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Work–Life Balance: Weighing the Importance of Work–Family and Work–Health Balance
To date, research directed at the work–life balance (WLB) has focused mainly on the work and family domains. However, the current labor force is heterogeneous, and workers may also value other nonworking domains besides the family. The aim of this study was to investigate the importance of other nonworking domains in the WLB with a particular focus on health. Moreover, the importance of the effects of the work–family balance (WFB) and the work–health balance (WHB) on job satisfaction was investigated. Finally, we explored how the effects of the WFB and the WHB on job satisfaction change according to worker characteristics (age, gender, parental status, and work ability). This study involved 318 workers who completed an online questionnaire. The importance of the nonworking domains was compared with a t -test. The effect of the WFB and the WHB on job satisfaction was investigated with multiple and moderated regression analyses. The results show that workers considered health as important as family in the WLB. The WHB explained more of the variance in job satisfaction than the WFB. Age, gender and parental status moderated the effect of the WFB on job satisfaction, and work ability moderated the effect of the WHB on job satisfaction. This study highlights the importance of the health domain in the WLB and stresses that it is crucial to consider the specificity of different groups of workers when considering the WLB.
The term work–life balance (WLB) has gained increasing popularity in the public discourse [ 1 ]. It is a term that is commonly used in companies, especially large ones, and it is often said to be at the core of their corporate welfare, e.g., [ 2 , 3 , 4 ]. However, academic knowledge around the WLB concept is not as solid and extensive as the widespread use of the term would suggest [ 1 ]. Researchers have argued that WLB theoretical development has not kept pace with the popularity of the concept [ 5 , 6 ]. Among the many issues raised by recent critical reviews [ 1 , 7 , 8 , 9 ], the present study focuses on the limited consideration that has been given to the heterogeneity of the contemporary labor force in the WLB literature [ 8 ]. The extant research has largely assumed that the WLB is a concern mainly for working parents, where caring for dependent children is the relevant load in the life part of the WLB [ 1 ]. This became clear when we realized that the majority of the studies about the WLB actually only considered the family in the “life” part of the balance; that is, they considered the work–family balance (WFB) [ 6 , 9 , 10 , 11 ].
Currently, in addition to the massive presence of women in the labor market, which has fostered the literature about work–family balance, there is a highly increasing rate of active elderly workers, workers with a long-standing health problem or disability (LSHPD), single workers, and childless couples [ 12 , 13 , 14 ]. These workers have different needs and interests outside work. This situation places renewed importance on a key feature of the WLB: The importance that is attached to the many different life role changes from person to person [ 9 ]. Therefore, even if the family role remains central in nonworking life, it is important to recognize the value of other roles when conceptualizing and measuring the WLB [ 11 ]. The family may not be the most important part of the WLB in determining the positive outcomes of, for example, workers with chronic diseases for whom the management of health has great influence. From this perspective, Gragnano et al. [ 15 ] recently developed the concept and measure of the work–health balance (WHB), which is particularly relevant for elderly workers and workers with a LSHPD.
This study aims to contribute to the WLB research by comparing the relevance of other nonwork domains beyond family and considering the heterogeneity of the current labor force in studying the WLB. Specifically, we (a) investigate the perceived importance of other nonwork life domains beyond family, with a focus on health; (b) compare the influence of the WFB and the WHB on job satisfaction; and (c) examine how the effects of the WFB and the WHB on job satisfaction change according to different worker characteristics.
In subsequent sections of this article, we discuss the relationship between the WLB and the WFB, also considering different worker characteristics. We then introduce the concept of the WHB.
2. Theoretical Background and Hypotheses
2.1. specific nonwork life domains: family and health.
The field of study about the work–life balance has had difficulty in establishing a commonly agreed-upon definition of the WLB [ 16 ]. A plethora of different conceptualizations exist in the literature, and many researchers have tried to summarize them [ 9 , 10 , 16 ]. After a review of the conceptualizations of the WLB in the literature, Kalliath and Brough [ 16 ] proposed a definition of the WLB that we endorse. “Work–life balance is the individual perception that work and nonwork activities are compatible and promote growth in accordance with an individual’s current life priorities” (p.326). A recent review indicated that a better work–life balance fosters not only job satisfaction, job performance, and organizational commitment but also life and family satisfaction [ 10 ]. The work–life balance also reduces stress-related outcomes such as psychological distress, emotional exhaustion, anxiety, and depression [ 10 ].
Research on work and nonwork interactions dates back to the mid-twentieth century, e.g., [ 17 ], and the issue has gained increasing importance in the popular press since the 1990s [ 16 ]. Today, there exists an extensive and growing body of research about the work–life balance [ 18 ], and the topic is of even more concern than in the past considering the new flexible ways of managing work (e.g., agile working, smart working, activity-based working, and flexible working).
Researchers have highlighted that the field of research about the work–life balance is itself “unbalanced.” The majority of studies on the work–life balance have focused only on work and family roles, that is, on the work–family balance [ 6 , 9 , 10 , 11 ]. For example, Casper et al. [ 9 ] reviewed the conceptual definition of the balance in the academic literature and found that 66% of the definitions focused only on work and family. In their review, Chang et al. [ 7 ] found that the WLB was studied specifically, not in the form of the WFB, in only 9% and 26% of the quantitative and qualitative studies reviewed, respectively. As a result, the knowledge acquired over time about the predictors and consequences of the balance with work is based mainly on the work–family balance [ 1 , 10 ].
Different types of the work–family balance have been studied in the literature. A general classification distinguished four types of influence that can occur between work and family based on their direction and valence [ 19 ]. When the effect is negative from the family domain to the work domain, it is called the family-to-work conflict. When the effect is still negative but from the work domain to the family domain, it is called work-to-family conflict. When the effect is positive, it is called enrichment and can have the same two directions; therefore, there is family-to-work enrichment and work-to-family enrichment. The work–family balance has been extensively studied in its negative form, work–family conflict [ 19 ]. However, since the 2000s, the scientific community has begun to focus on its positive form, work–family enrichment [ 20 ].
Many researchers have called for a real expansion of the WLB concept, such that the second arm of the balance—life—is not confined to the family role [ 6 , 9 , 19 ]. The call for an expansion of the concept is not only theoretically grounded but also related to recent changes in the labor market. The identification of the WFB as an indicator of the WLB was relatively effective and useful in recent decades, when the greatest change in workplace demographics was the increase in the participation of women, and the management of family and work roles for working women and dual-earner couples, especially those with children, became a central issue within organizations. Currently, workplace demographics are more heterogeneous. In addition to the massive presence of woman in the labor market, we are also seeing an increase in the rate of active elderly workers, workers with an LSHPD, single workers, and childless couples [ 12 , 13 , 14 ]. It is clear that an exclusive focus on family has become at least reductive when considering the WLB [ 1 , 21 ].
The majority of the studies that have investigated the work–nonwork balance without an exclusive focus on the family domain have considered nonwork to be unspecific, i.e., they have considered nonworking life in general, including nonfamily and family domains [ 19 ]. However, the consideration of the specific nonwork domains is essential to a full comprehension of the dynamics that influence the work–life balance in the heterogeneous working population, that is, the different, specific nonwork domains will have different levels of importance and different effects in the determination of the work–life balance among workers with diverse characteristics and needs outside work [ 11 ].
Based on the quality of life literature [ 22 ], the multiple identity perspective [ 23 ], and Super’s [ 24 ] life-space theory of career development, Keeney et al. [ 11 ] identified eight nonwork domains of relevance in the WLB: education, health, leisure, friendships, romantic relationships, family, household management, and community involvement. The importance that individuals give to the different domains varies from person to person [ 11 ]. Moreover, the relative importance of these life domains is likely to change over time within the same person because of changes in interests and life circumstances [ 24 ]. Thus, it is crucial to understand whether the other nonwork domains are as important as family and under which circumstances the priorities change. Among the domains that were detected by Keeney et al. [ 11 ], there was health. This is relevant because to our knowledge, for the first time in work–life balance literature, it has been recognized that health management can conflict with work activity.
As stated, the relevance of health to the work life derives from an increase in the rate of workers with an LSHPD and elderly workers, both with a higher incidence of health problems. In 2017, 27.8% of the European Union (EU) workers reported an LSHPD, and 19% of the employed persons in the EU were 55 years of age or older [ 25 , 26 ]. There is, however, another reason that makes the health domain relevant even for “healthy” workers. A paradigm shift has occurred in the planning and delivery of healthcare. People are now expected to actively manage their healthcare. Theorizations in the field of public health and in medicine have indicated that it is strategic for healthcare systems to have informed patients who are more directly responsible for their health and care management [ 27 ]. This has been paired with an increasing focus on health promotion that is based, partly but strongly, on good individual healthy behaviors [ 28 ]. Therefore, the workers, not just the sick ones, must take on a somewhat active role in the health domain of life, which may be more or less compatible with the working role.
In light of this literature and considering the life domains defined by Keeney et al. [ 11 ], we hypothesized that family is still central in the WLB of workers but that the health domain also has an equally important role. Therefore, if the workers were asked directly:
Workers will indicate that the family and health domains are more important than the other life domains in the WLB process .
2.2. Consequences of Work–Family Balance: Job Satisfaction
Many studies have analyzed individual consequences of the different types of the work–life balance, and several meta-analyses have summarized the literature about the correlates of work–family conflict [ 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 ] and work–family enrichment [ 20 ]. Work–family conflict, in both directions, has been consistently found to be associated with work-related, family-related, and domain-unspecific outcomes. Specifically, among the many outcomes that are associated with work–family conflict in a statistically significant manner, the ones that were more strongly associated were organizational citizenship behavior, work-related and general stress, burnout and exhaustion, and job, marital and life satisfaction [ 29 ]. Far fewer studies exist for work–family enrichment, but by comparing the two extant bodies of literature, it is possible to note that the effect sizes of work–family enrichment are comparable to those of work–family conflict [ 20 , 29 ]. For simplicity and because more studies are needed about the relationship between work–family enrichment and conflict [ 33 ], which goes beyond the objectives of this research, we considered only the conflict, in both directions, in our study.
Among the literature considering work-related outcomes, job satisfaction has been the most studied variable [ 29 ]. Job satisfaction represents the extent to which workers like or dislike their job [ 34 ]. Job satisfaction is a central variable in organizational behavior research. Spector [ 34 ] ascribed its importance to three main reasons. Job satisfaction is an indicator of well-being and psychological health, it is related to many behaviors of the worker that are positive for the organization, and finally, it is a very useful indicator of organizational problems when its level is low. In fact, job satisfaction is highly related to burn-out, self-esteem, depression, anxiety and, to a lower extent, perceived physical illness [ 35 ]. It is consistently correlated with job performance [ 36 ] and with four dispositional traits predictive of job performance: self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, locus of control, and emotional stability [ 37 ]. Job satisfaction has also been found to be a significant predictor of turnover and turnover intention [ 38 , 39 ].
Job satisfaction is also related to the work–family balance. The meta-analysis conducted by Amstad et al. [ 29 ] reported that the correlation with job satisfaction was stronger for work-to-family conflict (weighted mean correlation = −0.26) than for family-to-work conflict (weighted mean correlation = −0.13). Theoretically, the work–family balance affects job satisfaction because an incompatibility between two personally relevant roles creates negative states and feelings. Following the principle that when something threatens something else personally relevant, the first is appraised negatively with negative emotion [ 40 ], and a role that interferes with the fulfilment of another personally relevant role is negatively evaluated. Specifically, a negative evaluation of an individual’s job is formed (i.e., low job satisfaction) depending on the extent to which the job threatens the fulfillment of the family role [ 41 ]. This explanation justifies why family-to-work conflict has been found to have a lower correlation with job satisfaction than work-to-family conflict. In fact, provided that both conflict directions may generate a strain in both domains, the family-to-work conflict will generate a low family satisfaction—instead of a low job satisfaction—because the family role interferes with the work role, and the negative evaluation will be toward the source of the interference [ 41 ]. This was supported by the meta-analysis conducted by Amstad et al. [ 29 ], who found that work-to-family conflict was more strongly correlated with work-related outcomes than family-related ones and that the opposite was true for family-to-work conflict. Based on these premises, we hypothesized that:
Work-to-family and family-to-work conflict will be significantly and negatively related to job satisfaction.
The relationship between work-to-family conflict and job satisfaction will be greater than the relationship between family-to-work conflict and job satisfaction.
