Work Family And Work Life Balance Management Essay

Work Family And Work Life Balance Management Essay
Miss Melissa Parker


University of Tasmania
School of Management
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Mark.Wickham@utas.edu.au

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Effectively Managing the Work-Family and Work-Life Balance:
An Organisational Role Theory Perspective.
ABSTRACT.

The effective management of employees’ work-life balance requires organisations to recognise and account for the array of non-work roles that impact their working-lives (Estes, 2004; Higgins & Duxbury, 2005; Howard, D’Onofrio & Boles, 2004). Despite the literary attention given to the ‘work-life balance’ in recent years, however, contemporary authors still note the concept’s inadequacy both in terms of its definition and administration (Hyman & Summers, 2004; Smithson & Stokoe, 2005). In order to explore the definitional boundaries of contemporary ‘work-life balance’, this paper adopts an Organisational Role Theory (ORT) perspective. In particular, this paper will undertake an examination of ORT’s role-taking, role-consensus, and role-conflict assumptions, and present some strategies for preventing or remedying work-life imbalance issues in the workplace.

The findings of this research indicate that the work-life balance’ literature needs to incorporate a distinction between ‘work-family’ and ‘work-life’ roles, and the manner in which each impacts on an individual’s working-life. It also suggests that in order to manage these discrete impacts effectively, managers need to incorporate the concepts of ‘the multi-faceted employee’, ‘employer facilitation’ and ‘compartmentalisation’ into their strategic management of the ‘work-life balance’.

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Key Words: Work-life balance, Organisational Role Theory, Strategic HRM.

Effectively Managing the Work-Family and Work-Life Balance:
An Organisational Role Theory Perspective.
INTRODUCTION.
The effective management of employees’ work-life balance (WLB) requires organisations to recognise and account for the array of non-work roles that impact on their working-lives (Estes, 2004; Higgins & Duxbury, 2005; Howard, D’Onofrio & Boles, 2004). Despite the literary attention given to the WLB in recent years, however, contemporary authors still note the concept’s inadequacy both in terms of its definition and administration (Hyman & Summers, 2004; Lewis, Rapoport & Gambles, 2003; Smithson & Stokoe, 2005). In order to explore the definitional boundaries of contemporary WLB, this paper adopts an Organisational Role Theory (ORT) perspective. In particular, this paper will explore ORT’s role-taking, role-consensus and role-conflict assumptions, and present strategies for preventing or remedying work-life imbalance issues in the workplace.

LITERATURE REVIEW.

The Work-Life Balance Concept.
The importance of managing an employee’s WLB has increased markedly over the past 20 years (De Bruin & Dupuis, 2004). Changes in the definition of ‘normal working hours’, the demographic make-up of the labour force (i.e. gender, ethnicity, dual career couples, and religion), and the very nature of the employment contract have necessitated an increased organisational concern for their employees’ well being (Greenhaus & Powell, 2006). In order to achieve a WLB, leading western organisations have tended to adopt 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 (Hacker & Doolen, 2003; Hyman & Summers, 2004). Each has attempted to increase the flexibility by which employees can effectively enact their work-roles whilst simultaneously enabling them to enact their family-based roles to the extent necessary. Ideally, the WLB concept requires organisations to effectively integrate employees’ work and non-work roles such that levels of multiple-role conflict, and the associated stress and job-dissatisfaction, are minimised or avoided (De Bruin & Dupuis, 2004; Greenblatt, 2002).

Why is the WLB Concept Still an Issue?
Despite the best intentions of organisations to implement WLB policies, there remains considerable contention about their effectiveness in delivering flexibility and reducing stress and job-dissatisfaction in the workplace (Eates, 2004; Kirrane & Buckley, 2004). Researchers have identified two empirical shortcomings within the WLB literature that have served to undermine its theoretical usefulness. The first relates to the WLB literature’s almost exclusive focus on the work-family interface. Buzzanell et al, (2005) notes that the WLB literature typically portrays role conflicts for white, married, professional and managerial women, with little reference to the many other demographics represented in the modern organisation. Shorthose (2004) and Wise and Bond (2003) go so far as to state that the WLB discipline is essentially flawed, as it is ‘one-dimensional’, assumes a unitary perspective, and that its underlying management has been one of maintaining status-quo rather than supporting the development.

