Family-friendly policies are meant to help parents — especially women — balance jobs and family, but recent reports have said that those can backfire — encouraging companies to discriminate against women for fear that they will cost the company when they take maternity leave.
Some experts have advised offering family leave to men, not just women, but some researchers are now saying that the problem isn't family-friendly policies, but rather a spike in work hours and the stress of 24/7 work culture.
Jobs that require long hours, travel and checking email at 10 p.m. impacts both moms and dads, says Erin Reid, a Harvard professor who conducted a study of 82 employees at an unnamed top global consulting firm.
"They complained to me of children crying when they missed their soccer games, of poor health and substance addictions caused by how they worked, and of a general sense of feeling 'overworked and underfamilied,'” Reid wrote in Harvard Business Review.
While the phenomenon of working moms being passed over for promotions and stunting their careers by taking family leave benefits has received attention recently, it turns out that men don't like working all the time, either.
A majority of male consultants reported that they were "miserable" with the "always-on mentality" that required 60 to 80 hours a week. One consultant told Reid that he had asked for a three-month paternity leave, which he was legally allowed to request thanks to the Family Medical Leave Act. The firm balked at the request — even though the leave would have been unpaid.
He said he settled for six weeks of unpaid leave, and was still passed over for a promotion since his supervisors said they "couldn't evaluate his performance with such a big gap."
Over the past four decades, the amount of time that Americans spend at work has surged from 1,836 hours a year, up 9 percent from 1979, according to Current Population Survey data.
The highest earners work the least — but high earners between the 60th and 95th percentile worked 2,015 hours in 2013, up 5 percent from 1979. But low-wage workers worked much less at 1.497 a year, but their hours increased more drastically, up 20 percent from 1979.
Unpredictable work schedules, stagnant wages and child care issues create strains for low-wage parents, who can also spend much more time getting to jobs — sometimes multiple jobs — which translated to time spent away from their families.