2.3. Consequences of Work–Health Balance
The present study aimed to expand the knowledge about the nonwork life domain other than family, specifically the health domain. Despite the importance of the life domain of health, the literature has not offered many studies that consider health in the WLB process or measurement instruments that are specifically designed for the purpose [ 42 ]. Considering the literature about job retention and the quality of working life among workers with an LSHPD [ 43 , 44 ], Gragnano et al. [ 15 ] conceptualized the work–health balance (WHB) as a state in which the worker feels able to effectively balance health and work needs, arising from the perception of how much the characteristics of one’s work are a barrier to health needs and counterbalanced by the evaluation of the helpfulness of the working environment to meet health needs.
Health needs are understood here in a broad sense, covering not only the care needs of workers with chronic illnesses or conditions but all the needs that a worker considers necessary to adequately care for his or her health. From the definition, a measure of the WHB has been developed. The WHB questionnaire measures three distinct constructs: work–health incompatibility, health climate and external support [ 15 ]. The first construct measures how much work commitments hamper the desired management of health. The last two constructs measure the helpfulness of the working environment for health needs. The health climate detects the extent to which workers perceive that management is truly interested in their employees’ health, whereas external support identifies the perception of the level of help available for health problems in the workplace in the form of support from the supervisor and work flexibility.
Studies have shown that elderly workers and workers with an LSHPD have more difficulties in reaching a good WHB [ 45 , 46 ]. In addition, it has been shown that among workers who stop working for cardiovascular diseases, the process of returning to work is faster for those who have a good WHB [ 47 ]. With low levels of the WHB, the rates of presenteeism, emotional exhaustion, workaholism and general psychological distress (GHQ) increase [ 15 , 48 ]. In contrast, a good WHB is associated with greater work autonomy, job engagement, and job satisfaction [ 15 , 49 , 50 , 51 ].
In the WHB, a good balance generates job satisfaction because the work role is not a threat to the management of health. A low level of work-to-family conflict generates job satisfaction because the work role is not a threat to the family domain. Because the two domains at risk are different, the proportion of the job satisfaction variance that is explained by the WHB is expected to not overlap, to a great extent, with the proportion that is explained by the work-to-family conflict. Moreover, in the current working context, characterized by a great heterogeneity of the contemporary labor force with a substantial proportion of elderly workers and workers with an LSHPD, as well as with the increasing spread of a health care system that is based on the active and informed role of patients, we expect the WHB to be as important as work-to-family conflict in shaping attitudes toward job and job satisfaction. Therefore, we hypothesized that:
The WHB will have a significant positive effect on job satisfaction.
The effect size of the WHB on job satisfaction will be at least as large as that of work-to-family conflict.
2.4. The Heterogeneity of the Labor Force and WLB
As stated before, the present study focuses on the problem of the limited consideration that has been given in the WLB literature to the heterogeneity of the contemporary labor force [ 8 ]. The current labor force is characterized not only by a greater female presence but also by an increasing rate of elderly workers, workers with an LSHPD, single workers, and childless couples [ 12 , 13 , 14 ], all with different needs and with a different levels of importance that are given to their various nonworking roles [ 1 ].
This last consideration is particularly relevant in the context of the WLB because the balance is not absolute; rather, it depends on the importance that is given by the worker to the various roles. Therefore, when studying the effect of the WLB on outcomes by using concepts and measures such as work-to-family conflict or the WHB, which measure the balance between a specific nonwork role and work, it is theoretically appropriate to expect that the studied effect will vary based on the importance that is given by the worker to the nonwork role under consideration. In other words, the perception of an imbalance between a specific nonworking role and work will have a negative effect on the outcome to the extent that the nonworking role in question is important for the worker.
Despite the centrality of individual priorities in the definition of the WLB [ 9 , 10 , 16 ], surprisingly few studies have explored how individual priorities moderate the effect of the WLB on outcomes [ 6 , 29 , 52 ], which is a symptom of the limited consideration of diversity in the labor force by the WLB literature [ 1 , 8 ]. Individual differences have been considered as predictors of differences in the level of balance [ 10 , 53 ] instead of as moderators of the effects of the balance on the outcomes. Crooker et al. [ 21 ] developed a theoretical framework that extensively considered differences in individual value systems as moderators, but this study was focused on the genesis of the WLB instead of its consequences.
In the present study, we considered four variables (i.e., age, gender, parental status, and work ability) that, according to the literature, moderate the relationship between the WFB and job satisfaction or, alternatively, the relationship between the WHB and job satisfaction. The hypothesis is that individual conditions and characteristics that increase (or decrease) the importance that is given by the worker to the family or health domain will increase (or decrease) the effect that the work–family balance or the WHB has on job satisfaction.
Gender has been studied in the WLB literature as a possible predictor of different levels of the work–family balance. The hypothesis has been that, since family responsibilities usually pertain more to women, women have worse levels of the work–family balance, but these studies have not consistently supported this hypothesis [ 54 ]. However, research has still indicated that there are significant disparities between men and women pertaining to the work–family balance [ 55 ]. There have also been studies that have indicated that women do value family more than men, and the opposite has been shown to be true for work [ 56 , 57 ]. This is consistent with other studies that have indicated a stronger effect of the work–family balance on job satisfaction [ 58 , 59 ] and negative emotional responses [ 60 ] for women. Based on these premises, we hypothesized that:
The negative effect of work–family conflict (work-to-family and family-to work) on job satisfaction will be stronger for women than for men.
Similarly, there is evidence that parents experience more problems with the work–family balance than workers without children (for a meta-analysis, see [ 61 ]). This is often because family-related demands are higher for parents [ 62 ]. However, we also sustain that the importance that is given to the family domain is higher for workers with children than for those without. Thus, we hypothesized that:
The negative effect of work–family conflict (work-to-family and family-to work) on job satisfaction will be stronger for workers with children than for those without.
Socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) [ 63 ] sustains that individuals have an intrinsic perception of the time left in their life—the future time perspective—and based on that, they adjust their preferences and behavior. A shortened future time perspective promotes the pursuit of short-term emotion-related goals, such as positive emotional and psychological well-being, and it devaluates long-term goals, such as the development of skills or career advancements [ 63 ]. In the WLB literature, SST implies that elderly workers, who have a shorter future time perspective, should consider family relationships more important than work [ 64 ]. Therefore, a high level of work-to-family conflict will affect elderly workers and their evaluation of job satisfaction more than younger worker. In line with this, Treadway et al. [ 65 ] found that, in the presence of a high work-to-family conflict, workers with a more constrained future time perspective experienced a lower continuance commitment than employees with a less shallow future time perspective.
The negative effect of work–family conflict (work-to-family and family-to-work) on job satisfaction will be stronger for elderly workers than for younger workers.
Because increasing age is associated with higher morbidity, (multiple) chronic conditions, and higher use of health services [ 66 ], the importance of the health domain is expected to be higher among elderly workers than younger workers. Therefore, we hypothesized that:
The positive effect of the WHB on job satisfaction will be stronger for elderly workers than for younger workers.
Finally, work ability is expected to play a role in association with the WHB. Work ability represents the perceived ability to do one’s job effectively and to continue to do so in the near future when considering personal health problems and resources [ 66 ]. Thus, in the life of workers with a low work ability, the health domain generally has more importance than workers with a high work ability because health is a current problem. Considering this, we hypothesized that:
The positive effect of the WHB on job satisfaction will be stronger for workers with a low work ability than for those with a high work ability.
3. Materials and Methods
3.1. sample and procedure.
The study involved workers of full age under an employment contract. Entrepreneurs and self-employed workers were excluded. We distributed the link to the online questionnaire with a brief description of the research through social networks (i.e., Facebook and LinkedIn), messaging applications, and email. To begin the assessment, the participants had to read and approve an informed consent form to freely decide whether to participate in the research. The informed consent provided informed about the aim of the study and the procedures to collect the data, and it ensured that there were no potential risks or costs involved. The research team assured the anonymity and confidentiality of the participants’ responses throughout the entire study process. The contact details of the researcher in charge were provided in the event of any further questions. The study was conducted in accordance with the ethical standards set by the Declaration of Helsinki and was approved by the Ethical Committee of the University of Milano-Bicocca (Prot.160-2014). The number of subjects that started the questionnaire was 350. However, the dataset used in the analyses contained 318 responses after excluding 32 questionnaires because they were substantially incomplete; that is, the subjects opened the online page of the questionnaire but did not answer any questions. These values represent a completion rate of 91%. All participants lived in Italy; 90% lived in northern Italy. Overall, 37%, 28%, and 35% of the respondents were between 20 and 30, 31 and 44, and 45 and 60 years old, respectively. The proportion of men and women, as well as people with and without children, was balanced in the sample (56% women and 58% with children). Among the 134 workers with children, 49%, 43%, and 8% of the respondents had one, two, and three or more children, respectively. The workers with one or more children under the age of twelve were 51%. Most of the respondents had a partner (76%) and at least an upper secondary school diploma (93%). Most of the participants worked full-time (85%) with an open-ended contract (79%) as a white-collar worker (72%). Table 1 presents detailed descriptive statistics of the sample.
Descriptive statistics of the sample (N = 318).
The sociodemographic information described above was provided by the respondents at the beginning of the online questionnaire.
Based on the instrument developed by Keeney et al. [ 11 ] to evaluate the importance in the WLB attached to the different life domains (family, health, household management, friendship, training activities, favorite leisure activities, and community involvement), respondents were asked “How important is it in your life to reconcile work with …? ”. The question was asked, changing the final part, for all of the seven domains of life considered. The response scale was a 10-point scale from 1 (not at all important) to 10 (extremely important).
Two forms of the WLB were measured: the work–family balance and the work–health balance. The work–family balance was measured in the form of the work-to-family conflict (WFC—three items, α = 0.79) and family-to-work conflict (FWC—three items, α = 0.72) with the abbreviated version of the measure of work–family conflict [ 67 ]. Answers were given with a five-point Likert scale, from 1 (completely disagree) to 5 (completely agree). The work–health balance was measured with the Work–Health Balance Questionnaire [ 15 ], which was composed of three subscales: work–health incompatibility (WH—six items, α = 0.84), health climate (HC—five items, α = 0.92), and external support (ES—six items, α = 0.81). The total WHB score was calculated by subtracting WHI from the mean of HC and ES. Answers were given according to a five-point rating scale from 1 (completely disagree) to 5 (completely agree) for WHI and from 1 (never) to 5 (always) for HC and ES.
Work ability, the perceived ability to do one’s job effectively and to continue to do so in the near future when considering personal health problems and resources, was measured with the Work Ability Index (WAI) [ 68 ]. The index was calculated from seven factors (α = 0.79) for a total of 10 items with different rating scales.
Job satisfaction was measured with a single item that asked respondents to rate their overall satisfaction with their job on a 5-point scale from 1 (not at all satisfied) to 5 (fully satisfied). The reliability and validity of the single-item measure to assess job satisfaction has been established [ 69 ].
Harman’s single-factor test was adopted to check for a common method bias. The first factor explained 27% of the variance. Given that this fell below the threshold of 50%, the common method bias does not appear to have been a significant factor in this study. The results of the explorative factor analysis performed for the Harman single-factor test are available in the online Supplementary Materials of this article.
3.3. Data Analysis
All data analyses were performed by using R [ 70 ]. The different life domains were ordered according to the mean importance to the WLB that was attached to them by the respondents. Mean and standard deviations were provided for all the life domains. To test whether family and health domains were considered more important than the other life domains in the WLB (H1), the mean of the importance that was attached to health and family were compared to the mean of the importance that was attached to all the other life domains with a paired t-test. Even if no hypothesis was formulated specifically on this point, we explored whether the family and health domain were considered equally important. A paired t-test between the importance ascribed to family and to health was performed.
The hypotheses about the direction and effect size of work-to-family conflict, family-to-work conflict, and the WHB on job satisfaction (H2a,b and H3a,b) were tested with a multiple linear regression with job satisfaction as the dependent variable and work-to-family conflict, family-to-work conflict and the WHB as independent variables. To evaluate the relative importance of these predictors to the multiple regression model just described, we used the Lindeman, Merenda, and Gold’s metric (LMG) and reported the standardized β . The LMG expresses the squared semipartial correlation that was averaged across all possible ordering of the predictors. Since each order of predictors yields a different decomposition of the model sum of squares, the variance of the dependent variable that is explained by a predictor in a multiple regression varies according to the sequential order in which a predictor is entered into the model in relation to the other predictors. LMG averaged this value for all the possible orders of entry [ 71 ]. As a result, LMG considers both the predictor’s direct effect and its effect when combined with other predictors. Conversely, the standardized β represents only the incremental contribution of each predictor when combined with all remaining predictors [ 71 , 72 ].
This model, as well as the other following models, was controlled for age, marital status, and parental status. The control variables to be included were chosen with a backward model selection by the Akaike information criterion (AIC) from an initial model that included age, gender, education level, marital and parental status, job role, type of contract, and working hours. These preliminary analyses are available in the online Supplementary Material of this article.
Finally, the hypotheses about the moderation of the relation between the work–family balance and/or the WHB with job satisfaction (H4a–e) by individual characteristics (age, gender, parental status, and work ability) were tested with several models—one per moderator—with interaction effects. Continuous variables involved in the interaction were centered on the mean.
4.1. Perceived Importance of Family and Health Domain
The mean and standard deviation of the importance that is attached to the different life domains, ordered by their importance, are listed in Figure 1 .
Mean importance and standard deviation of the seven life domains.
The first paired t-test resulted in a significant difference in the mean of the importance that was attached to health and family (M = 9.27 and SD = 1.04) and those ascribed to the other life domains (M = 7.3 and SD = 1.32); t (317) = 25.7 and p < 0.001. This result supported H1a, that is, the health and family domains were considered to be more important than the other domains in the WLB.
Moreover, the second paired t-test resulted in a nonsignificant difference in the importance that is attached to health (M = 9.29 and SD = 1.18) and those attached to family (M = 9.25 and SD = 1.3); t (317) = 0.57 and p = 0.57. This exploratory analysis showed that health and family are life domains considered of equivalent importance in the WLB.
4.2. Consequences of Work–Family and Work–Health Balance on Job Satisfaction
Table 2 presents the result of the first model that tested the effects of work-to-family conflict, family-to-work conflict, and the WHB on job satisfaction (R 2 = 0.28, F (6/308) = 20.24, and p < 0.001).
Adjusted effects of work-to-family conflict, family-to-work conflict, and the work–health balance (WHB) on job satisfaction.
*** = p < 0.001; ** = p < 0.01; * = p < 0.05; 1 se = standard error.
The model resulted in a significant negative effect of work-to-family conflict and a nonsignificant effect of family-to-work conflict, thus partially supporting H2a. The LMG of work-to-family conflict on job satisfaction (LMG = 0.08) was eight times greater than that of family-to-work conflict (LMG = 0.01). Moreover, the former was statistically significant, while the other was not. These results fully supported H2b. Considering the effect of the WHB on job satisfaction, the model estimated a significant positive effect, supporting H3a. Moreover, the variance that was explained by the WHB (LMG = 0.16) was twice as much as the variance that was explained by work-to-family conflict (LMG = 0.08), supporting H3b.
4.3. Moderators of the Effects of Work–Family and Work–Health Balance
Table 3 reports models 1 and 2, which tested the moderating effect of gender and parental status, respectively.
Adjusted effects of work-to-family conflict, family-to-work conflict, and the WHB on job satisfaction.
*** = p < 0.001; ** = p < 0.01; * = p < 0.05; 1 In model 1, the moderator is gender (female); in model 2, the moderator is parental status (no children). Continuous variables in the interactions have been centered on the mean.
Model 1 (R 2 = 0.30, F (9/305) = 14.54, and p < 0.001) in Table 3 showed a significant negative interaction of gender with work-to-family conflict but no interaction with family-to-work conflict. The interaction indicates that the negative effect of work-to-family conflict on job satisfaction was stronger among women than among men. To facilitate the interpretation, the interaction effect is depicted in Figure 2 . This result partially supported H4a: The effect of the work–family balance, specifically of work-to-family conflict, on job satisfaction was stronger among women than among men.
Moderating effect of gender on the relationship between work-to-family conflict and job satisfaction.
Model 2 (R 2 = 0.31, F (8/306) = 17.46, and p < 0.001) in Table 3 again showed a significant interaction of work-to-family conflict with the moderator (i.e., parental support) but no interaction of the moderator with family-to-work conflict. The interaction indicates that the negative effect of work-to-family conflict on job satisfaction was stronger among workers with children than among those without. This interaction effect is depicted in Figure 3 . This result partially supported H4b: The effect of the work–family balance on job satisfaction, specifically of work-to-family conflict, is stronger among workers with children than among those without.
Moderating effect of parental status on the relationship between work-to-family conflict and job satisfaction.
Table 4 reports models 3 and 4, which tested the effects of two moderators—age and work ability, respectively. Model 3 (R 2 = 0.31, F (9/305) = 15.28, and p < 0.001) in Table 4 showed a significant interaction of age with work-to-family and family-to-work conflict but no interaction with the WHB.
*** = p < 0.001; ** = p < 0.01; * = p < 0.05; 1 In model 3, the moderator is age; in model 4, the moderator is work ability. Continuous variables in the interactions have been centered on the mean.
The interactions showed that the negative effect of work-to-family conflict on job satisfaction increased with age ( Figure 4 a), whereas family-to-work conflict appeared to have a positive effect for older workers ( Figure 4 b). These results again supported H4c only for work-to-family conflict, whereas they showed an unexpected positive effect of family-to-work conflict on job satisfaction among the elderly. In contrast, the results did not support H4d because the effect of the WHB on job satisfaction did not seem to increase with age.
( a ) Moderating effect of age on the relationship between work-to-family conflict and job satisfaction. ( b ) Moderating effect of age on the relationship between family-to-work conflict and job satisfaction.
Model 4 (R 2 = 0.33, F (8/306) = 18.18, and p < 0.001) in Table 4 showed a significant negative interaction between the WHB and work ability. The interaction showed that the positive effect of the WHB on job satisfaction decreased with the increase in work ability ( Figure 5 ). This result supported H4e: The positive effect of the WHB on job satisfaction increased with the decline in work ability.
Moderating effect of work ability on the relationship between the work–health balance and job satisfaction.
This study aimed to verify the importance of different, specific nonwork domains in the work–life balance process, with a focus on family and health. We also investigated the impact of the work–family balance (in both directions) and the work–health balance on job satisfaction and how the heterogeneity of the current workforce modifies these relationships.
The results supported the first hypothesis. As hypothesized, when considering their work–life balance, the workers attached more importance to the health and family domains than to the other nonwork domains. A further analysis showed that the health and family domains were given similar importance. This result was the starting point of the entire study and justified the inclusion of the concept of the work–health balance. The workers rated family and health as 25% more important than the other nonwork life domain in their work–life balance. The fact that health was important as family is a relevant result, and it was found to be even more important when we analyzed the sample. Indeed, there were no apparent sample characteristics that made this sample more exposed to health issues than the general population. This fact suggests that researchers and companies should pay more attention to the health domain even for workers that are not affected by severe or chronic health conditions.
The second hypothesis concerned the effect of the work–family balance on job satisfaction. The work–family balance was supposed to affect job satisfaction, and work-to-family conflict was supposed to be more important than family-to-work conflict. The results supported this hypothesis and, consistent with other studies, the effect of family-to-work conflict on job satisfaction was smaller than that of work-to-family conflict and was statistically not significant [ 73 ]. This result can be explained in light of the appraisal theory [ 40 ]: If work threatens family life (work–life conflict), work will be negatively appraised; if family issues threaten work participation (family–work conflict), family, not the work, will be negatively appraised [ 41 ]. Consistent with a prior meta-analysis [ 29 ], these results support the “matching-hypothesis” (work-to-family conflict affects the work domain more, whereas family-to-work conflict affects the family domain more) as opposed to the “cross-domain hypothesis” (work-to-family conflict affects the family domain more, whereas family-to-work conflict affects the work domain more). Our study provides new evidence in this sense because the regression model was controlled for the work–health balance and because of the adoption of the LMG metric.
The third hypothesis investigated the effect of the WHB on job satisfaction and its importance relative to work–family conflict. As hypothesized, the WHB had a positive and statistically significant relationship with job satisfaction, and its importance was two times greater than that of work-to-family conflict. This result supports the usefulness of the specific instrument, the WHB questionnaire, and confirms the importance of filling the gap in the literature [ 42 ] by introducing the health domain into the concept of the work–life balance. Even if our results cannot be considered definitive in saying that the health domain is more important than the family domain in the genesis of job satisfaction, they clearly indicate that, when investigating or promoting work–life balance, considering the WHB is at least as important as considering the work–family balance. The common practice of considering the work–life balance as an issue that is related only to family is wrong and limits the possibility to explain work phenomena through the lens of the work–life balance.
The fourth hypothesis was related to the moderation of the effects of work–family conflict and the WHB by specific work characteristics (i.e., gender, parental status, age, and work ability) on job satisfaction. All three hypothesized moderators of the effect of work-to-family conflict on job satisfaction (i.e., gender, parental status, and age) were supported, whereas only one moderator of the family-to-work conflict effect (i.e., age) was sustained. Of the two hypothesized moderators (age and work ability) of the WHB effect on job satisfaction, only the interaction with work ability was supported.
In particular, the impact of work-to-family conflict on job satisfaction was greater for women (H4a), parent workers (H4b), and elderly workers (H4c). The reason for this moderation effect is likely due to the difference in salience of the family domain attached by the groups of workers. Women are likely to evaluate family as more central in their lives than men because of widespread cultural norms and gender-differentiated values [ 56 , 57 ]. Likewise, parents are likely to give more salience to family than people with no children because of cultural norms and, possibly, because of a “self-selection process” that brings people with a high salience of family to be more prone to parenthood than people with a low salience [ 62 , 74 ]. Given such result, it is possible, and should be tested in future studies, that being responsible for eldercare, beyond generally increasing the level of work-to-family conflict, also increases the impact of work-to-family conflict on job satisfaction. Finally, as implied by the socioemotional selectivity theory, elderly workers are likely to consider family relationships more important than younger workers because of a shorter future time perspective [ 64 ].
Given the theoretically coherent nonsignificant main effect of family-to-work conflict on job satisfaction, it was not surprising that the hypothesized moderators of its effects were not relevant. However, the moderation of the effect of family-to-work conflict on job satisfaction by age was significant and indicated that among older workers, a higher level of family-to-work conflict was related to higher job satisfaction. A further analyses showed that the effect of family-to-work conflict was nonsignificant among workers of 27 (the first quartile) and 38 years of age (the mean age), but this effect was statistically significant among workers of 49 years of age (the third quartile). The interpretation of this effect is hazardous with the data at hand. Further studies should investigate this effect while also considering the cross-sectional nature of our study. In fact, it is not possible to exclude that the found relationship was inverse. That is, older workers with higher job satisfaction perceived a higher family-to-work conflict because of a greater importance that is attached to the work domain than other elderly workers with lower job satisfaction.
Concerning the WHB, we hypothesized that its effect on job satisfaction was stronger among older workers (H4d) and workers with a lower WAI score (H4e). Since the interaction term was not significant in the case of age, H4d was not supported. Our results showed that a good WHB was associated with an equally high job satisfaction among all ages. We believe this is simply because, in our sample, the importance that was given to the health domain was not associated with age. This idea was supported by post hoc analyses that correlated the importance that was given by the workers to the health domain with their age, which resulted in a nonsignificant correlation ( r = −0.09, t = −1.62, and p = 0.11). We believe this result indicates that the health domain is crucial for both younger and older workers. There is the possibility that the WHB is a very important dimension at all ages—not only for elderly workers as originally intended [ 15 ]. In contrast, our results supported H4e. With the decline of the WAI, that is, with more health problems affecting job activity, the importance of the positive effect of the WHB on job satisfaction was increased. As proposed elsewhere [ 15 ], workers who are more vulnerable to health problems had a greater gain from their work situation with a good balance between health needs and work demands than healthy workers.
Overall, the results regarding the hypothesized moderators indicate that it is crucial to take into account the heterogeneity of the current workforce and to consider the specificity of different groups of workers when considering the WLB. From the outset, most definitions of the work–life balance have stressed the fact that it is not possible to identify an absolute optimal balance because it depends on the importance that the worker gives to the different domains of life [ 1 , 9 , 10 , 16 ]. Despite being theoretically clear, individual differences have been mainly overlooked in the WLB literature. Our study presents strong evidence that the issue must be considered, especially in light of the large presence of women, elderly individuals, people with an LSHPD, singles, and childless couples in the labor force [ 12 , 13 , 14 ].
The current study presents some limitations to consider when interpreting the results. First, the study design was cross-sectional. This limits our confidence in determining the cause and effect in the relationships between the considered variables. We based our considerations on a strong theoretical basis [ 10 , 29 ], but longitudinal studies are needed to replicate our findings.
Second, we adopted an online recruitment procedure that has the problem of a participant selection bias because of the self-selection of participants [ 75 ]. The online recruitment made our sample not representative of the entire working population, but this was beyond our intent. As explained by Landers and Behrend [ 76 ], when the aim is to test theoretically relevant hypotheses, as in our study, sample representativeness is less crucial than when a study aims to estimate the presence and the level of one or more variables in the workers’ population. Of course, our results must be replicated in other samples to increase their generalizability. By comparing our sample characteristics with data representative of the employees in north Italy [ 77 ] (data shown in the online Supplementary Material of this article), it is possible to note some differences in the proportions of job roles, type of occupations, and levels of education that are worth being mentioned. Specifically, like many studies in the WLB literature [ 7 ], in our sample, there was an over-representation of white-collar workers and an under-representation of blue-collar workers. There was an over-representation of clerical support workers and an under-representation of factory workers, skilled laborers, building workers, elementary occupations, and services and sale workers. Finally, the level of education of the sample was higher than in the general population of employees in north Italy. Given these specificities, it will be necessary to test whether the same results hold across samples with an appropriate representation of factory workers, skilled laborers, building workers, elementary occupations, and services and sale workers, as well as employees with a lower level of education.
Third, the measure of the importance that workers gave to the different life domains was based on the instrument of Keeney et al. [ 11 ], but the final instrument was created ad hoc for this study. Therefore, the measurement instrument may have biased the results regarding the importance of the different life domains. However, it should be considered that the questions that were posed to the participants were quite straightforward, and the values obtained for each domain were plausible and not extreme. Even if the instrument was not fine-tuned for exact comparisons, we believe it was appropriate for the aim of the study. The cited limitations warn against an unconditional generalization of the results of this study that, instead, have to be replicated with stronger research designs and other samples of workers.
The health issue has emerged in the organizational literature as a central topic. It no longer pertains to only small groups of workers with severe health problems. The changes in the labor force and of the patient’s role in the health system have made it impossible to consider the management of health as an exclusively nonworking activity. This study shows that workers are aware of the importance of the health domain for achieving a good work–life balance. Our results indicate health as a fundamental domain in the work–life balance dynamic that is as important as the family domain, if not more so. Researchers and practitioners should therefore consider the health domain in addition to the family domain when investigating the work–life balance.
By showing the differences in the effects of the work–family balance and the work–health balance on job satisfaction for different categories of workers, the present study demonstrates the importance of individual differences in the work–life balance process. That is, the balance between work and life is not absolute, but it is related to the importance that is given by the worker to the various domains. This relationship is of prominent importance in the current heterogeneous labor force.
Finally, our results provide evidence, to be replicated, that the importance of the work–health balance is not related to age, as previously believed; but only with the health condition.
Overall, this study is relevant for the work–life balance literature because, to the best of our knowledge, it is the first to consider the work–health balance. Moreover, it is one of the few studies that, through moderation analyses, investigates how the effect of the work–life balance on a relevant outcome changes according to workers’ characteristics.
We thank Martina Raimondi for her valuable assistance during the process of data collection and Zavagno D. for his help in proofreading the final changes made to the manuscript.
The following are available online at https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/3/907/s1 , Table S1: Factor Loadings of the EFA performed for the Harman’s single factor test, Table S2: Percentage of variance explained by the factors, Table S3: Comparison of the characteristics of the sample with those of the population of employees in north Italy.
Conceptualization, A.G. and M.M.; Methodology, A.G. and S.S.; Formal analysis, A.G.; Investigation, A.G. and M.M.; Data curation, A.G., M.M.; Writing—original draft preparation, A.G.; Writing—review and editing, S.S., M.M. and A.G.; Visualization, A.G. and S.S.; Supervision, M.M.; Project administration, M.M. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
This research received no external funding. The APC was funded by the “Fondo di Ateneo” grant, from the University of Milano-Bicocca to M.M.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funder had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.
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Work-life balance -a systematic review
Vilakshan - XIMB Journal of Management
ISSN : 0973-1954
Article publication date: 15 December 2021
Issue publication date: 31 July 2023
This study aims to systematically review the existing literature and develop an understanding of work-life balance (WLB) and its relationship with other forms of work-related behavior and unearth research gaps to recommend future research possibilities and priorities.
The current study attempts to make a detailed survey of the research work done by the pioneers in the domain WLB and its related aspects. A total of 99 research work has been included in this systematic review. The research works have been classified based on the year of publication, geographical distribution, the methodology used and the sector. The various concepts and components that have made significant contributions, factors that influence WLB, importance and implications are discussed.
The paper points to the research gaps and scope for future research in the area of WLB.
The current study uncovered the research gaps regarding the systematic review and classifications based on demography, year of publication, the research method used and sector being studied.
- Work-life balance
- Individual’s ability to balance work-life
- Support system
- WLB policy utilization
- Societal culture
S., T. and S.N., G. (2023), "Work-life balance -a systematic review", Vilakshan - XIMB Journal of Management , Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 258-276. https://doi.org/10.1108/XJM-10-2020-0186
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2021, Thilagavathy S. and Geetha S.N.
Published in Vilakshan – XIMB Journal of Management . Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence maybe seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode
In this technological era, work is becoming demanding with changing nature of work and working patterns (Thilagavathy and Geetha, 2020 ). The proactive, aggressive and demanding nature of business with the intention of reaching the top requires active involvement and comprehensive devotion from the employees, thereby compromising their work-life balance (WLB) (Turanlıgil and Farooq, 2019 ). Research concerning the work-life interface has exploded over the past five decades because of the changing trends in the nature of gender roles, families, work and careers (Powell et al. , 2019 ). Researchers in this domain has published many literature reviews with regard to WLB. It is argued that the study of WLB remains snowed under by a lack of conceptual clarity (Perrigino et al. , 2018 ). Thus, research and theory only partially view the employees’ work-life needs and experiences.
How WLB is conceptualized in the past?
What are the factors that significantly influenced WLB?
In which geographical areas were the WLB studies undertaken?
Which sectors remain unstudied or understudied with regard to WLB?
We systematically conducted the literature review with the following five steps, as shown in Figure 1 . The first step was to review the abstracts from the database like EBSCO, Science Direct, Proquest and JSTOR. The articles from publishers like ELSEVIER, Emerald insight, Springer, Taylor and Francis and Sage were considered. The literature survey was conducted using the search terms WLB, balancing work and family responsibility and domains of work and life between the period 1990 to 2019. This search process led to the identification of 1,230 relevant papers. Inclusion criteria: The scholarly articles concerning WLB published in the English language in journals listed in Scopus, web of science or Australian business deans council (ABDC) were included in this review. Exclusion criteria: The scholarly articles concerning WLB published in languages other than English were not taken into consideration. Similarly, unpublished papers and articles published in journals not listed in Scopus, web of science or ABDC were excluded.
In the second step, we identified the duplicates and removed them. Thus, the total number of papers got reduced to 960. Following this, many papers relating to work-life spillover and work-life conflict were removed, resulting in further reduction of the papers to 416. Subsequently, in the third step, the papers were further filtered based on the language. The paper in the English language from journals listed in Scopus, web of science or ABDC were only considered. This search process resulted in the reduction of related papers to 93. The fourth step in the search process was further supplemented with the organic search for the related articles, leading to 99 papers illustrated in Appendix Table 1 . In the fifth step, an Excel sheet was created to review the paper under different headings and the results are as follows.
Evolution and conceptualization of work-life balance.
WLB concern was raised earlier by the working mothers of the 1960s and 1970s in the UK. Later the issue was given due consideration by the US Government during the mid of 1980. During the 1990s WLB gained adequate recognition as the issue of human resource management in other parts of the world (Bird, 2006 ). The scholarly works concerning WLB have increased, mainly because of the increasing strength of the women workforce, technological innovations, cultural shifts in attitudes toward the relationship between the work and the family and the diversity of family structures (Greenhaus and Kossek, 2014 ). The research works on WLB include several theoretical work-family models. Though the research on WLB has expanded to a greater extend, there are considerable gaps in our knowledge concerning work-family issues (Powell et al. , 2019 ).
Moreover, in studies where WLB and related aspects are explored, researchers have used different operational definitions and measurements for the construct. Kalliath and Brough (2008) have defined WLB as “The individual’s perception that work and non-work activities are compatible and promote growth in accordance with an individual’s current life priorities.” WLB is “a self-defined, self-determined state of well being that a person can reach, or can set as a goal, that allows them to manage effectively multiple responsibilities at work, at home and in their community; it supports physical, emotional, family, and community health, and does so without grief, stress or negative impact” (Canadian Department of Labor, as cited in Waters and Bardoel, 2006 ).
Figure 2 depicts the flowchart of the framework for the literature survey. It clearly shows the factors that have been surveyed in this research article.
The individual factors of WLB include demographic variables, personal demands, family demands, family support and individual ability.
Work-life balance and demography.
WLB has significant variations with demographic variables (Waters and Bardoel, 2006 ). A significant difference was found between age (Powell et al. , 2019 ), gender (Thilagavathy and Geetha, 2020 ) and marital status (Powell et al. , 2019 ) regarding WLB. There is a significant rise in women’s participation in the workforce (Jenkins and Harvey, 2019 ). WLB issues are higher for dual-career couples (Crawford et al. , 2019 ).
Many studies were conducted on WLB with reference to sectors like information technology (IT), information technology enabled services, Banking, Teaching, Academics and Women Employment. A few WLB studies are conducted among services sector employees, hotel and catering services, nurses, doctors, middle-level managers and entrepreneurs. Only very scarce research has been found concerning police, defense, chief executive officers, researchers, lawyers, journalists and road transport.
Work-life balance and personal demands.
High work pressure and high family demand lead to poor physical, psychological and emotional well-being (Jensen and Knudsen, 2017 ), causing concern to employers as this leads to reduced productivity and increased absenteeism (Jackson and Fransman, 2018 ).
Work-life balance and family demands.
An employee spends most of the time commuting (Denstadli et al. , 2017 ) or meeting their work and family responsibilities. Dual career couple in the nuclear family finds it difficult to balance work and life without domestic help (Dumas and Perry-Smith, 2018 ; Srinivasan and Sulur Nachimuthu, 2021 ). Difficulty in a joint family is elderly care (Powell et al. , 2019 ). Thus, family demands negatively predict WLB (Haar et al. , 2019 ).
Work-life balance and family support.
Spouse support enables better WLB (Dumas and Perry-Smith, 2018 ). Family support positively impacted WLB, especially for dual-career couples, with dependent responsibilities (Groysberg and Abrahams, 2014 ).
Work-life balance and individual’s ability.
Though the organizations implement many WLB policies, employees still face the problems of WLB (Dave and Purohit, 2016 ). Employees achieve better well-being through individual coping strategies (Zheng et al. , 2016 ). Individual resources such as stress coping strategy, mindfulness emotional intelligence positively predicted WLB (Kiburz et al. , 2017 ). This indicates the imperative need to improve the individual’s ability to manage work and life.
Organizational factors are those relating to organization design in terms of framing policies, rules and regulations for administering employees and dealing with their various activities regarding WLB ( Kar and Misra, 2013 ). In this review, organizational factors and their impact on the WLB of the employee have been dealt with in detail.
Work-life balance and organizational work-life policies.
The organization provides a variety of WLB policies (Jenkins and Harvey, 2019 ). Employee-friendly policies positively influenced WLB ( Berg et al. , 2003 ). Further, only a few IT industries provided Flexi timing, work from home and crèches facilities (Downes and Koekemoer, 2012 ). According to Galea et al. (2014) , industry-specific nuance exists.
Work-life balance and organizational demands.
Organizations expect employees to multi-task, causing role overload (Bacharach et al. , 1991 ). The increasing intensity of work and tight deadlines negatively influenced WLB (Allan et al. , 1999 ). The shorter time boundaries make it challenging to balance professional and family life (Jenkins and Harvey, 2019 ). Job demands negatively predicted WLB (Haar et al. , 2019 ).
Work-life balance and working hours.
Work does vacuum up a greater portion of the personal hours (Haar et al. , 2019 ). This causes some important aspects of their lives to be depleted, undernourished or ignored (Hughes et al. , 2018 ). Thus, employees find less time for “quality” family life (Jenkins and Harvey, 2019 ).
Work-life balance and productivity.
Organizational productivity is enhanced by the synergies of work-family practices and work-team design (Johari et al. , 2018 ). Enhanced WLB leads to increased employee productivity (Jackson and Fransman, 2018 ).
Work-life balance and burnout.
WLB is significantly influenced by work exhaustion (burnout). Negative psychological experience arising from job stress is defined as burnout (Ratlif, 1988). Increased work and non-work demands contribute to occupational burnout and, in turn, negatively predict WLB and employee well-being (Jones et al. , 2019 ).
Work-life balance and support system.
Support from Colleagues, supervisors and the head of institutions positively predicted WLB (Ehrhardt and Ragins, 2019 ; Yadav and Sharma, 2021 ). Family-supportive organization policy positively influenced WLB (Haar and Roche, 2010 ).
Work-life balance and employee perception.
The employee’s perception regarding their job, work environment, supervision and organization positively influenced WLB (Fontinha et al. , 2019 ). Employees’ awareness concerning the existence of WLB policies is necessary to appreciate it (Matthews et al. , 2014). The employee’s perception of the need for WLB policies differs with respect to their background (Kiburz et al. , 2017 ).
Work-life balance and job autonomy.
Job autonomy is expressed as the extent of freedom the employee has in their work and working pattern ( Bailey, 1993 ). According to Ahuja and Thatcher (2005) , autonomy and flexibility enable employees to balance competing demands of work-life. Job autonomy will enhance WLB (Johari et al. , 2018 ).
Work-life balance and job satisfaction.
Job satisfaction is the driving force for task accomplishment and employees’ intention to stay (Brough et al. , 2014 ). Employees’ positive perception concerning their job enhances job satisfaction (Singh et al. , 2020 ; Yadav and Sharma, 2021 ). WLB and job satisfaction are positively correlated (Jackson and Fransman, 2018 ).
Work-life balance and organizational commitment.
Alvesson (2002) describes organizational commitment as a mutual and fair social exchange. WLB positively predicted organizational commitment (Emre and De Spiegeleare, 2019 ). Work-life policies offered by an organization lead to increased loyalty and commitment (Callan, 2008 ).
Work-life balance and work-life balance policy utilization.
The utilization of WLB policies (Adame-Sánchez et al. , 2018 ) helps meet job and family demands. Despite the availability of WLB policies, their actual adoption is rather small (Waters and Bardoel, 2006 ) and often lag behind implementation (Adame-Sánchez et al. , 2018 ).
Work-life balance and organizational culture.
Employees perceive WLB policy utilization may badly reflect their performance appraisal and promotion (Bourdeau et al. , 2019 ). Hence, seldom use the WLB policies (Dave and Purohit, 2016 ). The perception of the organization culture as isolated, unfriendly and unaccommodating (Fontinha et al. , 2017 ); a lack of supervisor and manager support and a lack of communication and education about WLB strategies (Jenkins and Harvey, 2019 ). This leads to counterproductive work behavior and work-family backlash (Alexandra, 2014 ). As a result, growing evidence suggests a dark side to WLB policies, but these findings remain scattered and unorganized (Perrigino et al. , 2018 ). Organizational culture significantly affects WLB policy utilization (Callan, 2008 ; Dave and Purohit, 2016 ).
Societal changes that have taken place globally and locally have impacted the individual’s lifestyle. In this modern techno world, a diversified workforce resulting from demographic shifts and communication technology results in blurring of boundaries between work and personal life (Kalliath and Brough, 2008 ).
Work-life balance and societal demands.
Being members of society, mandates employee’s participation in social events. But in the current scenario, this is witnessing a downward trend. The employee often comes across issues of inability to meet the expectation of friends, relatives and society because of increased work pressure. Societal demands significantly predicted WLB (Mushfiqur et al. , 2018 ).
Work-life balance and societal culture.
Societal culture has a strong influence on WLB policy utilization and work and non-work self-efficacy. Specifically, collectivism, power distance and gendered norms had a strong and consistent impact on WLB Policy utilization by employees (Brown et al. , 2019 ). Women’s aspiration to achieve WLB is frequently frustrated by patriarchal norms deep-rooted in the culture (Mushfiqur et al. , 2018 ).
Work-life balance and societal support.
WLB was significantly predicted by support from neighbors, friends and community members (Mushfiqur et al. , 2018 ). Sometimes employees need friend’s viewpoints to get a new perspective on a problem or make a tough decision (Dhanya and Kinslin, 2016 ). Community support is an imperative indicator of WLB ( Phillips et al. , 2016 ).
Analyzes and results
Article distribution based on year of publication.
The WLB studies included for this review were between the periods of 1990–2019. Only a few studies were published in the initial period. A maximum of 44 papers was published during 2016–2019. Out of which, 17 studies were published during the year 2019. In the years 2018, 2017 and 2016 a total of 12, 7 and 8 studies were published, respectively. The details of the article distribution over the years illustrate a rising trend, as shown in Figure 3 .
Papers considered for this review were taken globally, including the research works from 26 countries. American and European countries contributed to a maximum of 60% of the publications regarding WLB research. Figure 4 illustrates the contribution of different countries toward the WLB research.
The review included 99 indexed research work contributed by more than 70 authors published in 69 journals. The contribution worth mentioning was from authors like Allen T.D, Biron M, Greenhaus J. H, Haar J.M, Jensen M.T, Kalliath T and Mc Carthy A. The basic categorization revealed that the geographical distribution considered for this review was from 26 different countries, as shown in Figure 4 . The research was conducted in (but not limited to) countries like Africa, Australia, Canada, China, India, Israel, The Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, Sweden, Turkey, the USA and the UK. American and European countries together contributed to the maximum of 60% of publications. Further, the categorization uncovered that 7 out of the 99 journals contributed to 30% of the WLB papers considered for this review, clearly illustrated in Table 1 .
Methodology-based categorization of papers
The basic information like research methods, sources of data, the proportion of papers using specific methodologies were considered for methodology-based categorization. The categorization revealed that 27 out of 99 papers reviewed were conceptual and the remaining 72 papers were empirical. The empirical papers used descriptive, exploratory, explanatory or experimental research designs. Further, categorization based on the data collection method revealed that 69 papers used the primary data collection method. Additionally, classification uncovered that 57 papers used the quantitative method, whereas 11 papers used the qualitative approach and four used the mixed method. The most prominent primary method used for data collection was the questionnaire method with 58 papers, while the remaining 20 papers used interview (10), case study (5), experimental studies (3), daily dairy (1) or panel discussion (1).
Sector-based categorization of papers
The sector-based categorization of papers revealed that 41.6% (30 papers) of research work was carried out in service sectors. This is followed by 40.2% (29 papers) research in the general public. While one paper was found in the manufacturing sector, the remaining nine papers focused on managers, women, the defense sector, police and the public sector, the details of which are showcased in Table 2 .
The literature survey results demonstrated that the impact of employee education and experience on their WLB had not been examined.
The literature survey has uncovered that the relationship between income and WLB has not been explored.
The influence of domestic help on WLB has not been investigated.
Much of the research work has been carried out in developed countries like the US, UK, European countries and Australia. In contrast, very scarce research works have been found in developing countries and underdeveloped countries.
Not much work has been done in WLB regarding service sectors like fire-fighters, transport services like drivers, railway employees, pilots, air hostesses, power supply department and unorganized sectors.
A review of the relevant literature uncovered that studies concerning the individual’s ability to balance work and life are limited. The individual’s ability, along with WLB policies, considerably improved WLB. Individual strategies are the important ones that need investigation rather than workplace practices.
Kibur z et al . (2017) addressed the ongoing need for experimental, intervention-based design in work-family research. There are so far very scares experimental studies conducted with regard to WLB.
A very few studies explored the impact of the WLB policies after the implementation.
Studies concerning the organizational culture, psychological climate and WLB policy utilizations require investigation.
Organizational climates influence on the various factors that predict WLB needs exploration.
The impact of the societal factors on WLB is not explored much.
Similarly, the influence of societal culture (societal beliefs, societal norms and values systems) on WLB is not investigated.
Discussion and conclusion
The current research work aspires to conduct a systematic review to unearth the research gaps, and propose direction for future studies. For this purpose, literature with regard to WLB was systematically surveyed from 1990 to 2019. This led to identifying 99 scientific research papers from index journals listed in Scopus, the web of science or the ABDC list. Only papers in the English language were considered. The review section elaborated on the evolution and conceptualization of WLB. Moreover, the literature review discussed in detail the relationship between WLB and other related variables. Further, the research works were classified based on the fundamental information revealed that a maximum of 44 papers was published during the year 2016–2019. The geographical distribution revealed that a maximum of research publications concerning WLB was from American and European countries. Further, the basic classification revealed that 7 out of the 69 journals contributed to 30% of the WLB papers considered for this review. The methodology-based classification unearthed the fact that 73% of the papers were empirical studies. Additionally, the categorization uncovered that 79% ( n = 57) of papers used quantitative methods dominated by survey method of data collection. Sector-based categorization made known the fact that a maximum of 41.6% of research work was carried out in the service sector. The research gaps were uncovered based on the systematic literature review and classifications and proposed future research directions.
We acknowledge that there is a possibility of missing out a few papers unintentionally, which may not be included in this review. Further, papers in the English language were only considered. Thus, the papers in other languages were not included in this systematic review which is one of the limitations of this research work.
The discussion reveals the importance and essentiality of the individual’s ability to balance work and life. Consequently, the researchers have proposed future research directions exploring the relationship between the variables. WLB is an important area of research; thus, the proposed research directions are of importance to academicians. The review’s finding demonstrates that there are very scarce studies on the individual’s ability to balance work and life. This leaves a lot of scopes for researchers to do continuous investigation in this area. Hence, it is essential to conduct more research on developing individuals’ ability to balance work and life. There are a few experimental studies conducted so far in WLB. Future experimental studies can be undertaken to enhance the individual’s ability to balance work and life.
Flow chart of the steps in systematic review process
Framework for the literature review
Distribution of papers based on year of publication
Geographical distribution of papers across countries
Table 1 List of papers included in the review
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Funding: This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Conflict of interest: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Data availability: The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author.
Compliance of ethical standard statement: The results reported in this manuscript were conducted in accordance with general ethical guidelines in psychology.
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The Palgrave Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility pp 1–23 Cite as
Work-Life Balance and Well-Being at Work
Employees’ Perspective to Promote a Psychologically Healthy Workplace
- Nicole Cvenkel 3
- Living reference work entry
- First Online: 17 July 2020
Work-life balance is growing to be an issue of focus for organizational leaders, employees, HR professionals, and wellness coordinators as individuals and the organization benefit from having health and well-being when work-life balance is embraced strategically, which in turn impacts on productivity and performance. The purpose of this chapter and empirical research study is to explore managerial and nonmanagerial employees’ perspectives that relate to work-life balance from the perspective of work-family conflicts, health and well-being initiatives to promote work-life balance satisfaction, and the organization’s implementation of work-life balance (aka family supportive or family-friendly policies) to promote a more psychologically healthy workplace. A qualitative methodological approach was adopted, and data was collected through 36 semi-structured interviews and 2 focus groups with managerial and nonmanagerial employees from diverse occupational groups. The research found that work-life conflicts that affect employees work-life balance includes limited resources, workplace stress, poor relationships, substance abuse, and other external factors. Organizational family-friendly work-life balance initiatives that were found to help employee health and well-being include fun and family-friendly activities, counselling, periodic breaks, trust, and confidentiality. Organizational health and well-being policy initiatives that promote work-life balance satisfaction consist of company group health plan, employee assistance program (EAP), gym membership, flexible working arrangements, wellness strategies, and fairness at work. The originality and value of this research reveal an important interface with employees’ work-life balance strategies and organizational work-life balance policies and programs in addressing overall employee health and well-being. The results have implications for organizational delivery of work-life balance policies and practices, corporate social responsibility, and other human resource management practices to support employees’ work-life balance, health, and well-being.
- Work-Life Balance
- Well-Being at Work
- Work-Life Conflicts
- Psychologically Healthy Workplace
- Human Resource Management
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Family-Friendly Policies
- Workplace Stress
- Mental Health in the workplace
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution .
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My Work & Well-Being Consulting Inc, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada
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Correspondence to Nicole Cvenkel .
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De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
Prof. David Crowther
Social Responsibility Research Network, Derby, UK
Dr. Shahla Seifi
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University of Derby, Derby, UK
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Cvenkel, N. (2020). Work-Life Balance and Well-Being at Work. In: Crowther, D., Seifi, S. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility . Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22438-7_19-1
DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-22438-7_19-1
Received : 02 May 2020
Accepted : 13 May 2020
Published : 17 July 2020
Publisher Name : Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
Print ISBN : 978-3-030-22438-7
Online ISBN : 978-3-030-22438-7
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Work-Life Balance: What It Is and 5 Ways to Improve Yours
Learn more about balancing your work life and personal life to create a healthier overall experience.
Work-life balance is typically defined as the amount of time you spend doing your job versus the amount of time you spend with loved ones or pursuing personal interests and hobbies [ 1 ]. When work demands more of your time or attention, you'll have less time to handle your other responsibilities or passions.
Many people want to achieve a greater balance between their work life and their personal life so that work does not take up the vast majority of their time. However, the term itself can be misleading because our careers and personal lives don't always exist in separate spheres.
In response, work-life integration —or the synergistic blending of our personal and professional responsibilities—has become an increasingly popular concept [ 2 ]. From this perspective, work is simply one aspect of our lives, which needs to be considered alongside other important concerns, such as our home and family lives, our community, and our personal well-being. Rather than resembling a scale with two competing sides, work-life integration more resembles a Venn diagram of overlapping interests.
Whatever term you prefer to use, the reality is that both describe attempts to manage our various responsibilities and goals. While work-life integration might give you a more holistic framework, work-life balance might emphasize a much-needed sense of division for those who find work creeping into their personal lives.
What does work-life balance look like?
The unique nature of each of our lives and our fluctuating responsibilities means that work-life balance and work-life integration look different for everyone. It's a constant negotiation about how—and where—you spend your time. In striving for greater work-life balance, you get to determine your priorities, whether they're related to your work or personal life.
Some examples include:
A stay-at-home parent who tackles work assignments while their newborn is napping.
A student who prioritizes spending time with their friends rather than rushing ahead to study for an upcoming midterm exam.
A lawyer who consciously unplugs when on vacation.
A new employee who dedicates extra time to tasks and responsibilities.
A manager who establishes communications boundaries and won't respond to emails after 6 p.m.
An employee who crafts their schedule to work specific days so that they can take care of their elderly parents
Why work-life balance is important
Improving your work-life balance can potentially improve your overall well-being, including your physical, emotional, and mental health. Studies have found that working long hours can lead to such serious health issues as “impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory, and heart disease” [ 3 ]. Unfortunately, as these conditions arise they can also exacerbate our work-life issues, leading to burnout and other negative repercussions.
While employers and employees might associate long working hours with increased productivity, many researchers say otherwise. A 2014 study, for example, found that after workers hit a certain number of hours, their productivity began to decrease as the potential for mistakes and injuries increased [ 4 ]. Achieving a healthy work-life balance, therefore, can not only potentially reduce stress and improve emotional states but also increase overall productivity and employers’ bottom line.
5 ways to improve your work-life balance
Below, we've compiled tips for improving your work-life balance [ 5 ]. You can begin trying out one at a time or implementing a few at once. Remember that finding an approach that works for you is a process and will take time.
1. Pause and evaluate
Taking time out to understand how the various parts of your life are impacting one another is a necessary step in developing a new work-life integration that serves your needs. Pause and consider your current work-life situation; ask yourself how you feel. Some questions you might reflect on include:
Am I spending enough quality time doing what I really want?
Am I committing enough time and energy to people or things that are meaningful to me?
Do I still feel aligned to my professional or personal goals? Why or why not?
Where do I feel the most stuck? What is it about this situation that makes me feel that way?
As you think through these complex personal questions, journaling your thoughts and feelings can be a good way to identify the areas you feel need the biggest adjustments. Ultimately, these questions should help you gain greater clarity on your current situation.
2. Assess your priorities
Once you have a better sense of what you'd like to adjust, you'll want to begin identifying what you want to prioritize. Some questions you might ask yourself include:
What really matters to me and am I doing enough of it?
Where can I make compromises? Where can’t I? Where have I been making too many compromises?
What are some alternative actions I can take to ensure I am devoting enough time and energy to my goals and relationships?
Where can I integrate my responsibilities so I honor more than one at the same time?
3. Time management
Now that you know what your priorities are—whether that's spending more time at work to aim for a promotion or cutting back on after-hours emails by establishing boundaries—it's important to figure out how to better manage your time.
Review how you currently spend your time and look for ways to adjust your schedule where possible. You can "chunk" your time as a way to focus on one area at a time, or use a matrix system to establish your priorities when new tasks pop up unexpectedly. Learn more about how to manage your time to boost your productivity and well-being.
4. Establish boundaries
Establishing boundaries is a crucial part of time management. And, communicating those boundaries will be equally important. If you can no longer respond to emails promptly after hours because you're with your family, your team will need to know.
Work boundaries fall into one of three categories—physical, emotional, or time. Start by setting small boundaries and expand from there. Learn more about how to set better boundaries at work .
5. Reflect, refine, repeat
Whatever actions you decide are needed to create a good work-life balance, though, you should be conscious of the fact that you will likely need to continue to refine it over time. Big life changes can take time, so reflecting on your approach and refining it periodically will likely be integral parts of the process.
Work-life balance: Next steps
If you would like to learn more about what you can do to achieve a healthy work-life balance, you might consider taking a flexible online course to identify the best approach for you. In some cases, you might even decide that a career change is the best option and, consequently, prepare for your new job by achieving a Professional Certificate .
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Cambridge Dictionary. “ Work-life balance, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/work-life-balance.” Accessed January 6, 2023.
US Chamber of Commerce. “ Work-Life Integration is the New Work-Life Balance. Is Your Team Ready? , https://www.uschamber.com/co/grow/thrive/work-life-integration-vs-work-life-balance.” Accessed January 6, 2023.
Harvard Business Review. “ The Research is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and Companies , https://hbr.org/2015/08/the-research-is-clear-long-hours-backfire-for-people-and-for-companies.” Accessed January 6, 2023.
IZA. “ The Productivity of Working Hours , https://ftp.iza.org/dp8129.pdf.” Accessed January 6, 2023.
HBR. “ Work-Life Balance Is a Cycle, Not an Achievement , https://hbr.org/2021/01/work-life-balance-is-a-cycle-not-an-achievement.” Accessed January 6, 2023.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
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Why Work-Life Balance Is So Important—and How to Nail It
When the workday is over, it should really be over
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change.
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- What Do We Mean When We Say "Work-Life Balance"?
How Can I Tell If I Have a Healthy Work-Life Balance?
Can i request a healthier work-life balance (if so, how), how to improve your work-life balance.
Does it ever feel like your job is taking over your life? Or do you seem to have so many personal obligations that you can’t give 100% at work? We know we need work-life balance, but finding harmony between your professional and personal life isn't always as easy as it sounds.
Work plays a major role in our lives. It takes up much of our waking hours during the traditional workweek. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that we are also taking care of the areas of our lives that keep us healthy and happy.
Professional fulfillment can be a part of that, for sure. But well-being also involves all of the things outside of work that makes your life worthwhile, including your family, hobbies, health, and relationships (not to mention sleep, exercise, balanced meals, and relaxation).
At a Glance
Work-life balance generally refers to a balance between your personal and work life. The goal is to strive to keep that balance so that we are managing stress and burnout by fulfilling other areas of our lives that aren't swallowed up by work. Remember: That "balance" may shift at times and is never really a 50/50 split. We can accept that there may not ever be a balance, but we can strive to feel more grounded and balanced by making a personalized plan, exploring ways to improve that balance with our manager, taking breaks, and creating set boundaries between our personal vs. professional duties. If we're in a position to change jobs and our conversations with our manager are unsuccessful, we could also explore other opportunities that offer more flexibility.
What Do We Mean When We Say "Work-Life Balance"?
Work-life balance is usually defined as an equilibrium between your professional and personal life. When you keep things balanced, no single element of your life dominates and overwhelms the others.
"Work-life balance is the concept that you effectively manage your professional life and responsibilities so that you are productive and successful at work while ensuring you have plenty of dedicated time to live a fulfilling, grounded, personal life," says Abbey Sangmeister, MS.Ed, LPC, ACS .
That’s a general definition of the concept, but "work-life" balance can also mean different things to different people. Researchers suggest that this is because this balance is all about individual perception. It's something you feel when your work and non-work activities are in harmony and are compatible with your current goals and priorities.
The things that make your own work-life situation feel manageable may differ depending on your needs and your situation.
For working parents, it often means finding a way to juggle the responsibilities of a career while still finding time for a fulfilling family life. With rising numbers of older workers, work-life balance may focus more on staying active in the workforce while finding ways to manage health issues or disabilities.
Major shifts in how we work have also helped change the definition of work-life balance for many people. For many people, work-life balance meant clocking out at 5 p.m. and not thinking about work until you showed up at the office at 9 a.m. the next day.
Being tethered to an office is a thing of the past for many folks. It makes sense that, for many of us, the option for flexible or remote work is an essential part of work-life balance. This means that work-life balance is much more personal and nuanced these days–but it also makes finding a balance harder than ever before.
Many times people think balance is a 50/50 split but that is not always the case. For each person, the balance may look different and will shift during different seasons of their life. The important part of having balance is that the person does not feel that one area of life is draining and depleting the other.
What Work-Life Balance Is Not
Work-life balance isn’t about slacking off, skipping work, or putting in less effort . Obviously, we all have our good and bad days, but there are ways to manage the days we’re feeling a little "off" that don’t involve hurting yourself professionally.
Procrastinating or shirking your responsibilities aren’t effective ways to cope. You might feel a little better for a bit, but it ultimately creates more problems in the future. Work piles up, deadlines fly by, and your employer might start to notice that you’re not putting in your best effort.
The goal is to find a harmonious balance that works for you, between the demands on your time and energy, without neglecting important areas of your life.
You don’t want to ignore your personal life in favor of your job, but you also shouldn’t deal with stress by neglecting your workplace duties.
So how exactly can you tell if you have a healthy work-life balance? It can look a little different for everyone (since we all have different work, family, and relationship situations).
"Lack of regular overwhelm and frustration are good signs that one does have good work-life balance. People who struggle with the Sunday scaries and dread or have a case of [the] Mondays more times than not are most likely struggling with an imbalance," Sangmeister suggests.
The following are a few signs that you’re striking a good balance between your job and other areas of your life:
- You don't feel like the demands of your work roles and personal obligations are constantly in conflict
- You're able to meet your deadlines at work without having to work overtime
- You're getting plenty of sleep at night and eating a healthy, balanced diet
- You don't spend the end of your weekend consumed by the " Sunday Scaries "
- You have plenty of time to relax and enjoy your hobbies
- You feel like you're spending enough time with family and friends
- You don't worry about your job when you're not at work
- You feel like you're being productive at work and making progress toward your professional goals, but you don't feel like your whole identity hinges on your job
- You're taking your vacation days (and using your sick days when you need them)
- You're taking advantage of any work-life benefits your employer offers, like gym memberships, flexible scheduling, and childcare vouchers
Remember that work-life balance isn't something you can just check off your to-do list. It’s only natural that the demands of your job and outside life shift and change over time. That means that what you need to keep the balance will change over time.
"With a good work-life balance, a person is less likely to be rigid with their schedule," Sangmeister says. "Instead, they are able to be flexible and can adapt to include demands that may come up professionally or personally without disrupting the feeling of balance."
To figure out if you have a good work-life balance, think about what's most important to you. What helps you to feel your best? Are you taking care of yourself personally and professionally? Are you managing your stress and watching for signs of burnout?
If you're struggling to find a balance between work and the rest of your life, it might be time to have a conversation with your supervisor. This includes work-life benefits like hybrid, flexible, or remote work. Flextime, alternative work schedules, child care options, and access to mental health services are important work-life benefits employers offer to attract employees.
There are things that your employer can do to help foster a better work-life balance. It's something that benefits them as well. Research has shown that workers with better work-life balance are more satisfied with their jobs , perform better at work, and are more committed to their organizations.
A conversation with your employer might help you find ways to work together to make things more manageable. This might involve reprioritizing your tasks, delegating some work to others, hiring additional help, or allowing you to work remotely when needed.