The second relates to the literature’s inability to clearly define the array of non-work roles that impact employees’ working-life. Elloy and Smith (2004) and Spinks (2004), for example, state that because an individual’s non-work roles are inherently ambiguous and idiosyncratic, organisations are incapable of understanding how their enactment (or otherwise) impacts each individual. Spinks (2004), in particular, suggests that organisations are either incapable (or unwilling) to understand their workforce in sufficient detail, and have instead defaulted to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy regime that has simply enabled employees to ‘stay at work longer’ rather than enable them to enact their non-work roles. The inadequacy of current WLB policy regimes is highlighted by Kiger’s (2005) study that revealed that less than two percent of employees actually participate in available WLB programs. Dex and Smith (2002) cite two main causes for this low figure. The first relates to equity, with many employees reporting that they did not wish to appear a ‘special case’ or to require ‘special treatment’ to their colleagues. The second is that the wide range of policies adopted by organisations have been based on an ill-informed conceptualisation of contemporary WLB, and that this has led to its ineffective formalisation in human resource management practices.

The contribution of the WLB literature, therefore, appears limited in its ability to provide a useful framework for both academics and practitioners alike (Hyman & Summers, 2004). Despite its name, the WLB literature remains largely focused on the work-family interface and fails to accurately identify and define the array of non-family roles that impact on an individual’s working-life (Hacker & Doolen, 2003; Mellor, Mathieu, Barnes-Farrell & Rogelberg, 2001; Noor, 2004; Pocock, 2005). In order to overcome these issues, Elloy and Smith (2003: 63) suggest that an effective conceptualisation of the WLB requires:

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…an holistic approach to human resource management, which implies a greater awareness of the total context of worker’s daily lives, not just those hours they spend at work.

Research Opportunity: Applying an ORT Lens to the WLB Issue.

In response to Elloy and Smith’s (2003) call, we adopt Noor’s (2004) recommendation to apply an ORT lens to the WLB issues above. The origins of ORT can be traced back to the work of Katz and Kahn (1966) in their seminal work The Social Psychology of Organizations, which provided a conceptualisation of employee’s role-adoption and role-behaviours. Specifically, ORT focuses on the roles that individuals enact in social systems that are pre-planned, task-oriented, and hierarchical, and therefore form a vital function in the achievement of organisational goals (Biddle, 1986). According to ORT, the assigned work-roles must be conferred and/or adopted by each individual employee in order for an organisation to function effectively as a social entity. As a social entity, an organisation comprises a nexus of distinct functional groups of employees that have specific work-roles to enact. Under ORT, these distinct functional areas form a ‘role-set’ for the employee, and determine the specific role-behaviour that the employee is expected to enact in their given context (Katz & Kahn, 1966). As such, the enacted set of role-behaviours essentially mirrors the expectation of other relevant employees, and implies two important points. The first is that each individual employee both confers and accepts a ‘role’ that is reflective of the organisation’s culture and norms of behaviour. The second is that for an organisation to function effectively and efficiently, the array of ‘roles’ must be effectively communicated, understood, and agreed by all of its employees (Katz & Kahn, 1966).

In order to control for manifest disagreement (i.e. any variation between role-expectation and actual role-enactment), ORT provides a review framework known as ‘role-episodes’. A role-episode refers to any interaction between employees whereby role-expectations and role-behaviours are manifest in measurable consequences. Where deviance from expected role-enactment is detected (e.g. excessive absenteeism, failure to perform, etc.) management functions such as ‘performance reviews’ or ‘retraining’ allow the organisation to re-confer or clarify role-expectations upon the deviant employee (Katz & Kahn, 1966). The role-episode review process is necessarily dynamic; therefore role-sending and role-receiving continue until the perception of role-enactment conforms to the role-expectations. The role-episode review function is underpinned by the following assumptions:

that an employee will ‘take’ or accept a role that is conferred upon them by members of the organisation (the role-taking assumption); and

there will be consensus regarding the expectations of all roles (the role-consensus assumption); and

the belief that role-conflict will arise if expectations are not consensual (the role-conflict assumption) (Biddle, 1986).

De Bruin and Dupuis (2004) suggest that by applying ORT’s assumptions to the WLB issue, a greater understanding about WLB role-taking, role-consensus, and role-conflict can be achieved.

METHOD.

This research comprised a two-stage process. The first stage included the use of a questionnaire-survey that was completed by n=102 full-time employees from the Hobart business community (NB: a 26 percent response rate). The sample included 72 women and 30 men, with a mean age of 36 and range of 22 to 55 years. The questionnaire-survey included open-ended questions that allowed respondents to provide detailed qualitative feedback regarding the array of non-work roles that they felt impacted on their working-life. The recurrent issues arising from the questionnaire-surveys were explored in greater depth during the second stage of the research, which comprised n=20 semi-structured interviews. The semi-structured interviews included a standard set of questions asked of each interviewee, but were designed to allow the researcher latitude to explore unanticipated issues as they arose. The semi-structured interviews lasted between 15 and 30 minutes each, and were recorded onto audiotape. The interviewer also took written notes during the interview for the purpose of contextualising transcribed data during the subsequent coding process.

