Apportioning Workweek Free Time, While Wishing There Was More Of It

Within living memory, concern about “work/life balance” was a luxury few people could afford. Today, it’s a conspicuous feature of daily life. A survey conducted for Beringer Founders’ Estate wines by Harris Interactive examines consumers’ attitudes about how they spend their time during the workweek—and how they’d like to spend it.

Severe disgruntlement is rare, as a mere 9 percent of working adults declared themselves “not at all satisfied” with their work/life balance. Still, just 18 percent said they’re “very satisfied” with it; 45 percent are merely “satisfied” and 37 percent “somewhat” so. Part of the problem is that 57 percent don’t always manage to leave work on time. And it’s not a trivial matter for lots of them. Thirty-one percent said they’d be willing to change jobs or even industries “in exchange for being able to leave work early every day.”

How do people spend the leisure time they do have during the workweek? Watching TV or movies is the most popular pastime, cited by 79 percent. Spending time with family or friends was the runner-up (65 percent), followed by reading books/magazines (52 percent), running errands (49 percent) and spending time outside (42 percent). Fewer said they play sports/go to the gym (19 percent) or volunteer/take part in other community activities (16 percent).

If people had more free time during the workweek, 63 percent said they’d spend at least some of it with family or friends—almost precisely matching the number who already devote work-week leisure to that pastime. A bit fewer than half (47 percent) said they’d allot it to watching TV and movies, even though that’s how four-fifths spend the time they’ve actually got. The biggest jump was in the number of respondents who said they’d have romantic evenings with their spouse or partner: 23 percent do it already, but 41 percent would if they had more workweek free time. (Maybe if you turned off the TV during the free time you’ve got…?) Confirming the supposition that work is the curse of the drinking class, 21 percent said they’d enjoy “going out for a drink with friends or co-workers” if they had more leisure during the workweek.

As for the vanishing ideal of the “nice dinner at home,” 44 percent of respondents said they’d do it more often if they had more time to cook; 23 percent said they’d do so if they got home from work earlier, 21 percent if they didn’t need to shop for groceries and 19 percent if their home was “clean enough for company.” On the other hand, an adamant 18 percent insisted that “nothing would make me have dinner at home more frequently.” Yikes, sorry I mentioned it!