Unfortunately, these aren't always options, depending on the nature of your profession or your role in the workplace. In many cases, making a change hinges on how you approach your job. It might mean changing your priorities, delegating tasks at home, or letting your colleagues know you can no longer respond to work-related problems during your downtime.
It's also important to be aware of your legal rights. If you need certain accommodations because you are pregnant or have a disability, these needs may be protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
This includes protections if you are dealing with depression , anxiety , or another mental health condition. (You will need to have your condition diagnosed by your doctor, and you may need to provide documentation for your employer when you request an accommodation.)
How to Ask Your Boss for Better Work-Life Balance
Schedule a time to talk to your employer and tell them what you plan to discuss. During your meeting, explain your problem, and share your ideas for how you think you can work together to resolve the issue.
If you've been overwhelmed by your workload and putting in too many hours, you might suggest redistributing some of your tasks to other team members to help lighten the load.
Remember to stay professional and show respect for your employer's needs. Reiterate your commitment, and explain that you think finding a better balance will help you feel more productive and satisfied with your job.
So what’s next if you feel like your work-life balance is in shambles? It's time to take a step back, figure out what is wrong, and make a plan to fix it. Your health literally depends on it.
Many studies have demonstrated that people who have more conflict between their work and non-work life are more likely to experience health problems, mental health conditions, and poor overall health outcomes.
Make a Plan
Bringing more balance to your life starts with figuring out what’s causing the problem in the first place. Are your work hours too long? Or are work obligations encroaching on your off-time? Do you feel like you have no control over your schedule? Or are you taking on too many demands and need some relief?
Creating a personalized plan for how you are going to tackle your work-life balance can help you figure out what's wrong and which strategies will be most effective .
Create Divisions Between Your Work and Non-Work Life
Flexible and remote work can be a great way to promote balance in your life, but it often blurs the lines between your personal and professional life. You may find yourself working longer than normal hours, catching up on work when you should be relaxing, or staying up late to answer those last few emails you forgot to send earlier.
The problem is that, over time, there is a distinct lack of balance. Because you never feel like you have any mental space from your job, it starts to feel like you’re always working. Your home life becomes your work life.
If you are fully or partially remote, there are things you can do to help promote better work-life balance:
- Create a schedule : Figure out which hours you can work during the day and stick with it. Creating a regular schedule can help you feel more productive. “ Start your mornings off with routines and rituals that are grounded. If you start your day sprinting the moment your alarm goes off, that energy carries through the day and leads to burnout,” Sangmeister says.
- Get ready for work : While you don't need to wear a suit and tie to work from your home office (unless you want to), consider wearing something other than your favorite 'lounging around the house' outfit. Dressing professionally when you are working can help create a mental division between your job and your home life.
- Let other people know when you're offline : Use different communication tools to let others know when you are offline. For example, put your work hours on your Google Calendar, set your Slack availability to prevent notifications during your off-time, and set up out-of-office emails when you are on vacation.
- Plan activities during your non-work hours : Give yourself things to look forward to once you are off work. It might involve getting together with friends, but it can be as simple as preparing a nice meal and settling in to stream an episode of a series you’re watching.
Taking breaks is also essential. This includes mini-breaks during the work day and periodic days off or vacations.
"Taking an intentional day off periodically is a great way to improve work-life balance,” Sangmeister explains. "On these intentional days off, don’t just tackle a to-do list and chores; instead, work on personal development and mindfulness."
She also recommends mini-vacations and tech-free weekends . Even scheduling a little tech-free time each day can be helpful.
Don't Work When You're Not at Work
It might sound obvious (and simple), but it can be harder to stick with than you might expect. When your workday is over, it needs to be over. That means no checking work emails, looking at notifications, or logging in to finish "one last thing."
Even if all you're doing is reading your messages that you plan to work on tomorrow, you're letting your work interfere with your personal time. It creates pressure and stress that distracts you from feeling fully relaxed or completely present during non-work hours.
Set boundaries around the hours you work and create no work zones. That means even when you have “free time,” you aren’t going to open your phone or laptop to do work at certain times or in certain places.
Know What Burnout Looks Like
When your work-life balance is seriously screwed up (i.e., you're spending every waking moment working, thinking about work, stressing about work, or dreading work), there's a good chance you're headed for burnout .
Being burned out is more than just being tired and unmotivated—it means you've reached a state where you feel so exhausted and empty that you can hardly cope with daily life, let alone care about work.
Signs of burnout can be physical, such as headaches, high blood pressure, stomach aches, and frequent illness. But they are also mental and include problems sleeping, depressed moods, loss of interest, fatigue, problems concentrating, and apathy .
If you’ve reached this point, it means you need to make serious changes to your work environment. That might mean taking time off or switching to a different position. Sometimes, it might even mean thinking about changing jobs altogether.
Consider Changing Jobs
So you’ve had a conversation (or more than one) with your boss, but they are refusing to offer any flexibility to make any changes that will help you feel better about your relationship with your job–what now?
If poor work-life balance is taking a toll on your well-being and isn't something you can solve on your own or by working with your employer, it might be time to consider taking a more serious step–changing your job altogether.
Wait until you’ve had time to consider the problem and your options. Spend some time looking at other positions in your field (or even other fields if you’re ready to make a more significant change). Look at job review sites to see what other current and past employees are saying to learn more about what you might find in terms of work-life balance if you take a job with another company.
Finding a job you truly love can be a great way to feel more positively about the balance between your work and your outside life.
What This Means For You
Finding that perfect balance between your work and your life can seem like performing a tightrope act. If you're struggling, it might be worth talking to your boss about how they can help support your well-being (and foster greater job satisfaction and loyalty). Remember: the goal is not to have a 50/50 balance—it's about finding a balance that feels good to you and, most importantly, works for you.
Taking steps to manage your time and boundaries is also essential. Make time for family, friends, hobbies, health, and self-care—the things that help you feel personally fulfilled outside of work. "Schedule, schedule, schedule," Sangmeister recommends. "Make these appointments just as important as any work meeting."
Gragnano A, Simbula S, Miglioretti M. Work-life balance: Weighing the importance of work-family and work-health balance . Int J Environ Res Public Health . 2020;17(3):907. doi:10.3390/ijerph17030907
Wong KP, Lee FCH, Teh PL, Chan AHS. The interplay of socioecological determinants of work-life balance, subjective wellbeing and employee wellbeing . Int J Environ Res Public Health . 2021;18(9):4525. doi:10.3390/ijerph18094525
Sirgy MJ, Lee D-J. Work-life balance: An integrative review . Appl Res Qual Life . 2018;13:229–254. doi: 10.1007/s11482-017-9509-8
Borowiec AA, Drygas W. Work-life balance and mental and physical health among Warsaw specialists, managers and entrepreneurs . Int J Environ Res Public Health . 2022;20(1):492. doi:10.3390/ijerph20010492
By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
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Career Guide 14 March 2019
Achieving work life balance in science
Taking time away from work is an essential part of maintaining good mental health, but researchers often find it difficult to step out of the lab. Often, science’s cut-throat culture and high pressure environment makes researchers feel that they should stay late and arrive earlier. Here’s your guide to maintaining a healthy balance.
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Working time around the world
Flexible working hours can benefit work-life balance, businesses and productivity
According to a new ILO report, innovative working time arrangements, such as those introduced during the COVID-19 crisis, can bring benefits for economies, businesses and workers, including greater productivity and improved work-life balance.
There is a substantial amount of evidence that work–life balance policies provide significant benefits to enterprises, supporting the argument that such policies are a ‘win-win’ for both employers and employees,” the report states.
- Working-time laws and regulations on maximum daily hours of work and statutory rest periods are achievements that contribute to the long-term health and well-being of a society and must not be put at risk.
- Longer hours of work are generally associated with lower unit labour productivity, while shorter hours of work are linked with higher productivity.
- Countries should make use of the experiences they developed with working-time reduction and flexibility during the COVID-19 crisis. Inclusive short-time work schemes with the highest possible allowances not only maintain employment but also sustain purchasing power and create the possibility of cushioning the effects of economic crises.
- Public policy responses are needed to promote reductions in hours of work in many countries, to promote both a healthy work-life balance and improved productivity.
- Teleworking helps maintain employment and creates new scope for employee autonomy. However, these and other types of flexible working arrangements need regulating, to contain their potential negative effects, through policies such as what is often called a “right to disconnect” from work.
Gen Z: The workers who want it all
Work-life balance, fair pay and value alignment: today’s youngest workers want it all – and are willing to walk away if they don’t get it.
Clarissa Holleman had always felt like teaching was her calling. But just more than a year into her first job caring for children with special needs, the 24-year-old from Hinesville, Georgia, US, was burnt out from what she calls the “high stakes” and “compassion fatigue”. She had “no life” of her own outside work, and was struggling to see a future within the education field.
When Holleman started teaching in July 2020, all her classes were remote due to the pandemic. She felt both powerless and ill-supported to help the children she was caring for. “That kind of work environment is just crazy; you have no energy left at the end of the day,” says Holleman. On top of the anxiety and exhaustion she was experiencing, there were financial issues: she wasn’t being paid during school holidays. Holleman increasingly felt that the toll the job was taking on her life was no longer worth the sense of purpose it offered.
So, in January 2022, after spending months upskilling via free LinkedIn courses, Holleman quit what had been her “dream career”. She’s now a tech recruiter at a millennial-run company, and although she doesn’t identify with her work as much anymore, she prefers it that way. Holleman has unlimited (and culturally permitted) paid time off, great work-life balance that allows for established hobbies and a better salary. “I definitely see myself staying there really long term,” she says.
For decades, the cultural mandate in many Western countries has been hustle hard for your employer, and you’ll be rewarded. If the striving is for a job you love, the pay will be satisfaction. And if the job involves climbing the rungs of a corporate ladder, the pay will be, well, big bucks. Though different in motivation, both paths share the same narrative. As a result, work has become an obsession, an identity even ; something workers traditionally felt lucky to have.
But increasingly, Generation Z workers like Holleman – those born between 1997 and 2012 – are insisting we write a new script for work. Having observed older workers experience burnout , time poverty and economic insecurity at the grindstone, they’re demanding more from workplaces: bigger pay cheques, more time off, the flexibility to work remotely and greater social and environmental responsibility . Many of these values were m illennial preferences , but for Gen Zers, they’ve become expectations – and they’re willing to walk away from employers if their needs aren’t met.
As a result of their war on work, Gen Zers have been dubbed entitled or anti-capitalist . Yet they’re not; Gen Zers want it all – and are willing to work hard for the right employer. But if the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, they’ll leave and find other ways to make ends meet. Many have argued they’re simply a generation responding to the social movements of their time, and using lessons hard won by older workers to inform their career choices. And some even think the youngest in the labour force have potential to bring meaningful change to the workplace along the way.
‘Not for me’
While there are, of course, Gen Zers aspiring to all sorts of lives, the top priority for this cohort of workers as a whole is higher pay , according to a 2022 survey by US job site CareerBuilder. That goes for Gen Zers who haven’t yet entered the workforce, too: 77% of college seniors in a 2020 job-seeker survey by recruitment platform RippleMatch said compensation would be the number one factor when evaluating offers.
This represents a significant shift in values compared to millennials. According to a 2011 global survey by professional services network PwC, millennials entering the workplace valued career progression and personal development over financial reward. They were more attracted to employers who could help them climb their ladder of choice than those with the deepest pockets.
Still, it makes sense that wages are in sharper focus now, says CareerBuilder CEO Susan Arthur. Gen Z is entering a workforce and economic landscape that is very different to before, she says. While young workers across generations tend to struggle financially early on in their careers, Gen Z faces particularly acute stressors , especially as rising inflation outpaces salary growth .
The pandemic has intensified economic precarity for all workers. Half of American Gen Zers who are old enough to work witnessed someone in their household lose a job or take a pay cut due to the Covid-19 outbreak, according to the Pew Research Center. They’ve also watched older generations go through multiple recessions and end up with huge amounts of debt, says Elizabeth Michelle, a London-based psychologist and workplace engagement consultant. “So, Gen Z are looking at all of that and thinking, ‘Not for me; I’m not going to do that’.”
But as much emphasis as there is on pay, Gen Zers are also looking to grow their careers at certain kinds of organisations. Mia Jones, a 23-year-old proposal writer from California, dreams of a workplace that’s “modern, transparent and entrepreneurial”. She values work-life balance, mental health benefits, the flexibility to work when and where she wants and companies that invest in developing workers in a diverse and inclusive environment.
