A Study Of Work Life Balance Social Work Essay

Published: 2021-08-13 02:20:05
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The objectives of the research are to:
Assess whether it is important to achieve a balance between paid work and personal life.
To analyse the extent to which the WLB policies enable employees to meet their personal commitments.
To examine whether the different WLB policies have a positive or negative impact on the employees’ performance at work.
To analyse whether work related issues and family related issues affect men or women the most.
2.0 Literature Review
2.1 Definition of WLB
According to Bratton and Gold (2003), WLB refers to employees’ need to balance their work and commitments like family, hobbies, art, travelling and among others, instead of only focusing on work. Although the definitions may vary, WLB is about maintaining equilibrium on the overall sense of harmony in life (Hatton 2005).
However, Clutterbuck (2003) assumes that WLB is about:
Having an awareness of various the demands on time and energy
Having the capability of choices in the given time and energy
Being able to know what Knowing what beliefs must be applied to choices
Making choices.
Consequently while there is much debate on maintaining a good WLB in literature, at time it becomes difficult to determine exactly what this implies. (Moore, 2007).
The three main elements of WLB are as follows:
Time balance – This implies the equal amount of time which are given to both the family and work life;
Involvement balance – This refers to the fact that the same level of psychological factors are being given to both the family and work life; and
Satisfaction balance – This has to do with the equal satisfaction level which are experienced in both the family and work roles (Greenhaus et al, 2003).
2.2 The concept of WLB
The need to manage the WLB of employees had increased over the past 20 years. It has become highly important to manage a worker’s WLB since there are various factors which are likely to influence the WLB (De Bruin & Dupuis (2004). At the first stand, employees are required to do complex task within less time and with less resources. At the same time, the employees must bear in mind that the end results of the tasks being carried out must be of a high quality. Thus such working environment led to the "redefinition of normal working hours" (Hosie, Forster & Servatos, 2004). Secondly, demographic factors such as gender, ethnic groups, dual career couples, religion and multi-generational workplaces have caused the need to cater for WLB of employees. The third factor is the type of employment contract which has caused organisations to cater for employees’ needs, stress and level of satisfaction (Greenhaus & Powell, 2006). Hence, the concept of WLB is important since it helps organisations to cater for workers working lives and family lives in such a way that roles conflict, job anxiety, family stress and job dissatisfaction do not crop up (De Bruin & Dupuis, 2004; Greenblatt, 2002). Moreover, according to Purcell (2002:1), there is a link between the way employees are managed and work performance. Thus, this is why organisations are more likely to cater for the need to manage WLB of employees.
2.3 Work Family Conflict (WFC)
When the expectations or demands associated to one domain are not compatible with the expectations or demand associated with the other domain, WFC is more likely to crop up (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985). WFC may take the form of time-based, strain-based and behaviour based (Kotowska et al, 2010; Carlson et al, 2000). Time-based conflict occurs when an employee is not able to allocate time to fulfil his responsibility or to carry out his another role due to time pressures being experienced in one role (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985; Kelloway, Gottlieb & Barham, 1999). On the other hand, strain-based conflict refers to strain which is experienced from one role and which is more likely to affect the other role of a person. Finally, behaviour-based conflict is a type of conflict whereby the behavioural patterns which are adopted by a person in one role are not compatible to the behavioural patterns which must be adopted in the other role of the person. There are also two types of time-based and strain based conflicts and they are time based work interference with family and time based family interference with work. Similarly for strain based conflicts they are as such, strain based work interference with family and strain based family interference with work (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). However, according to (Kelloway et al., 1999), little is known about behaviour based conflict.
WFC is also considered as a stressing factor for individuals (Frone et al, 1996). Such a conflict is associated with poor health issues and it has the following negative impacts on individuals:
High levels of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion;
High willingness to consume heavy alcohol;
High degree of fatigues;
Unhealthy appetite; and
Less involvement in doing physical exercise (Frone et al., 1996; Allen et al., 2000; Rose, S et al., 2007).
