance policy to help people with a family to balance their work/life. Managers are giving these employees the flexibility to attend to family matters.

Personally, I think it's great. I think many of the social problems we are currently having are directly or indirectly caused by parents not being there for their kids. I agree that having great work/life balance is for the good of the society and employee retention/engagement.

But, at the same time, it seems that for those who have decided not to have kids (a personal choice) are somewhat expected to shoulder such added burden (for coverage, etc.) because "You don't need to be home for your kids anyway" (as I was once told)

What would be an effective and professional way to raise such concerns to management, when it seems it's starting to become a pattern and people are beginning to take it for granted?

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    Welcome to The Workplace, interesting first question :) would you mind including what is your location so it can be considered when giving answers?
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 23:11

1 Answer 1


As an employer, a parent, and someone watching my own children and inlaws navigate parenthood, let me say this really clearly:

If someone (such as your boss) thinks "work/life balance" means letting parents do less work and making non-parents make up for it, then that someone is doing it wrong.

Work/life balance means that everyone has a life outside work, and employers respect and celebrate that. They don't count on being able to get overtime from people on no notice, on people answering emails at midnight, on cancelling and postponing vacations. For anyone.

I suppose if, once in a while, some emergency overtime is needed, management might turn to those without family obligations (which is more than kids: there was a time I had elders to care for, and another time when my spouse had to set work aside to care for me while I was dying (I got better, we live in the future), and so on) and ask them to do that, and then reward them in some way - an extra day off, or some money - when they do. But not regularly, and not "you have to do it because you don't have family obligations." More like:

We're really stuck here. Because of [bad planning, bad luck, a decision to try to accommodate an unreasonable request from a client] we need someone to X. Nobody will be forced to X. If nobody does, [consequence to company such as losing the contract or incurring a financial penalty.] Anyone who does will get [reward]. Can we make this work?

This is way harder than "let's give the parents a break." It requires a true commitment to the entirety of the lives people live outside the office. It requires honesty about the reasons things are asked of staff. It also requires a willingness to take the consequences of things that happen if staff is not willing to bail management out at the expense of their personal lives.

Now, how should you raise this to management? Ask for some quiet time with your manager and explain that "life" is more than just raising children. It's caring for parents, leading a volunteer organization, caring for a spouse, having a hobby, working out, self-care of all kinds. Ask if, in future, the "life" choices of all employees, not just parents, be considered. Tell your boss how much you would appreciate that. If you can, say how you felt when you were "voluntold" because you are not a parent. Try not to describe specifically what your nonparenting life needs are. It shouldn't matter. You can also mention that offering rewards means that people will offer to do it rather than having to be told that they must because they don't have children.

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    The ending here is important -- that each employee gets what they hold dear. For some, that might not be more time outside work, it might be their choice of projects, or paid training, or travel opportunities (or never having to travel). There are positions which require being on-call, and if the incentives are right, people will step in and fill them. It is likely to the benefit of both employer and employee to discuss those in advance rather than waiting until an emergency/crunch and asking for volunteers. Certainly it can't be taken for granted that all non-parents will want to be on-call.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 1:40
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    Great answer! Also, I love the term "voluntold." I'm gonna start using that in everyday speech. Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 2:26

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