New Study Uncovers How Work Martyr Complex Bleeds into Relationships at Home
American workers value quality time with their loved ones above all else, but employees’ behavior doesn’t align with those priorities, according to a new Project: Time Off study, “The Work Martyr’s Affair: How America’s Lost Week Quietly Threatens Our Relationships.” The study, conducted by GfK Public Affairs, examines how employees balance their professional and personal lives, a particularly important analysis given American workers now use the least amount of vacation in nearly four decades—a full workweek less than 15 years ago.
More than 80 percent of respondents assert that people who fail to use time off are losing out on quality time with their significant other, their children, and themselves. Still four in ten workers leave time off on the table—a consistent statistic across Project: Time Off’s previous research.
Nearly all employees (96%) report that their families understand when work infringes on family time. Yet more than one in three (36%) couples argue about the time needed for work versus the amount of quality time needed for each other. In 36 percent of cases, conflict between couples lasts a day or more and can become an ongoing issue.
“The study pointed out that arguments can go on for longer than a day and I started to laugh—it can go on for much longer than that,” said Dr. Gilda Carle, relationship expert and professor emerita at New York’s Mercy College. “If these issues are not discussed—and a lot of times, they aren’t—then resentment just builds.”
Part of that resentment could stem from missed family activities, as the average person misses more than three (3.3) events a year. The number one missed event is a child’s activity (35%). But employees are also missing out on vacations (25%), visiting family (20%), and even funerals (10%).
Amidst these findings though there is hope. The data suggests time off is an easy solution to avoid missing events. Two-thirds of respondents said they never missed an event when time off was used. Further, an overwhelming majority (85%) of workers believe they have the ability to take one more day of vacation time.
“Our relationships shouldn’t be casualties of our work martyr complex. This report should serve as a warning that our loved ones deserve our time,” concluded Katie Denis, report author and senior director of Project: Time Off. “The solution is straightforward; it’s using the time off we already earn to prioritize our relationships and reclaim America’s Lost Week.”
Other key findings include:
- The majority (43%) of American workers are dedicating less than 20 hours a week to quality family time. Just 19 percent are spending more than 40 hours a week with family.
- The 54 percent of households that set aside time to plan out the use of paid time off for the year are happier in almost every category measured in the survey.
- Nearly half of workers (47%) say that they bring work stress home and a third (32%) admit to bringing home stress to work.
GfK Public Affairs conducted a survey from April 7-16, 2015 of 1,214 adults living in U.S. households where someone receives paid time off using GfK’s KnowledgePanel®, a large-scale online panel based on a representative random sample of the U.S. population. To further explore the issue, GfK conducted interviews with noted couple and family experts: Dr. Lotte Bailyn, a published author and professor emerita at the MIT Sloan School of Management; Dr. Gilda Carle, a relationship expert and professor emerita at New York’s Mercy College; and Michael Gurian, a marriage and family counselor and co-founder of The Gurian Institute.
About Guest Author Project: Time Off
Project: Time Off is an initiative supported by the U.S. Travel Association to prove the personal, business, social, and economic benefits that taking earned time off can deliver. We aim to reclaim America’s Lost Week and shift culture so that using personal time off is not considered frivolous, but essential to strengthening families and improving personal health; a business investment with proven returns; and an economic necessity. Learn more at ProjectTimeOff.com.