When employees in an organisation are experiencing work-family conflict, the organisations may face a lot of problems which are as follows:
Employees experience a decline in job satisfaction;
High rate of absenteeism and high staff turnover;
Poor job performance and high job anxieties; and
Employees’ unwillingness to work in the organisation (Rose, S et al., 2007).
The degree of WFC is related to "workaholism" since both "enthusiastic" and "non-enthusiastic workaholics" experience such conflict. They defined "enthusiastic workaholic" as one who is fully motivated to work and one who is fully involved in his job. On the other hand, a "non-enthusiastic workaholic" is one who experiences high satisfaction in his job at first but later, the level of satisfaction starts to decline. The only difference is that although both types of "workaholism" experience WFC, enthusiastic workaholics derive more life satisfaction and they even have their aims in life (Bonebright, C et al., 2000).
According to (Gutek et al., 1991),WFC can be distinguished in two ways. Firstly, when work related activities interfere with family responsibilities and secondly when family related matters interfere with work responsibilities.
2.4 Family-to-work conflict and Work-to-Family Conflict
As per Netemeyer et al. (1996), Family-to-Work conflict is known as the role conflict which crops up when the general demands and pressures created by family interfere with an employee’s capabilities to perform a task related to work. On the other hand, Work-to-Family conflict is a role conflict whereby the employee’s general job demands and job pressures interfere with his or her family responsibilities. Frone et al. (1992; 1997), have defined these two facets of work conflicts as follows:
Family-to-Work conflict comprises family based circumstances which lead to work related issues or outcomes.
Work-to-Family conflict implies work based circumstances which lead to family related issues or consequences.
Moreover, according to Frone et al. (1992), job anxieties and job involvements give rise to work-to-Family conflict which in turn leads to family depression. Also, family anxieties and family involvement give rise to Family-to-Work conflict which in turn causes job distress. Hence, according to them, both facets of work conflicts include depressive life and poor health. (Kossek, E. E. and Ozeki, C.1998), found that both facets of work-family conflicts lead to low job satisfaction.
2.5 Framework for studying WLB
The literature has provided many frameworks for the study of WLB. Some of them are as follows:-
2.5.1 Traditional Model
According to Zedeck and Mosier (1990) and O’Driscoll (1996), there are five models which have been used to explain the link between work and life outside work.
Segmentation Model
This model assumes that work and non-work are two different aspects of life and people live them separately. Hence, they do not have an impact on each other.
Spillover Model
According to this model, the world of work does affect the family life in either a positive or negative way, depending upon the nature, causes and consequences of spillover.
Compensation Model
This refers to what may be missing in one sphere, in terms of satisfactions or demands can be compensated by the sphere, that is, outside the work. Instance, if an employee views his work as one which is too boring, then the latter may involve himself in some other activities outside his work.
Instrumental Model
This refers to the success one may achieve in either work or family depending on the activities performed in either of the two aspects. For example, an employee may be willing to work for long hours so as to meet his family’s demand.
Conflict Model
Due to the increasing demand in all spheres of life, some conflicts may arise because of the difficult choices which have to be made.
2.5.2 Boundary Theory and Family-Work border theory
Boundary theory makes it easy to understand how a person cope in different spheres of like including work, family and other areas as well (Nippert-Eng, 1996). On the other hand, the Family-work border theory provides several facets of work and family which include the strength of the border between work and family (Clark, 2000). People are less reactive when it comes to give describing their personal and work lives. According to both theories, the degrees of boundaries which people draw between these two aspects of lives often vary and such boundaries are measured by the degree of "permeability and flexibility" (Ashforth, B. E et al., 2000).
2.5.3 Psychological Theory
This theory emphasises on individual differences and it relates to "workaholics". "Workaholics" was differentiated in the sense that some employees were willing to work for longer hours and in return they were gaining some earnings. On the other hand, some employees were working for longer hours since they have limited choices and they believe that the earning which they received for this hour of work was not justified Peiperl and Jones (2000).
2.6 Work-Life Policies and arrangements
WLB is about creating a healthy working atmosphere, which enables the employees to have a more harmonious balance between their work and personal responsibilities. According to Lowe (2005), 1 in 4 employees face high level of conflict between work and family. Thus, WLB policies may allow them to diminish the conflict between work and family (Grover and Crooker, 1995). According to IRS (Torrington 2008), the main reason for companies to adopt the WLB policies are recruitment and retention. This is because most economies have adapted ‘a 24/7 society’ which requires employees to work from the normal working hours to longer working hours. However another reason for introducing WLB has emerged due to high business competition (Hyman and Summers 2004). According to Glass and Estes (1997), changes in the labour market and population have led to the implementation of government and organisational family-friendly initiatives. Such initiatives were recognising the employees’ caregiving responsibilities and these in turn were helping them to achieve a balance (Lewis, Gambles, and Rapoport 2007).
According to Den Dulk (2001), the different WLB polices vary and they have different impacts. Work- Life policies include formal company policies and statutory rights whilst work-life arrangements imply non-formalised rules.
Work-life arrangements are categorised as follows:
Flexible work arrangements
Part-time work
Flexible hours
Job sharing
Term-time work
Banking hour
Maternity leave
Parental leave
Paternity leave
Leave for family reasons
Adoption leave
Career break scheme
Childcare arrangements
Workplace nursery
Child minding
Childcare resource and referral
Financial assistance
Holiday pay scheme
Supportive arrangements
Work-life management training
Employee counselling/Assistance
Supply of information
Research on employees’ needs
Figure 1: Types of Work-Life arrangements (Den Dulk, 2001:8)
On the other hand, as per (Gray and Tudball 2003), the four types of WLB policies are:
Flexible/alternative work arrangements
compressed working weeks
permanent part-time positions
Paid and unpaid leave arrangements
paid maternity
paid maternity
adoption leave
unpaid leave for sabbaticals, cultural, or volunteer reasons
Dependant care services
Provision or subsidy of childcare or elder-care services
Access to information, resources or services
Employee assistance programs
Health facilities
Stress management programs
Figure 2: Four major categories of WLB and family friendly initiatives (Gray and Tudball 2003).
However, according to Ackers (2003), the end results of the different types of WLB policies are difficult to compare due to cross cultural differences in government regimes, employment policies and labour market conditions. In Anglo-Saxon countries like Australia the WLB policies are more focussed towards individual’s role and such policies are adopted by firms with less government interference. On the other hand, in Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden, WLB policies are determined by the public responsibility model whereby employees are allowed sufficient leaves and benefits (Brough, O’Driscoll, and Kalliath 2007; Gauthier and Hatzius 1997).
Furthermore, according to (Brough and O’Driscoll 2005), WLB policies are associated with low level of staff turnover, high degree of employee satisfaction, high employee commitment and greater productivity, and low level of physical and emotional anxiety which are related with WFC. As per the Australian research which was conducted by the Australian Telework Advisory Committee (2006), 70% of companies which had adopted telework as a WLB policy had benefited from high production, low costs, employee flexibility, worker’s participation and improved WLB among employees. At the same time, the research had shown some barriers to telework and these were in terms of unsupportive organisational culture and mismanagement rather than technological barriers. Also, according to (Hacker & Doolen, 2003; Hyman & Summers, 2004), the western firms have preferred to provide policies such as "on-site child-care facilities, on-site gymnasiums, telecommuting opportunities, and even on-site sleeping quarters for the employee and their family". Each of these policies was able to increase flexibility in such a way that employees were able to manage their multiple-roles.
Conversely, WLB policies are also characterised as a cost for organisations since not all the WLB policies are more likely to increased productions. For instance, "job-sharing actually decreased productivity" (Myer, Mukerjee, and Sestero 2001). Moreover, such policies are questionable as to whether they really increase production. Hence, the high cost of implementing and maintaining the WLB policies may decrease profitability (Bloom, Kretchmer, and Van Reenen, 2006). Another drawback as per (Dex and Scheibl, 2001) is that, an employee may be reluctant to enjoy these work-family provisions since an opportunity cost arises in terms of the entitlements which are often perceived as fringe benefits. With reference to the literature, there are numerous types of costs, including the direct costs like payments such as childcare subsidies or paid parental leave. As per Evan (2001), cost in terms of extra spaces needed to facilitate the childcare provisions and costs of equipment to facilitate working at home are also associated.