Jones isn’t alone in her desire for a more humanistic type of labour. According to 2022 research by workplace training company TalentLMs, 82% of Gen Zers surveyed want mental health days, 77% consider it important that their company supports diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and 74% would opt for either hybrid or totally remote work. After an unsatisfactory salary, burnout and lack of work-life balance was the number one reason they’d quit. Where work used to be about what employees could offer companies, says Michelle, “now it’s all about what Gen Zers are expecting from work”.
Millennials also yearned for flexibility and balance, but they were more willing to sacrifice corporate social responsibility for companies they admired as consumers ; the ones that aligned with their passions and were perceived as prestigious places to work. In 2008, 86% said they’d consider leaving an employer whose values no longer met their expectations, but by 2011, that figure had plummeted to just 56%.
Jones, on the other hand, rejects the idea that an employer – reputable or otherwise – should dictate her identity. While she appreciates the skills she’s learned at work, she finds meaning and purpose outside employment, through art, making music and going to yoga. “There is nothing wrong with just focusing on existing and enjoying life,” she says. “You do not have to define yourself by your job.”
‘I’m a huge advocate for taking the leap’
With both salary and work-life balance front and centre, Gen Zers also come with another stand-out characteristic: they are the cohort most likely to quit if they’re unsatisfied at work. One 2021 study by consumer financial services company Bankrate found that 77% of the Gen Zers surveyed were on the hunt for a new job. Of millennials at the same stage in their careers, only 38% of those surveyed in 2011 said they were on the lookout for opportunities. And Gen Zers already spend less time in a role than millennials , according to CareerBuilder.
Quitting or changing careers might seem likely to nudge higher salaries further out of reach, but research finds that’s not the case. In comparison to those who stay put, the UK’s Office for National Statistics found higher wages were a key perk of job hopping for all workers .
Since switching from education to tech, Holleman's making more now than she did as a teacher. It’s not that she expected a bigger teaching salary right out of college, but in the district where she worked, Holleman would have had to wait three years for any sort of pay rise. And within her first six months as a tech recruiter her salary has already jumped by USD$10,000 (£8,000). “I’m a huge advocate for taking the leap if your mental health is suffering,” she says. “I mean, I could always go back to teaching.”
How a workplace operates also factors into whether younger workers stay or go. Gen Zers and millennials hold many of the same workplace values, says Michelle, but Gen Z seems to have more willingness to act on them – something she suspects is born of the knowledge that there are endless other ways to earn a living now, thanks to the internet. “It takes a lot less for them to leave than it did for previous generations,” she explains. Gen Zers want to see companies follow through on their mission statements, particularly in regard to social and environmental values, and if they aren’t “practising what they’re preaching, Gen Z will hold them accountable”.
Beth Kennedy has witnessed this phenomenon in her workplace first-hand. Gen Zers are assertive when it comes to establishing work-life boundaries and upholding ethical standards, says the 32-year-old, who runs a marketing agency in New York City, and employs younger workers. They’re “thoughtful, compassionate and hardworking”, she explains, and they’ll call out policies and behaviours they disagree with. While millennials “were taught, and believed, that you needed to be always available for work, Gen Zers don't subscribe to that”.
Given the context of their lives, Gen Z attitudes make sense, says Kathleen Gerson, a professor of sociology, arts and science at New York University. Born into a digitally connected world, they are acutely aware of the social justice and environmental movements as well as the new-found ways of working, that are shaking up the status quo. They’re also, adds Gerson, entering a job market that – despite endless new tech-enabled career opportunities – been growing less stable and more amorphous since the 1950s.
Trust and loyalty between employers and workers has eroded, and Gen Zers have internalised that insecurity, says Gerson. What may seem like entitled behaviour – quitting and demanding changes at work – is actually employers failing to meet the demands of modern life. Gen Zers just “want decent pay for doing work they enjoy, and the respect that allows them to have a life outside of their jobs”, says Gerson.
Catalyst of change?
Gen Z is erupting into the workforce at a time of major upheaval. In the wake of the pandemic, we’re experiencing something of a power struggle between workplaces and their employees, explains Gerson, as workers push for better conditions and many companies resist their efforts. Naturally, conversations around flexibility, work-life balance and social and environmental justice are louder than ever.
The youngest workers are entering the labour market with a set of demands and the determination to act on them. Still, despite their efforts, the news is not all positive; Gerson is concerned Gen Zers are applying individual solutions to collective problems. Workers quitting or speaking up, she says, are moves that are less likely to convince employers to make changes than government legislation or union pressure that mandates benefits like higher wages and more time off. Especially, she says, considering mobility largely depends on privilege; hourly workers and those with less corporate experience have very little leverage to job hop or assert boundaries that could prevent work encroaching on life.
Plus, Gen Z workers like Jones are already reporting burnout , suggesting the hustle culture and financial burden that plagued generations before them is still taking a toll. Despite focusing on her life outside work, Jones finds her job overwhelming. “I'm dealing with a lot of stress I didn't even think to prepare myself for; navigating corporate dynamics, no structure and little support,” she says. “I often feel overworked, underpaid and angry.” Still, she holds out hope that her generation’s vision for a new kind of labour could eventually manifest.
Despite her caveats, Gerson, who describes herself as “a short-term pessimist but a long-term optimist” about these workplace shifts, is hopeful Gen Z can catalyse change. The needle is more likely to move, she says, as millennials with similar values to Gen Z increasingly take on leadership roles and companies pressed to attract and retain talent are forced to yield to some worker demands – but she cautions that it will likely take some time before all workers benefit.
Kennedy, who has already implemented Gen Z-driven policies in her own workplace, is adamant the youngest workers are already succeeding in their quest, however. No one is expected to be contactable outside set hours, meetings feel more collaborative and inclusive, and she’s aspiring to introduce a four-day workweek . Gen Zers are asking the tough questions, says Kennedy, “and workplaces are being forced to have broader discussions and make shifts when they don't have good answers”.
In Hinesville, Holleman is thriving in her new role. Her millennial boss is understanding and flexible. The work feels meaningful, but she doesn’t think a whole lot about it while she’s not on the clock. And outside the office, she’s a Miss Georgia candidate and has plenty of time for hobbies. “I’m able to just live my life now,” she says.
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Workers are the unhappiest they've been in 3 years—and it can cost the global economy $8.8 trillion
Workers are unhappier now than they were at the height of the pandemic.
That's at least according to new research from BambooHR, which found that job satisfaction has suffered a steady decline since 2020 and taken a sharp drop this year.
The HR software platform analyzed data from nearly 60,000 employees at over 1,600 companies across the globe between January 2020 and June 2023.
"Employees aren't experiencing highs or lows — instead, they are expressing a sense of resignation or even apathy," the report notes. "Most simply accept that morale is getting worse."
While it's true that more companies have recognized the importance of work-life balance in the wake of the pandemic and implemented policies — extended time off, the option to work remotely — to help workers achieve that, it's not just when or where they work that's causing employees grief.
Why so many people are unhappy at work
Research shows that the biggest cause of job dissatisfaction is unfair treatment at work: inconsistent compensation, lack of support from co-workers and bosses or unreasonable workloads, to name a few examples.
"The most common complaint I hear is a loss of control," Srikumar Rao, the author of "Happiness at Work," tells CNBC Make It. "The pandemic showed us, at a very visceral level, just how little control we have over our lives and our careers … it's hard to make peace with that kind of realization."
Inflation, widespread layoffs and uncertainty over return-to-office policies are all troubling employees and creating a "deep sense of unease" in workplaces, Jenn Lim, CEO of the organizational consultancy Delivering Happiness, points out.
At the start of 2023, roughly three-quarters of adults said they felt anxious about the economy, while nearly half were concerned about having poor work-life balance, according to a Harris Poll/Fast Company survey of more than 1,000 adults.
Another factor driving employee unhappiness is the lack of meaning people feel in their roles, says Emily Liou, a career happiness coach and former recruiter.
"There's been a real shift in the way people look at their careers thanks to the pandemic and the 'great resignation,'" Liou explains. "I don't hear as many people saying 'I want to make more money' or 'I want to climb the corporate ladder.' Now, it's 'I want to feel more connected to my work,' and 'I want to be excited about what I'm doing.'"
New Gallup research shows that remote employees, in particular, feel increasingly disconnected from their workplaces' mission and purpose.
The lack of a shared mission and purpose can be detrimental to employees' overall happiness and performance.
According to Wharton psychologist Adam Grant , employees who understand their work has a meaningful, positive impact on others are not just happier than those who don't; they're more productive, too. Additionally, one study found that raises and promotions are more common among people who find their work meaningful.
Making employees happy pays off
Focusing on employee engagement and satisfaction isn't just important for mental health in the workplace — it can also make or break a company's bottom line.
Gallup found that businesses with engaged workers see higher profits and significantly less turnover and absenteeism than businesses with unhappy workers, among other benefits.
In fact, Gallup reports , employee disengagement costs the world $8.8 trillion in lost productivity, equal to 9% of global GDP.
But the news isn't all bad for bosses. It doesn't take much to motivate an unhappy employee, says Lim.
"It's all about creating an environment of belonging, hearing and being understood," she says. "You don't need to fix everyone's problems in a day — even aiming to have one meaningful conversation or check-in with the people you manage, once a week, can make a huge difference."
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Fathers who work remotely need help coping with parenting stress
Dads who work from home are more likely to say parenting is stressful “all or most of the time,” compared with dads who work on-site, according to new research..
Fathers who work from home are much more likely to report that parenting is stressful, compared to fathers who work on-site, a new study found.
A new study focused on Chicago residents has some interesting findings on the stress experienced by fathers who work remotely and those who work on-site.
The study, titled “Teleworking, Parenting Stress, and the Health of Mothers and Fathers,” was done by researchers at Northwestern University and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. They found that fathers who worked from home experienced a lot more stress than those who worked on-site — but there was no significant difference between mothers who worked remotely versus those who worked on-site.
The study showed that 40% of parents who worked remotely during the pandemic reported higher parenting stress, compared with only 27% of parents who worked on-site. But fathers who worked from home were twice as likely as fathers working on-site to report that parenting was stressful “all or most of the time.”
It’s not exactly clear why working from home added more parental stress to fathers. But the study’s lead author said the finding “might be a reflection of societal expectations that men should prioritize work obligations over family needs, which creates additional stress for fathers working from home.”
Maybe. But I think it may be because for a lot of fathers, working remotely is relatively new, and with change comes stress. Simply put, a lot of fathers are not used to being around their children during work hours.
Because the study results showed that working remotely had more of an impact on fathers than mothers, the authors advised parents to create an arrangement that limits stress and promotes well-being. Something as simple as having a noise-cancelling machine in the home’s work area can help, or rearranging schedules to limit distractions and setting aside time for both parents to step away from work and fully engage with their children.
Setting a schedule creates work/life balance
Since the pandemic, many companies have discovered this benefit: That employees who are happy actually work more and are more productive, which allows businesses to save money on rent and utilities as they downsize their office space.
Of course, there are some jobs that don’t allow for remote work or flexible hours. Most solo attorneys, for instance, cannot take depositions or litigate remotely with maximum effectiveness. Service jobs, such as restaurant staff, and other jobs such as medical workers, factory workers and other occupations, must be done in person. But more and more, our economy is made up of jobs that can be done remotely and at hours that work best for the employee.
But if fathers who work remotely are twice as likely to feel that parenting is stressful all or most of the time, then working remotely doesn’t automatically foster a good work/life balance — the reason most people claim to want to work remotely in the first place.
For those, especially fathers, who want to work remotely, putting together a plan is essential.
Fathers who work remotely should set a daily schedule with periods of uninterrupted time for work or focusing on children’s needs, perhaps by breaking up the day to coincide with school hours. Instead of working straight from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. like most on-site workers, a father working remotely may find it less stressful to focus on work a couple of hours early in the morning, then get the children fed and off to school, then resume work before taking time to get the children home and help them with homework before wrapping up on work for the day.
Having structure will likely reduce parenting stress and allow fathers more positive interactions with their children — and make them happier, which will in turn make them better workers.
That said, fathers who work remotely should also have some time set aside for the unexpected. Anyone who has kids can attest to this fact: You can’t set a schedule for everything a child needs.
Jeffery M. Leving is an attorney and the recipient of President Joe Biden’s 2023 Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award.
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