Work–life balance is the term used to describe the balance that an individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life. Areas of life other than work-life can be, but not limited to personal interests, family and social or leisure activities. The term ‘Work-Life Balance' is recent in origin, as it was first used in UK and US in the late 1970s and 1980s, respectively. More recently the term has drawn on some confusion; this is in part due to recent technological changes and advances that have made work and work objectives possible to be completed on a 24-hour cycle. The use of smartphones, email, video-chat, and other technological innovations has made it possible to work without having a typical "9 to 5 work day".
According to 2010 National Health Interview Survey Occupational Health Supplement data, 16% of U.S. workers reported difficulty balancing work and family. The findings were more prevalent among workers aged 30–44. For example, the reported challenges of balancing both spheres of life for non-Hispanic black workers was 19% compared with 16% for non-Hispanic white workers and 15% for Hispanic workers. As for the divorced or separated workers (19%) compared with married workers (16%), widowed workers (13%), and never married workers (15%). In addition, workers having a bachelor's degree and higher (18%) compared with workers having a high school diploma or G.E.D. (16%), and workers with less than a high school education (15%). Workers in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries (9%) had a lower prevalence rate of work–family imbalance compared to all employed adults (16%). Among occupations, a higher prevalence rate of work–family imbalance was found in legal occupations (26%), whereas a lower prevalence rate was observed for workers in office and administrative support (14%) and farming, forestry, and fishing occupations (10%).
Identity through work
By working in an organization, employees identify, to some extent, with the organization, as part of a collective group. Organizational values, norms and interests become incorporated in the self-concept as employees increase their identification with the organization. However, employees also identify with their outside roles, or their "true self". Examples of these could include: parental/caretaker roles, identifications with certain groups, religious affiliations, align with certain values and morals, mass media etc.
Employee interactions with the organization, through other employees, management, customers, or others, reinforces (or resists) the employee identification with the organization. Simultaneously, the employee must manage their "true self" identification. In other words, identity is "fragmented and constructed" through a number of interactions within and outside of the organization; employees do not have just one self.
Most employees identify not only with the organization, but also other facets of their life (family, children, religion, etc.). Sometimes these identities align and sometimes they do not. When identities are in conflict, the sense of a healthy work–life balance may be affected. Organization members must perform identity work so that they align themselves with the area in which they are performing to avoid conflict and any stress as a result.
Causes of work-life imbalance
Gender differences could lead to a work-life imbalance due to the distinct perception of role identity. It has been demonstrated that men prioritize their work duties over their family duties to provide financial support for their families, whereas women prioritize their family life.
Spending long hours at work due to "inflexibility, shifting in work requirements, overtime or evening work duties" could lead to an imbalance between work and family duties. It has been demonstrated "that time spent at work positively correlate with both work interference with family and family interference with work, however, it was unrelated to cross-domain satisfaction" This could be due to the fact that satisfaction is a subjective measure. This being said, long hours could be interpreted positively or negatively depending on the individuals. Working long hours affect the family duties, but on the other side, there are financial benefits that accompany this action which negate the effect on family duties.
Family characteristics include single employers, married or cohabiting employers, parent employers, and dual-earning parents. Parents who are employed experience reduced family satisfaction due to their family duties or requirements.This is due to the fact that they are unable to successfully complete these family duties. In addition, parent workers value family-oriented activities; thus, working long hours reduces their ability to fulfill this identity, and, in return, reduces family satisfaction. As for the married and/ or dual-earning couples, it seems that "not only require more time and effort at home but also are a resource for individuals to draw from, both instrumentally through higher income and emotionally through increased empathy and support."
In addition to these moderators that could lead to an imbalance, many people expose themselves to unsolicited job stress, because they enjoy high social recognition. This aspect can also be the cause of an imbalance in the areas of life. However, other occupational activities could also lead to such an imbalance, for example, unpaid labor such as contribution to house and garden work, maintenance and support of family members or volunteer activities. All of these contribute to the perception of a chronic lack of time. Lacking time leads to pressure, which is experienced differently based on the individual's age, the age and number of children in the household, marital status, the profession and level of employment and the income level. Strong pressure of time leads to increased psychological strain, which in turn affects health. Psychological strain is also affected by the complexity of work, the growing responsibilities, concerns for long-term existential protection and more. The mentioned stresses and strains could lead in the long term to irreversible, physical signs of wear as well as to negative effects on the human cardiovascular and immune systems.
