Working-time, Job Strain and Work-life Balance: What Role for Regulation?
Achieving a satisfactory fit between employment and other activities in personal life – so-called ‚work-life balance’ – is an important aspect of job quality. So what can be done to enhance work-life balance? It is essential that this question is approached with a gender perspective given the persistent gender differences in employed working hours and gender inequalities in family care and other unpaid work. We assess the impact of “time demands” and “job strain demands” on work-life balance. Working-time arrangements – the volume, scheduling and control over hours worked – impact on men and women’s reports of their work-life balance. Working conditions which are psychologically demanding and over which the worker has little control can generate “job strain” (stress, anxiety, tensions) that spill into personal life with negative effects on work-life balance. We consider the scope for policy to facilitate work-life balance and promote gender equality, paying particular attention to measures which limit long working hours and enhance individual workers’ capabilities to make transitions between full-time and part-time working arrangements. While the efficacy of some policy measures may be diluted in the current period of economic crisis such measures also have potential to promote social dialogue, organizational innovation and a pathway towards economic recovery that lays the foundations for a better quality of life post-recession.
Colette Fagan is professor of Sociology and Associate Dean for Research at the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester.