Work-life Balance

Work-life balance is a phenomenon known to the global community. However, if we give it a gendered perspective the topic takes a turn that is rather untouched. The first and foremost aspect that is discussed is gender mainstreaming. Gender mainstreaming is an organizational strategy to bring a gender perspective to all aspects of an institution’s policy by building a gender capacity and accountability.

Capacity building is the idea that propagates enhancing one’s knowledge, skills, and ability of individuals and groups of people. This can be done through training programs in a sustainable and transformative manner. Capacity building is part of the gender mainstreaming strategy which brings an organization to an integral dimension of the inclusion of both men and women into the decision-making process, implementation, and monitoring.

image: dailytimes

Legal Framework and work-life balance

Due to the massive entry of women into the workforce, household structures as well as workplace structures have changed immensely. The challenge to bring about gender mainstreaming has been met with extensive legislation. Laws implemented to reduce the gender gap at workplaces include; reducing the income disparities between men and women, the inclusion of more women in decision-making bodies, and mainstreaming a balance between professional and personal life.

Work Life Conflict

image: charlie hr

Work-life conflict is a situation where one cannot prioritize work and hence fails to balance between professional and personal work. This is termed as to a situation of inclusion of work in personal life and vice versa. Work-life conflict is a source of stress for individuals who counter effects performance and motivation.

An increasing number of women in the workforce means that there must be a fine line present between life and work since homecare is apparently designated to be the duty of women. Alongside men and women working for longer hours the inculcation of technology has made it easier for employers to communicate remotely. All these reasons call for work-life balance to be in motion.

One’s performance and mental position at home has a direct bearing on one’s performance at work. Unbalanced work-family relationships put a permanent stain on one’s mental health, performance and individual work outcome. This eventually forces employees towards absenteeism and a high rate of attrition.

Major reasons for conflict include immense competition, individual career ambitions, the global economy, and longer working hours. Immense competition forces people to work harder to climb their ladder of success. Driven by monetary values and success, people often work overtime and/or most of their day consists of work. This results in the inclusion of work into personal life hereby creating a work-life conflict.

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a broad concept defined as the proper prioritization between work on one hand and life on the other. Work can be referred to as career and ambition whereas life can be attributed to health, leisure, family, pleasure, and spiritual development.

The idea if work-life balance originated back in the 1800s after the industrial revolution when workers had to work at great lengths. Industrialists identified that workers must get a day off, this later changed to two days making it a weekend. At that time most of the work was done manually and after working hours, workers did not have to bother about what’s happening in their absence.  

However, times have changed dramatically. Given the technological changes, it is now possible that workers can stay in touch 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The idea of giving a day off is where workers can rest without having any sort of disturbance from office. However, technology distorts the idea behind work-life balance where workers cannot genuinely rest or drift away from work.

Research indicates that work-life balance is beneficial for both the employees and employers. WLB propagates the notion that individual health and personal well being are vital for a well-functioning society. WLB intends to focus on better employee retention, job satisfaction, and individual commitment to the organization as it tends to motivate them. As for personal life, WLB is associated with better marital and family satisfaction and performance.

Ways of Achieving work-life balance

Work-life balance calls for greater flexibility in work arrangements, paid maternity/paternity, and sick leaves. Flexible working means that the employees have the leverage to decide when and where they work. Flexible working entails workers to have control over their working hours and days. 

Looking at flexible working, we can imply that FW gives an opportunity for workers to integrate the work and family domains. This allows parents to potentially contribute to the workforce while having childcare as their priority. Thus, at times flexible working may limit the work-life conflict especially during the transition to parenthood. This might be possible because parents no longer have to commute to longer distances.

Gender Differences in FW and WLB

When we look towards FW and WLB through a gender lens, we do realize that flexible working is very comfortable for working women who have a family to take care of. This reinforces the existent gender roles present in society and creates a glass ceiling for women to excel in their careers. Women go for flexible working opportunities so that they can manage the juggle between family/child care and work. Different researchers identify that flexible working allows workers to do gender and/ or further build on existing gender norms.

Although flexible working is an attempt to contract the work sphere, it tends to expand it instead. Since workers are working from home, employers may have the intrinsic feeling that workers at home can work exceedingly. Hence, employers burden workers with extra work to do. This is referred to as enforced intensification. Another concept is enabled intensification. This is defined as where workers themselves feel the need to work harder or at greater lengths because they have the privilege of working from home.

Also Read; Gender across Cultures