Role of gender and family
Work–life conflict is not gender-specific. According to the Center for American Progress, 90 percent of working mothers and 95 percent of working fathers report work–family conflict. However, due to social norms surrounding gender roles, and how the organization views its ideal worker, men and women handle the work–life balance differently. Organizations play a large part in how their employees deal with work–life balance. Some companies have taken proactive measures in providing programs and initiatives to help their employees cope with work–life balance.
The conflict of work and family can be exacerbated by perceived deviation from the "ideal worker" archetype, leading to those with caretaker roles to be perceived as not as dedicated to the organization. This has a disproportionate impact on working mothers, who are seen as less worthy of training than childless women.
Many authors believe that parents being affected by work–life conflict will either reduce the number of hours one works, where other authors suggest that a parent may run away from family life or work more hours at a workplace. This implies that each individual views work–life conflict differently.
Research conducted by the Kenexa Research Institute (KRI) evaluated how male and female workers perceive work–life balance and found that women are more positive than men in how they perceive their company’s efforts to help them balance work and life responsibilities. The report is based on the analysis of data drawn from a representative sample of 10,000 U.S. workers who were surveyed through WorkTrends, KRI’s annual survey of worker opinions. The results indicated a shift in women’s perceptions about work–life balance. In the past, women often found it more difficult to maintain balance due to the competing pressures at work and demands at home.
"The past two decades have witnessed a sharp decline in men’s provider role, caused in part by growing female labor participation and in part by the weakening of men’s absolute power due to increased rates of unemployment and underemployment," states sociologist Jiping Zuo. She continues, "Women’s growing earning power and commitment to the paid workforce together with the stagnation of men’s social mobility make some families more financially dependent on women. As a result, the foundations of the male dominance structure have been eroded."
In recent research by Pew Research Center, it is reported that half of working mothers and fathers believe it is a challenge to simultaneously be a professional and a parent. Generally speaking, men have more interests in financial gain which requires working longer hours. Women tend to report higher desires of flexibility between profession and home life, which can allow them to be at home more frequently.
Changes in perceived gender roles
Today there are many young women who do not want to just stay at home and do housework without having careers. About 64% of mothers whose youngest child was under age six—as well as 77% of mothers with a youngest child age 6–17—were employed in 2010, indicating that the majority of women with dependent-care responsibilities cannot, or do not, wish to give up careers. While women are increasingly represented in the workforce, they still face challenges balancing work and home life. Both domestic and market labor compete for time and energy. "For women, the results show that only time spent in female housework chores has a significant negative effect on wages".
Many men do not see work alone as providing their lives with full satisfaction, and they often want a balance between paid work and personal attachments, without being penalized at work. These men may desire to work part-time, in order to spend more time with their families.
More men are realizing that work is not their only primary source of fulfillment from life. A new study on fatherhood (2010) shows that more men are looking for alternatives to their 40-hour workweek in order to spend more time with their family. Though working less means a smaller paycheck and higher stress levels, men are looking for flexibility just as much as women. However, with an ever-changing society, flexibility is becoming much more apparent. "It seems that some traditional stereotypes are starting to lessen just a bit in terms of who’s responsible for care of the children," says human resource specialist Steve Moore. Traditionalism is becoming less frequent due to what’s actually practical for each individual family.
Men often face an unequal opportunity to family life, as they are often expected to be the financial supporter of the family unit. According to Garey and Hansen, "the masculine ideal of a worker unencumbered by caregiving obligations is built into workplace structures and patterns of reward."
Consequences of work–life imbalance
Steven L. Sauter, chief of the Applied Psychology and Ergonomics Branch of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Cincinnati, Ohio, states that recent studies show that "the workplace has become the single greatest source of stress". Michael Feuerstein, professor of clinical psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at Bethesda Naval Hospital declares "seeing a greater increase in work-related neuroskeletal disorders from a combination of stress and ergonomic stressors".Seventy-five to ninety percent of physician visits are related to stress and, according to the American Institute of Stress, the estimated costs to industry is $200 billion–$300 billion a year.
Problems caused by stress have become a major concern to both employers and employees. Symptoms of stress are manifested both physiologically and psychologically. Persistent stress can result in cardiovascular disease, sexual health problems, a weaker immune system and frequent headaches, stiff muscles, or backache. It can also result in poor coping skills, irritability, jumpiness, insecurity, exhaustion, and difficulty concentrating. Stress may also perpetuate or lead to binge eating, smoking, and alcohol consumption.