The interpretation of the data, the construction of ‘category nodes’, and the verification of the conclusions, were facilitated by the use of the NUD*IST software package. The categories initially generated from the literature review formed an index system that appears as the Nodes represented in Figure 1.

Figure 1: NUD*IST Index Tree: Nodes Emanating from the Literature Review

Organisational Role Theory
(1 1) The role-taking assumption

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(1 2) The role-consensus assumption

(1 2 1) Work-life balance

(1 3) The role-conflict assumption

The primary questionnaire-surveys and semi-structured interview transcripts were then scrutinised for significant terms, events, and issues located therein according to units of observation, and coded according to the nodes in the index system. Where it was appropriate, data were allocated to more than one node for analysis. Again using the NUD*IST software, the contents of each if the initial index nodes were reviewed to identify common themes that arose in the primary data. Subsequently, additional nodes were established to categorise the results of the primary data analysis (see Figure 2 for the complete list of nodes to emerge from the data analysis).

Figure 2: NUD*IST Index Tree: Nodes Emanating from the Primary Data Analysis

(1) Organisational Role Theory
(1 1) The role- taking assumption

(1 1 1) Acceptance of role

(1 1 2) Non-acceptance of role

(1 2) The role-consensus assumption

(1 2 1) Work-life balance

(1 2 1 1) Sporting-based

(1 2 1 2) Charity-based

(1 2 1 3) Education-based

(1 2 1 4) Socially-based

(1 2 2) Work-family balance

(1 2 2 1) Family-based roles

(1 3) The role-conflict assumption

(1 4) Multi-faceted employees

(1 4 1) Emotional investment

(1 4 1 1) Self-validation

(1 4 1 2) Self-definition

(1 4 1 3) Relationship management

(1 5) Employer facilitation of non-work roles

(1 5 1) Employer recognition

(1 5 2) Open communication

(1 5 3) Employer assistance

(1 6) Compartmentalisation

In order to facilitate the theory building process later in the research process, memos were maintained about the data, their categories, and the relationships between them as they emerged. Designed to store and organise ideas about the data, they were integrated into the analytic process. Wilson (1985: 420) suggests that memos assist in the development of theory in five important ways:

They require that you move your thinking about the idea to a conceptual level.

They summarise the properties of each category so that you can begin to construct operational definitions.

They summarise propositions about relationships between categories and their propositions.

They begin to integrate categories with clusters of other categories.

They relate your analysis to other theories.

NUD*IST has a facility for the creation and retention of such memos for later consideration and analysis. Utilising the memo capability within the NUD*IST package, memo reports were generated by the software during the analysis of the primary data. From these reports, the interaction between the parties’ became clearer, the context of the various phenomena surfaced, causes and effects were revealed. The themes emanating from the primary data analysis form the basis of the discussion section that follows.

DISCUSSION.

In total, the sample returned a list of 35 non-work roles that they felt impacted on their working-life. Consistent with the WLB literature the most commonly reported non-work roles to impact on the working-life was that of being a spouse. Other Family-based non-work roles that were reported included ‘parent’, ‘being a child’, ‘sibling’, and being ‘extended family’. Respondents also reported an array of twenty-two non-family roles not represented in the WLB literature. Table 1 presents the complete list of non-work roles reported by respondents.

Table 1: Reported Non-Work Roles of the Respondent Group
1. Spouse

19. Taxi Driver (kids)

2. Parent

20. Sports Official

3. Recreational Sportsperson

21. Grandchild

4. Student

22. Artist

5. Child

23. Traveller

6. Volunteer

24. Consultant

7. Sibling

25. Neighbour

8. Friend

26. Political Advocate

9. Committee Member

27. Justice of the Peace

10. Pet Owner

28. Church Council Member

11. Grandparent

29. Flatmate

12. Aunt/Uncle

30. Musician

13. Self

31. Child-in-Law

14. Carer

32. Financial Controller

15. Mentor

33. Home Maker

16. Godparent

34. Relative

17. Home Renovator

35. Army Reserve Soldier

18. Counsellor

The first-round coding of the data identified five categories of non-work roles that respondents reported impacted on their working-life: Family-based, Sporting-based, Charity-based, Education-based, and Socially-based roles. It was also found that these non-work roles impacted working-life in three common ways: ‘time’, ‘skill development’ and ‘stress’, but with differing effect. In terms of its impact on working-life, Family-based roles required greater flexibility in terms of the organisation’s workplace practices. This finding was consistent with the WLB literature in that organisations were aware of their employees’ Family-based roles and accommodated them through workplace policies. However, this research indicates that respondents felt that this awareness and the subsequent policies served largely to increase their time at work rather than enabling them to enact the Family-based roles as they would wish. In addition, respondents noted that the skills that develop in their Family-based roles such as time management, conflict resolution, and negotiation could be more greatly appreciated by their organisations. Where respondents reported that organisational policies impacted their ability to enact Family-based roles or that their Family-based skills were not recognised in the workplace increased levels of stress and dissatisfaction was reported.

