Thursday, January 26, 2012

Factors Behind Paid Work and Personal Life Balance

Work-life balance is a person's ability to handle the demands of various roles.

Work-life stress has a negative effect on employee productivity. According to Linda Duxbury et al.'s An Examination of the Implications and Costs of Work-Life Conflict in Canada (1999), how a worker resolves or handles stress is based on several factors. These include:

  • Gender
Though they may adopt similar means to address work-life conflicts, Duxbury and colleagues (1999) that men and women have difference when dealing with work-life issues. Women, for instance, tend to be emotional, while men get physically ill when stressed.

The researchers add that the socialization process has an impact on individual responses to work-life stress. For women employees, this could mean doing domestic and caregiving tasks, as well as performing jobs with little control. Thus, gender stereotypes can affect the source of stress for women (and men). 
  • Personality and Coping Strategies
Ellen Galinsky of the Family and Work Institute explains that people have different coping styles. How they react or address conflicting demands reflects individual personality and perception of a particular situation.

Duxbury et al. (1999) view that an employee's coping behavior is based on her/his decision about a problem. They agree that one's psychological make-up and evaluation of circumstances can determine her/his course of action. 

  • Social Support
The role of loved ones, work colleagues, and supportive superiors is crucial in helping a worker deal with conflicting demands. Thus, significant relationships or social support “at work, at home, and in the community” can contribute to her/his ability to manage work-life stress, as noted by Duxbury et al. (1999) based on the works of Ellen Galinsky (1986) of the Family and Work Institute, as well as the study conducted by James Campbell Quick and his co-authors of the book, Preventive Stress Management in Organizations (1997).

  • Job Type
Coping with work-life stress depends on several factors.
The kind of work or occupational group to which a person belongs also affects how s/he addresses work-life issues. Referring to Robin O'Neil and Ellen Greenberger's "Patterns of commitment to work and parenting: Implications of role strain" (1994), Duxbury et al. (1999) note the differences in responses between those in managerial and professional work versus employees in clerical, sales, service and blue-collar positions: “…managers and professionals are more likely to occupy occupations which afford more flexibility and personal control over the timing of work, facilitating the commitments of parenting and other non-work activities…their jobs offer greater extrinsic rewards (e.g., salary) which can offset some of the "costs" that demanding jobs entail and allow them to purchase services to help them cope.”

Moreover, those with greater responsibilities in the organization are highly learned or academically trained, secure better compensation, exert more effort and time to doing their work, and are dedicated more in their work than non-professionals. Thus, “education, income, commitment, and identification with the work role” are factors that capacitate a person to have coping advantages when dealing with work-life problems.

  • Control
Tied up with an individual’s coping style and job type is her/his sense of control. This enables her/him to handle a certain situation well or contain the damage caused by the problem at hand. In an organizational setting, this could lessen work stress and contribute to better health. However, in citing Robert Karasek Jr.'s studies on job demands, mental strain, and productivity (1979 and 1990), Duxbury et al. note: “…the primary work-related risk factor appears to be lack of control over how one meets these job demands and how one uses one's skills.”

In applying Karasek’s ideas, Duxbury and colleagues (1999) express that having a sense of control enables an employee to achieve work-life balance. They concur that “the relationships between work and family stressors and perceived work-life conflict should be weaker for employees with high control and stronger for those with low control.” Deciding how to accomplish work tasks, adopting a flexible work schedule, maintaining a strong social support network, and purchasing services for domestic needs are some ways through which personal autonomy is manifested to help address work-life conflicts.

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