The feeling that simply working hard is not enough anymore is acknowledged by many other American workers. "To get ahead, a seventy-hour work week is the new standard. What little time is left is often divided up among relationships, kids, and sleep." This increase in work hours over the past two decades means that less time will be spent with family, friends, and community as well as pursuing activities that one enjoys and taking the time to grow personally and spiritually.
According to a survey conducted by the National Life Insurance Company, four out of ten U.S. employees state that their jobs are "very" or "extremely" stressful. Those in high-stress jobs are three times more likely than others to suffer from stress-related medical conditions and are twice as likely to quit. The study states that women, in particular, report stress related to the conflict between work and family.
In the study, Work-Family Spillover and Daily Reports of Work and Family Stress in the Adult Labor Force, researchers found that with an increased amount of negative spillover from work to family, the likelihood of reporting stress within the family increased by 74%, and with an increased amount of negative spillover from family to work the likelihood to report stress felt at work increased by 47%. Shepherd-Banigan, Basu, Booth & Harris (2016) conduct research on how stress can cause extremely negative effects on new parents. Between trying to balance a new schedule, managing additional responsibilities, and lacking flexibility and support, they can only increase stress, potentially causing depression to the employee.
Psychoanalysts diagnose uncertainty as the dominant attitude to life in the postmodern society. The pressure that society exerts on individuals can cause them to have an uncertain attitude. It is the uncertainty to fail, but also the fear of their own limits, not to achieve what the society expects, and especially the desire for recognition in all areas of life. In today's society, competition manifests itself in various settings. For example, appearance, occupation, education of the children are compared to a media-staged ideal. This idea of perfection is due to this deep-rooted aversion to all things average; the pathological pursuit to excellence. Whoever wants more from the job—from the partner, from the children, and from themselves—could one day burn out. The individual is then faced with the realization that perfection does not exist. To date, burnout is not a recognized illness. It has been noticed that a burnout affects those passionate people who seek perfection. This condition is not considered a mental illness but only a grave exhaustion that can lead to numerous sick days. It can benefit the term that it is a disease model which is socially acceptable and also, to some extent, the individual self-esteem stabilizing. According to experts in the field, the individuals who detain the following characteristics are more prone to burnouts: the hard-working, the perfectionist, the loner, the grim and the thin-skinned. All together, they usually have a lack of a healthy distance to work, leading to work–life imbalance.
Another example related to burnout is decision-makers in government offices and upper echelons. They are not allowed to show weaknesses or signs of disease, because this would immediately lead to doubts of their ability for further responsibilities. Only 20% of managers (e.g. in Germany) do sports regularly, and only 2% regularly attend preventive medical check-ups. In such a position other priorities seem to be set and the time is lacking for regular sports. The highest priority seems linked to the job, and it leads individuals to waive screening as a sign of weakness. Nonetheless, the burnout syndrome seems to be gaining popularity. Nothing seems shameful about showing weaknesses, but quite the opposite: The burnout is part of a successful career like a home for the role model family. In other terms, attributing the highest priority and allotted time to work leads to a higher chance for success, but also interrupts the balance between work and life. Since the description of burnout could be "socially recognized precious version of the depression and despair that lets also at the moment of failure the self-image intact", it concludes that "only losers become depressed, burnout against it is a diagnosis for winners, more precisely, for former winners.".
Although burnout is linked to a more positive view, four out of five Germans complain about high stress levels. In fact, one in every sixth individual under the age of 60 consumes medication against insomnia, depression or to boost energy levels, at least once a week. The phases of burnout can be described first by great ambition, then the suppression of failure, isolation, and, finally, the cynical attitude towards the employer or supervisor. Often, those individuals seem to have anxiety disorders and depression as well, which are serious mental diseases. Depression is the predominant cause of nearly 10,000 suicides that occur each year in Germany. The consequences of high stress levels could lead to depression, which in turns affects the balance between work and life. For example, in Germany, early retirement due to mental illness represented 15.4 percent of all cases in 1993. In 2008, the percentage increased to 35.6 percent. The proportion of failures due to mental disorders seems to be increasing. In 2008, statisticians calculated 41 million absent days that were related to these crises, leading to 3.9 billion euros in lost production costs.
