Maybe family life would be a little more harmonious if someone else would take care of the annoying vacuuming, ironing and laundry for us for money? It is, studies say. But too much of a good thing is bad again.
Whe doesn’t know it: the email inbox overflows at work, the phone doesn’t stop working, and overtime is due again shortly before the project deadline. When you come home, you really just want some peace and quiet, but here the work often goes on seamlessly: preparing food, cleaning, gardening, looking after the house and children. All of this work takes a lot of time for the Germans. According to the statistics portal Statista, it is 164 minutes a day for women and 90 minutes for men, whereby families and couples are busy longer than seniors and singles, for example.
But a lot of it is not fun, on the contrary, it steals valuable life time in which you could do something nice together. And it creates a lot of conflict in the partnership that can lead to divorce. Instead of arguing again about who vacuums the hallway, wouldn’t family life be smoother if we just outsourced the job?
At least that’s what some American studies suggest. In a working paper, researchers from Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia investigated the question of whether the purchase of time-saving, external household services can improve relationships. The study, which surveyed more than 4,000 people in steadfast relationships, shows that those who spent more money on time-saving household services were more satisfied with their relationship. On the one hand, because they could do more nice activities with their partner, on the other hand, because there were fewer reasons to argue.
A buffer for stress peaks
Of course, not all people earn enough to let others do the housework for them. On the other hand, platforms like www.helpling.de and www.betreut.de make it easier and easier to find affordable and legal support for the household. According to the research, such services are particularly helpful in protecting couples from uncontrollable stressors such as high, unexpected workloads at work, which have a negative impact on relationships. A kind of buffer for stress peaks.
That may not come as a surprise: if you have too little time to relax because your work in the office and at home never ends, you feel more uncomfortable and unhappy, which can even lead to depression and impair your physical health. Conversely, it improves our well-being if we use part of our income to buy ourselves off from chores and thus have more free time. This is the result of a study that was published in the American scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”. Outsourcing a few tasks every month for an amount of 100 to 200 dollars (85 to 170 euros) can therefore significantly increase life satisfaction. The result was based on surveys of 6,000 people from the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands.
The results held up even when checked for the variable income. So it doesn’t seem that buying time is just an indicator of wealth, which in turn makes you happier. In fact, the researchers found that there was a strong correlation between satisfaction and buying free time, especially in the lower income groups.
To make sure that buying free time leads to greater life satisfaction, the researchers conducted an experiment: In the experimental setup, the participants received $ 40 each on two consecutive weekends. On one of those two weekends, they were randomly asked to spend the money on something that would save them time (like eating out instead of cooking). On the other weekend, they were only allowed to use the money to buy one item that no longer gave them free time (such as a new T-shirt).
One can also exaggerate
“When people spend the $ 40 to save time, they report they are in a better mood and feel less stressed,” said Ashley Whillans, assistant professor at Harvard Business School who conducted the study on the time-money tradeoff and the impact study of time-saving services on couple relationships. “But you also have to take note: even if spending a little money on time-saving can improve well-being: spending a lot on it sometimes even has the opposite effect.”
So it can be overstated: Whillans and her colleagues found that spending $ 100 to $ 200 a month on time-saving services maximized wellbeing. However, if people spent more, well-being decreased again.
One possible reason: If you hand in too much work, you lose control; he feels as if he can no longer do anything himself, or actively shape his environment. Another: Coordinating the gardener and housekeeping alongside the cleaning lady becomes more complicated and creates new stress. In another work, Whillans also found that it can trigger a guilty conscience in some people to impose unpleasant work on others – even if you pay them to do it.
Guilty conscience or not, if you save yourself a divorce lawyer with a good 100 euros a month in the long term, the money is certainly well invested.