Organisational and legislative conditions must be taken into consideration while implementing WLB policies so as to ensure that such policies will derive long term benefits for both the organisations and individual employees. The "provision-utilisation gap" of WLB policies must also be considered since it is becoming a relevant issue (O’Driscoll, Brough, and Biggs, 2007). "For example co-worker attitudes, supervisor support, career consequences and societal norms" often act as a barrier as to whether workers are allowed to access WLB policies (McDonald, Brown and Bradley 2005; Thompson, Brough, and Schmidt, 2006).
Some of the WLB policies are defined as follows:
Flexible working times
Hicks & Klimoski (1981) use the term flexitime when they talk about flexible working times. According to them, flexitime is a policy in which the traditional fixed times that employees start and finish the working day are replaced by an agreement or set of rules within which employees are free to choose their starting and finishing times. As per Avery & Zabel, (2001), U.S had not adopted flexitime in its private sector as quickly as the Western and Northern Europe. Moreover the origin of flexitime came from Germany and it was created in the 1970s. Such a policy allows employees to vary their starting and finished times but these have to do within the firm’s parameters. As per Van Dyne, Kossek & Lobel, (2008) the flexitime agendas may vary depending upon the time the employee start and finish his work. There is a range of times, for example 6 to 10am, which provides the employees to choose their starting time may choose to come to work and there is another range of time, for example 3 to 7pm, the time at which the employees may choose to leave the work.
Job sharing
This is whereby a full time job is divided between two employees, The two employees also have a dividing pay arrangements and benefits which are on a pro rata basis to their time worked. The arrangements are in the form of split weeks and split days (Armstrong, 1997). Christensen and Staines (1990), have defined job sharing as a working schedule where, two employees share their working responsibilities willingly and where both work less than full time. As per Kossek and Lee, (2005), at times job sharers have skills which complement each other’s skills. According to Pierce, Newstrom, Dunham and Barber, (1989), under the job sharing working schedule, a single full time job is split and controlled as a single task between the employees who are sharing the job. Moreover, in order to ensure the smooth running of the job sharing policy, job sharers must create huge understanding, trust and coordinate among them properly.
Part-Year Work
It is an arrangement whereby workers are employed to meet seasonal or short-term needs of the organisations. Part year work arrangement also helps organization to maintain flexible and short-term staffing. People having huge talent are likely to be attracted with such policy since, they are given a certain amount of flexibility in their jobs. This is more applied in the tourism, construction and agricultural fields (Drucker, White, Hegewich, & Maynbe, 1996).
Shift Work
This relates to an organization’s working hours which differ from the traditional working hours. Shift work also implies "irregular or odd working hours" (Costa, 2003) According to Root (2004), shift workers are considered as individuals who work nonstandard hours. Barnett & Hall (2007) suggested that although shift work is not considered as a flexible work arrangement, it is a policy whereby employees are required to work at non-standard working hours. Shift work may include different shifts such as evening shifts (3pm to 11pm) and night shifts (11pm to 7am). During weekend, there is rotating shifts for example; "evenings one day, nights the next" or double shifts, whereby employees may work for sixteen hours. Such practice is normally implemented in hospitals, jails and certain firms. Employees may also have their normal working hours for instance 8 hours but their working time normally starts at night instead of the in the morning (Barnett & Hall, 2007). As per the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics (2005), some employees prefer shift work since it allows them to fulfil their other duties and responsibilities during the day. Such responsibilities are associated with family and children and even education. Nearly 15% of the U.S Labour force opts for shift work and these workers normally work in the service and mechanical industries. On the other hand, Presser (2003) reported that 10% of employees in France work at irregular hours whilst in European Countries like Greece and United Kingdom 20% of the labour work at odd hours. Furthermore, as per (Presser, 1999), odd working hours or shift work and mostly rotating shifts are bad for health since they affect the daily sleeping pattern of a person. Moreover, employees are often faced with situation like when they are provided day time off, they do take their rest and sleep but their sleeping time differ from that of their children and spouses since their families’ sleeping time is during the night. Also, the employees do not get enough time to rest because during their day time off they have the tendency to devote their time to their family life. However, in spite of these issues, shift work also helps employees in devoting and even managing their time in other activities as well.