Role of technology
More recently, there has been a shift in the workplace as a result of advances in technology. As Bowswell and Olson-Buchanan stated, "Increasingly sophisticated and affordable technologies have made it more feasible for employees to keep contact with work". Employees have many methods, such as emails, computers, and cell phones, which enable them to accomplish their work beyond the physical boundaries of their office. Employees may respond to an email or a voice mail after-hours or during the weekend, typically while not officially "on the job". Researchers have found that employees who consider their work roles to be an important component of their identities will be more likely to apply these communication technologies to work while in their non-work domain.
Some theorists suggest that this blurred boundary of work and life is a result of technological control. Technological control "emerges from the physical technology of an organization". In other words, companies use email and distribute smartphones to enable and encourage their employees to stay connected to the business even when they are not in the office. This type of control, as Barker argues, replaces the more direct, authoritarian control, or simple control, such as managers and bosses. As a result, communication technologies in the temporal and structural aspects of work have changed, defining a "new workplace" in which employees are more connected to the jobs beyond the boundaries of the traditional workday and workplace. The more this boundary is blurred, the higher work-to-life conflict is self-reported by employees. In a review of recent literature looking at the theory of technological control suggests employers and employees often communicate and continue to work during "off hours" or even periods of vacation. This added use of technology creates a confusion as to what the purpose of the technology poses for the individual using it. Questions such as "what is work usage media compared to non-work usage media look like" or "are we working more because it is easier and more accessible or because we want to work more?"
Employee assistance professionals say there are many causes for this situation ranging from personal ambition and the pressure of family obligations to the accelerating pace of technology. According to a recent study for the Center for Work-Life Policy, 1.7 million people in the United States consider their jobs and their work hours excessive because of globalization.
Improving work–life balance
Responsibility of the employer
Texas Quick, an expert witness at trials of companies who were accused of overworking their employees, states that "when people get worked beyond their capacity, companies pay the price." Although some employers believe that workers should reduce their own stress by simplifying their lives and making a better effort to care for their health, most experts feel that the chief responsibility for reducing stress should be management.
According to Esther M. Orioli, president of Essi Systems, a stress management consulting firm, "Traditional stress-management programs placed the responsibility of reducing stress on the individual rather than on the organization where it belongs. No matter how healthy individual employees are when they start out, if they work in a dysfunctional system, they’ll burn out."
Work–life balance has been addressed by some employers and has been seen as a benefit to them. Indeed, employees report increased job satisfaction, greater sense of job security, better physical and mental health, reduced levels of job stress and enhanced control of their environment. In fact, work-life balance does not only benefit the employee, but also the organization. Once work–life balance has been introduced to the employee, the organization faces less absenteeism, lateness and staff turnover rates. In addition, there is an increase retention of valuable employees, higher employee loyalty and commitment towards the organization, improved productivity and enhanced organizational image.
In the literature, “work-family policies, family-friendly or family-responsive policies” are practices intended for work and life balances. In fact, “the primary way companies can help facilitate work-life balance for their employees is through work-life practices, that are usually associated with flexible working and reductions in working time or family-friendly policies”. According to Hartel et al., a variety of policies could be implemented to help manage work life balance just as "flexible working hour, job sharing, part-time work, compressed work weeks, parental leave, telecommuting, on-site child care facility".
Studies from Canadian adjunct professor and psychology researcher Yani Likongo demonstrated that sometimes in organizations an idiosyncratic psychological contract is built between the employee and his direct supervisor in order to create an "informal deal" regarding work-life balance. These "deals" support the idea of a constructivist approach including both the employer and the employee, based on a give-and-take situation for both of them.
As of March 2011, paid leave benefits continued to be the most widely available benefit offered by employers in the United States, with paid vacations available to 91 percent of full-time workers in private industry. Access to these benefits, however, varied by employee and establishment characteristics. According to the data from the National Compensation Survey (NCS), paid vacation benefits were available to 37 percent of part-time workers in private industry. These benefits were available to 90 percent of workers earning wages in the highest 10th percent of employees and only to 38 percent of workers in the lowest 10 percent of private industry wage earners. Paid sick leave was available to 75 percent of full-time workers and 27 percent of part-time workers. Access to paid sick leave benefits ranged from 21 percent for the lowest wage category to 87 percent for the highest wage category. These data provide comprehensive measures of compensation cost trends and incidence and provisions of employee benefit plans.
