South: Work-life balance proves difficult for ‘sandwich’ generation, research shows

Law firm Blake Morgan has published research which shows the dual family challenge faced by the many people in the ‘sandwich’ generation.

According to the research – which sought to understand the pressures faced by successful business owners in the UK – family life might be a priority for many, but competing demands to balance work and home life as well as caring for dependants is an increasingly difficult issue.

While 35% of business owners say their greatest cause of daily stress was providing for and looking after family, almost one in five (18%) falling into the ‘sandwich’ age group of 35-44-year olds are grappling with the need to care for ill parents. Although that figure drops the older people get – overall, 12% of people surveyed say one of their biggest priorities for the future was caring for ill parents.

And this if this wasn’t tough enough, almost a third of those surveyed say one of the greatest sources of stress in day to day life is balancing their work with spending enough time with their family. Another 17% also said they find it stressful to make time for holidays and hobbies, while a further 14% say they find it difficult to maintain happy, healthy family relationships.

So, if they could start again, what advice would they pass on to their younger self?

Having a savings plan was the most popular piece of financial advice people would pass on to their children, with nearly a third of people (30%) saying putting money aside is critical to financial stability and success. After this, the top words of wisdom were investing in your pension as early as possible, investing in property, avoiding debt and budgeting for the future. 

Helen Bunker, divisional director for private law at Blake Morgan, which has offices in Reading, Oxford and Southampton, said: “As I’m sure many of us can attest to, modern families are more diverse, complex and blended than ever before. We’re living longer, marrying later and we’re not afraid to divorce if things don’t work out. But while choice can be empowering, the pressure of family life is also striking.

“While it may not necessarily be a surprise to find that 35% of business owners said their greatest source of stress was providing for their family, or that for 41% their family was their greatest priority in future planning, we were surprised to see that one in five of those surveyed under the age of 35 are faced with looking after an ill parent.

“As we live longer, health and long-term planning issues are becoming starker. With families spanning as many as four generations, having a plan in place to support your family later in life is important – and given that 30% said saving for a rainy day was the best piece of financial advice they would pass on, it would seem most would agree.

“This will help with stress too as it was clear from the research that while 41% of people prioritise the needs of their parents or children, actually making time available to spend with family was the greatest source of stress for 29% of those surveyed. For successful people, time is a valuable asset, so providing for your family now and for the future is as much about being smart about time management as it is about having the right legal structures in place. And as the modern family evolves and we continue to navigate education, property issues and the shifting sands of care, successful people can be better placed to manage the unexpected and enjoy what we have now.”