Compressed work week/ Compressed work schedule
Under such an arrangement, employees work for fewer days and more than eight hours per day (Rau, 2003). On the other hand, FlexPaths (2008), has defined compressed work week as a formal or informal policy which allows workers to work full time in less than five days per week. Such a schedule may also include working ten hours per day over four days per week or even working twelve hours per day over three days per week. According to (Pierce, Newstrom, Dunham, & Barber, 1989), the commonly adopted compressed work week is "4 day-10 hour with a Monday or Friday off". Avery & Zabel (2001) viewed the compressed work week schedule as a "9-80" work arrangement which occur every two weeks. It consists of 9 hours working time with an extra hour to an 8-hour day. The main advantage here is that the employee can have three days off, that is, weekend and another one day either Friday or Monday every weeks or every coming week. Moreover they stated that such a working policy is mostly adopted in Canada. (Bond et al., 2002) reported that 15% of the labour force of U.S adopts a compressed work week.
Leaves, Vacation, and Flex-Leaves practices
The flexible work arrangement allow employees to be absent from work for a given period of time. Such arrangement helps employees in handling their domestic needs. The given periods of absences can range from a few minutes (example, intermittent leave), or hours, off during the work day to several weeks, months, or longer (Ivanovic & Collin, 2006). Moreover, Leaves can be paid or unpaid and granted for many reasons including, educational purpose, child care responsibilities, maternity, paternity, and among others (Galinsky et al., 2004).
Maternity leaves are commonly used around the world. However, in the U.S companies are not legally obliged to provide paid leaves for maternity (Stebbins, 2001). As per the United States Office of Personnel Management (2001), 7% of the companies offer a paid paternity leave of any period and very a few amounts mainly "less that 50%" of the female employees are offered paid leaves for a period of 12 weeks after having given birth to a child. On the other hand, as per Kelly (2006), in Canada, women are more likely to undertake a job where there is full paid or partly paid leave for maternity leave for a period of one year. Also, in the EU, workers are offered fourteen weeks of paid maternity leave and they may also extend these fourteen weeks with extra partly paid parental leave in case the father also decides to take the leave so as to help in the childcare responsibility.
Furthermore, according to Sonnentag (2001), it is important to let employees control the amount of breaks for their health. This allows employees to deal with stress caused at work and it also enables them to maintain a good health. Bloom, Compier, Guerts, Weerth, Taria and Sonnentag,( 2009) suggested that few research has been carried out on regarding vacation leaves, however, some of the studies do suggest that vacation leaves are beneficial and they contribute to positive health outcomes but the positive impacts also start to decrease when the employee resume work.
2.7 Gender Differences in coping with WLB
According to Jenkins (2000), issues like taking care of children and the need to balance several roles have an impact on health and family relationships. Securely attached individuals experienced positive spillover in both work and family (Summer and Knight 2001). There are genders differences in coping with WLB issues since, irrespective of their employment status, women still take care of domestic tasks. So, many women employees continue to have problems in maintaining equilibrium between their family life and work life (Hyman and Summers 2004). Reviews also indicate that the views of WLB differ across genders (Connell 2005;Smithson and Stokoe 2005; Duxbury and Higgins 1991).
Both women and men are willing to work in organisations which support WLB. Men put more emphasis in achieving success at work and they even tend to ignore their family in doing so. They are also more satisfied when they achieve more success in their work life. On the other hand, women associate equal importance to both work and family and these two aspects are their main sources of satisfaction. When women are unable to devote their care and time to their family due to work, they feel upset, unhappy, disturbed and frustrated. At times they even tend to consider work and family as two separate aspects of life and they do not like these two aspects, that is, work and family to clash (Burke 2002). Furthermore, according to Savitsky (2010), together with the males even females are assuming their roles of breadwinner or co-bread winner. Hence, such a shift from the role of home-helper to breadwinner has an impact on gender in the sense that this may cause conflict for both men and women which may in turn lead to WLB issues. WFC is also related to the satisfaction derived from work and family lives of men and women (Kossek & Ozeki, 1998). As per some studies, as compared to men, women are more likely to face high degree of WFC (Behson, 2002; Frone, Cooper, & Russell, 1994; Nielson, Carlson, & Lankau, 2001).
2.8 Gender Role Theory
According to the research of Parasuraman and Greenhaus (2002), gender differences have not considered the impacts of gender WFC. Hence, this is the reason why several authors have identified the need of analysing the role of gender with respect to WFC and even with job satisfaction (Eby et al., 2005;Kafetsios, 2007; Kinnunen et al., 2004; Kossek and Ozeki, 1999).The Gender Role Theory assumes that family and work roles are gender-specific in the sense that men are more focussed towards their work and they are the family breadwinner whilst women’s roles are more concerned with being a wife, mother and homemaker (Gutek et al., 1991). There are also other evidences which show that the work role is meant for a man and the family role is mean for a woman (Cinamon and Rich, 2002; Mauno and Kinnunen, 2000; Parasuraman et al., 1992). Thus due to role differences between gender men and women react in completely opposite ways when it comes to WFC. Furthermore, as compared to men, when work interferes with the family life, women are more likely to develop negative attitudes towards work and these will in turn cause low job satisfaction since women are more likely to view such interference as a threat to their family role (Kahn et al., 1964).
2.9 Hospitals and WLB
Health is considered as one of the major aspect which is more likely to predict the wealth of a country. Hence, the necessary must be done so as to ensure the balance "between provision and reception of health care services". In India, there are various policies which contribute to the effective running of the health care industry (M. L. Griffin et al., 2010). As per A. Day, (2010), studies have proven that factors like absence of proper WLB, the presence of work related stress, poor working environment, pay packets and job security highly influence job satisfaction. For a nurse, job satisfaction is very important since this determines the smooth running of the level of health care service. According to, M. Neates (2010), there is an increase in the demand for nurses not just because of the pay packets and job security but also because of the health care which nurses provide and which in turn is a very important aspect of others’ lives. Furthermore, such an aspect of making a difference in others’ lives through the provision of health care services is not found in other careers.
However, "the role of nurses has expanded from a health care provider to health educator, diagnostic assistant, post care supporter, Health advisor, Physicians Assistant, Operation Theatre Assistant, Health Counselor, Follow up, Health promoter, Administrator, Health researcher, Provide appropriate reassurance to patients and family members, Health Supervisor, Maintenance of Health Reports, Records and Documents". Together with this, high levels of work stress and anxiety have caused job dissatisfaction which has in turn contributed to a declining population of nurse. The work stress and anxiety were mainly due to bad working environment, lack of trust, too many workloads, and discrimination at work, no proper WLB and lack of physical fitness (E. G. Lambert, N. L. Hogan, and I. Altheimer, 2010).
According to Ross, C (2010), the main reasons behind improper WLB must be evaluated by the management. Proper policies must also be adopted so as to make nurses become more effective in their work. As per R. Parker, (2010) "flexi-timing, job rotation, career growth, family get-together, children school funds, child care centres" and other policies may be put in place so as to encourage employees at the hospitals to give their maximum at work. Thus, healthy WLB practices are more likely to produce much healthier service to customers. Also, the Corporate Reporting System, (2010), reported that WLB contributes to increased level of employees’ satisfaction, greater commitment and healthy health care services. Some of the WLB programs also include such aspects like training and development, stress management and even WLB workshops can be considered (B. Wilkerson, 2010).

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