"It is generally only highly skilled workers that can enjoy such benefits as written in their contracts, although many professional fields would not go so far as to discourage workaholic behaviour. Unskilled workers will almost always have to rely on bare minimum legal requirements. The legal requirements are low in many countries, in particular, the United States. In contrast, the European Union has gone quite far in assuring a legal work–life balance framework, for example pertaining to parental leave and the non-discrimination of part-time workers."
According to Stewart Friedman—professor of Management and founding director of the Wharton School’s Leadership Program and of its Work/Life Integration Project—a "one size fits all" mentality in human resources management often perpetuates frustration among employees. "[It’s not an] uncommon problem in many HR areas where, for the sake of equality, there's a standard policy that is implemented in a way that's universally applicable -- [even though] everyone's life is different and everyone needs different things in terms of how to integrate the different pieces. It's got to be customized."
Friedman’s research indicates that the solution lies in approaching the components of work, home, community, and self as a comprehensive system. Instead of taking a zero-sum approach, Friedman’s Total Leadership program teaches professionals how to successfully pursue "four-way wins"—improved performance across all parts of life.
Although employers are offering many opportunities to help their employees balance work and life, these opportunities may be a catch twenty-two for some female employees. Even if the organization offers part-time options, many women will not take advantage of it as this type of arrangement is often seen as "occupational dead end".
Even with the more flexible schedule, working mothers opt not to work part-time because these positions typically receive less interesting and challenging assignments; taking these assignments and working part-time may hinder advancement and growth. Even when the option to work part-time is available, some may not take advantage of it because they do not want to be marginalized. This feeling of marginalization could be a result of not fitting into the "ideal worker" framework (see: Formation of the "ideal worker" and gender differences).
Additionally, some mothers, after returning to work, experience what is called the maternal wall. The maternal wall is experienced in the less desirable assignments given to the returning mothers. It is also a sense that because these women are mothers, they cannot perform as "ideal workers". If an organization is providing means for working mothers and fathers to better balance their work–life commitments, the general organizational norm needs to shift so the "ideal worker" includes those who must manage a home, children, elderly parents, etc.
Maternity leave and parental leave are leaves of absence for expectant or new mothers (sometimes fathers) for the birth and care of the baby. These policies vary significantly by country (regarding factors such as the length of the leave and what amount of money is paid). They may help create a work–life balance for families. For example, in Canada there is the Quebec Parental Insurance Program which is responsible for providing maternity, paternity, parental and adoption benefits to citizens of Quebec. According to the government of Canada website, El maternity benefits are offered for a maximum of 15 weeks. Both the biological and surrogate mothers are eligible to get these benefits. Those involved can receive these benefits as early as 12 weeks before the expected due date. In addition, there is also the possibility to be paid 17 weeks after the date of birth. These benefits can be received either by the standard or extended option. The standard parental benefits differ from the extended parental benefits in the percentage of the individual’s average weekly earnings and the number of weeks the individuals are being paid. Indeed, the extended parental benefit’s rate is 33% of the individuals’ average weekly earnings (for a maximum of 61 weeks) compared to 55% (for a maximum of 35 weeks) for the standard parental benefits. There is also the possibility for both parents to apply to the El parental benefits. Men are just as likely as women obtain these benefits.
However, in the United States, most states do not offer any paid time off for the birth of a child. As of 2015, the US was one of only three countries in the world (the other two being Papua New Guinea and Suriname) that does not have paid maternity leave.
Some new mothers (and fathers) in the US will take unpaid time off, allowed by the Family and Medical Leave Act. The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
- the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
- the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
|California||55% - 60% of highest quarterly earnings during a
12-month base period up to $959 (2009)
|Hawaii||58% of average weekly wages up to $510 (2009)|
|New Jersey||66% of average weekly wages up to $524 (2008)|
|New York||50% of weekly wages up to $170 (2008)|
|Rhode Island||4.62% of employees highest calendar quarter
wages in the base year, up to $671, plus dependent allowance of $10 or 7% of weekly benefit for up to 5 dependents (2008)
At the state level, California was the first state to offer paid family leave benefits for its workers. While the benefits only last for 6 weeks this is the first major step for maternity leave in the United States. New Jersey lawmakers are pushing legislation that would make their state the second state to add this worker benefit. Under one New Jersey proposal, workers who take leave would be paid through the state’s temporary disability insurance fund, "augmented by a 0.1 percent charge on workers’ weekly wages." Traditionally, many conservatives have opposed paid family leave, but there is a sign that this mindset is beginning to change. Reverend Paul Schenck, a prominent member of the National Pro-Life Action Center recently stated that he would support paid maternity leave on the assumption that it might encourage women to follow through with their pregnancies instead of having abortions. According to Heyman, "Across the political spectrum, people are realizing these policies have an enormous impact on working families. If you look at the most competitive economies in the world, all the others except the U.S. have these policies in place."
The United States is not as workplace family-oriented as many other wealthy countries. According to a study released by Harvard and McGill University researchers in February 2007, workplace policies for families in the U.S. are weaker than those of all high-income countries and even many middle-and low-income countries. Other differences include the fact that fathers are granted paid paternity leave or paid parental leave in sixty-five countries; thirty one of these countries offer at least fourteen weeks of paid leave. The U.S. does not guarantee this to fathers.(survey) Sweden, Denmark and Norway have the highest level of maternity benefits—Sweden provides 68 weeks paid maternity leave, Norway provides 56 weeks paid maternity leave and Denmark provides 52.
Diversity in regard to sexual orientation is often overlooked when implementing terms of family guidelines and agreements in corporate policies. Sexual minorities are often overlooked in establishing these policies. As a result, the needs of non-traditional families, which consist of couples or individuals with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) backgrounds, are not met. The sexual stigma and prejudice are present in managing diversity and inclusion on an international level, and an array of contextual and societal factors define the lack of attention given to sexual minority employees. As a result, these employees can be subjected to exclusion, neglect, and isolation, which have a negative effect on their work-life balance.
Several international studies reveal that LGBT-supportive corporate policies allow for an inclusive environment in the workplace. As a result, this entails benefits for the employees and overall company performance . There is a positive relationship between LGBT-supportive policies and business-related outcomes, such as increased productivity. A decrease in discriminatory behavior amongst employees, enhanced job satisfaction, and employee engagement are associated with increased economic outcomes
However, individual experiences with these kinds of inclusive policies vary, as there are potential "implementation gaps" between equality and diversity policies, and practice across sectors, workplaces and even within buildings of organizations.
Also, on a macroeconomic level, health promotion and public health policies that adapted and developed to ensure an inclusive and diversified work environment for sexual minorities. These health goals target the social determinants of health and lead to increased population health and an overall decrease in cost in the public health system.
Religion and spirituality play a role in work-life balance as they are part of diversity management and accommodations in the workplace and religion-based societies in Saudi Arabia or Israel organize religious accommodation with special provisions in government legislation and organizational policies. Some organizations also allow their employees to make up time spent on religious activities out of contractual hours., Religion and spirituality represent an essential issue in diversity management, as the question of accommodating religion at work often raises controversial debate.
An employee’s religious beliefs are often associated with their ethical beliefs, and an important role in self-identity and religion-based societies in Saudi Arabia or Israel organize religious accommodations with special provisions in government legislation and organizational policies. Some organizations also allow their employees to make up time spent on religious activities out of contractual hours. As such, poor management of religious diversity may affect employees’ performances if they feel forced to choose between aspects of their religious identity and their jobs. This may also lead to them dissociating themselves from the organization. Therefore, religious diversity management is essential to ensuring a satisfying work–life balance for employees. The American Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that ‘companies have a duty to provide reasonable religious accommodation’.
The notion of intersectionality in work-life balance encompasses the concept that oppression includes various elements of self-identity that are interrelated These elements comprise race, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, and age. Collaboration and a mutual understanding of these aspects of identity entail an increase in work-life balance. An intersectional perspective draw attention to institutionalized norms, beliefs, and attitudes that instigate work-life inequalities for all working individuals. Diversity and inclusion are part of a socially and politically responsible work environment (reference). When diversity in cultural and national contexts involves the recognition of intersectionality through gender, social class, and cultural beliefs associated with race and ethnicity.
According to a new study by Harvard and McGill University researchers, the United States lags far behind nearly all wealthy countries when it comes to family-oriented workplace policies such as maternity leave, paid sick days and support for breast feeding. Jody Heyman, founder of the Harvard-based Project on Global Working Families and director of McGill’s Institute for Health and Social Policy, states that, "More countries are providing the workplace protections that millions of Americans can only dream of. The United States has been a proud leader in adopting laws that provide for equal opportunity in the workplace, but our work/family protections are among the worst."
This observation is being shared by many Americans today and is considered by many experts to be indicative of the current climate. However, the U.S. Labor Department is examining regulations that give workers unpaid leave to deal with family or medical emergencies (a review that supporters of the FMLA worry might be a prelude to scaling back these protections, as requested by some business groups). Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut proposed legislation that would enable workers to take six weeks of paid leave. Congress was also expected to reconsider the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would have required employers with at least fifteen employees to provide seven paid sick days per year.
At least 107 countries protect working women’s right to breast-feed and, in at least seventy-three of them, women are paid. The United States does not have any federal legislation guaranteeing mothers the right to breast-feed their infants at work, but 24 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace.
At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week; the U.S. does not have a maximum work week length and does not place any limits on the amount of overtime that an employee is required to work each week. (survey) Sweden, Denmark and Norway have the highest level of maternity benefits—Sweden provides 68 weeks paid maternity leave, Norway provides 56 weeks paid maternity leave and Denmark provides 52.
Even when vacation time is offered in some U.S. companies, some choose not to take advantage of it. A 2003 survey by Management Recruiter International stated that fifty percent of executives surveyed didn’t have plans to take a vacation. They decided to stay at work and use their vacation time to get caught up on their increased workloads. More recently, 2018 research from Project: Time Off indicates 52% of employees reported having unused vacation days at the end of 2017. This equates to 705 million unused vacation days in the US annually.
American workers are legally not entitled to any paid holidays. However, most employers will give the 10 days off of national holidays. This is one of the lowest paid holidays total in the world. Brazil has a total of 41 paid days off and Australia has 38 days off. It can only be assumed that not having an adequate number of days off for holidays/sick leave/maternal leave will effect the mental health of Americans.
Some American companies have started to see that to improve employee efficiency they must improve the quality of their time at work and the various other stressors they may be experiencing in their life. Various companies have taken initiatives to drastically improve the employees work satisfaction. Companies such as 3M have introduced free stress management coaches into the work place to aid employees with their busy schedules. Google, Facebook and Sales Force have put areas to be physically active in the workplace as well as providing free food and snacks for the workers. These companies are some of the best in terms of benefits for sick and maternal leave. These business structures are models that can push the government to improve the standards across the United States of America.
The European Union promotes various initiatives regarding work-life balance and encourages its member states to implement family-friendly policies. In Europe, the Working Time Directive has implemented a maximum 48-hour working week. Many countries have opted for fewer hours. France introduced a 35-hour workweek. Contradictory to the Scandinavian countries, there is no evidence of state policies that absolutely encourage men to take on a larger share of domestic work in France, Portugal, or Britain. In a 2007, the European Quality of Life Survey found that countries in south-eastern Europe had the most common problems with work–life balance. In Croatia and Greece, a little over 70% of working citizens say that they are too tired to do household jobs at least several times a month because of work.
In Britain, legislation has been passed allowing parents of children under six to request a more flexible work schedule. Companies must approve this request as long as it does not damage the business. A 2003 Survey of graduates in the UK revealed that graduates value flexibility even more than wages.
In all twenty-five European Union countries, voters "punish" politicians who try to shrink vacations. "Even the twenty-two days Estonians, Lithuanians, Poles and Slovenians count as their own is much more generous than the leave allotted to U.S. workers." According to a report by the Families and Work Institute, the average vacation time that Americans took each year averaged 14.6 days.
According to Jeremy Reynolds, unions can lobby for benefits, pay, training, safety measures, and additional factors that impact the costs and benefits of work hours. "Unions can also have a more direct impact on hour mismatches through their efforts to change the length of the workday, work week, and work year, and to increase vacation and leave time." This is why workers in countries where there are strong unions usually work fewer hours and have more generous leave policies than workers who are in countries where there are weaker unions.
It is critical to mention that cultural factors influence why and how much we work. As stated by Jeremy Reynolds, "cultural norms may encourage work as an end in itself or as a means to acquiring other things, including consumer products." This might be why Americans are bound to work more than people in other countries. In general, Americans always want more and more, so Americans need to work more in order to have the money to spend on these consumer products.
- Dual-career commuter couples
- Death from overwork (Japan)
- Chief Happiness Officer
- Medical resident work hours
- Money-rich, time-poor
- Personal life
- Shared Earning/Shared Parenting Marriage
- Superwoman (sociology)
- Time bind
- Total Worker Health
- Wage slavery
- Work–family balance in the United States
- Working time
- Work–life balance in Germany
- Work–life interface
- Zero-hour contract
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