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In terms of their Sporting-based roles, respondents reported three impacts on their working-life. The first impact was that greater flexibility was required in terms of workplace policies to allow employees to regularly participate in their sporting activities. The second related to the skills developed by respondents their sporting-based roles (such as leadership and communication) and their perception that they were not necessarily recognised by their organisations. The third impact related to the working-life time lost due to injury and travel requirements. Where respondents indicated that their organisation recognised these three impacts and facilitated the enactment of Sporting-based roles, greater satisfaction and lower levels of stress were reported. Conversely, where respondents indicated that their organisation restricted their ability to enact their Sporting-based roles and ignored the skills developed in these roles, higher levels of stress and dissatisfaction were reported.

In terms of their Charity-based roles, respondents reported two impacts on their working-life. The first impact was that greater flexibility was required in terms of organisational workplace policies to allow employees to participate in Charity-based roles. The second impact related to the use of specialist skills (e.g. First Aid, Fire Safety etc.) that respondents developed in their Charity-based roles and the fact that these would be of great value in their workplace. Where respondents indicated that their organisation restricted their ability to enact their Charity-based roles in favour of enacting their workplace roles, higher levels of dissatisfaction were reported. Conversely, respondents also indicated that where their organisation failed to recognise the specialist skills developed in their Charity-based roles, increased levels of dissatisfaction were reported.

In terms of their Education-based roles, respondents reported three impacts on their working-life. The first impact was that greater flexibility was required in terms of organisational workplace policies that facilitated employee’s studies, for example, study leave, clear career progression opportunities, etc. The second impact related to the increased level of work to complete because of the additional demands of their education program. The third impact related to the use of the technical skills (such as accounting, finance, law, etc.) developed in their Education-based roles. Where respondents indicated that their organisation recognised their Education-based roles and facilitated these roles higher levels of satisfaction and career advancement opportunities were reported. Conversely, where respondents indicated that their Education-based roles were not recognised, and in fact had to work unpaid overtime to perform their required work-roles, greater levels of dissatisfaction were reported.

In terms of their Socially-based roles, respondents reported one impact on their working-life. This impact related to the increased levels of stress and dissatisfaction in their working-life, as they were unable to access their social support networks due to the time spent enacting their work-roles. This was most markedly noted in instances where respondents were expected to work unpaid overtime in order to enact their work-roles to the standard required by the respondent’s direct supervisors.

An analysis of the specific impact each non-work role had on respondents’ working-life resulted in the detection of three major themes, each of which having important implications for both ORT and the effective management of the WLB. The three themes identified from the data included the ‘multi-faceted employee’, ‘employer facilitation’, and ‘compartmentalisation’. The first key theme identified was that of the ‘multi-faceted employee’. The research findings indicated that the respondent group enacted an array of non-work roles that included both Family-based and non-Family roles, and that each served to fulfil specific needs within the individual. The reported ‘fulfilment’ was identified to have three components: self-validation, self-definition, and relationship management. Self-validation refers to the extent to which the respondents felt that the enacted roles reinforced their sense of self-worth. Self-definition refers to how the respondents felt the enacted roles reflected them as an individual. Relationship management refers to the extent that respondents felt that they were able to interact with their self-defined support networks. The following respondents exemplified these components:

They are an integral part of ‘me’. I get self-validation from fulfilling these roles for others, in particular the volunteer role.

They define my society and the social networks that I interact in.

I feel that my activities and achievements help define who I am. I do not wish to be defined purely by my paid work.

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‘Spouse’ and ‘parent’ are the roles that I have taken which involve commitment, trust and ongoing effort and involvement. They are also the two main sources of satisfaction, enjoyment, and sense of worth that I have.

Respondents reported that when the enactment of work-roles came at the expense of the fulfilment experienced in their non-work roles, the likelihood of dissatisfaction and turnover in the workplace increased:

When I was working at a much higher senior management level in a previous position for 14 years it was very difficult. I would need to take work home constantly and this impacted on my parenting role significantly. I changed positions for this reason.

Ideally, I would like to work part-time to be able to do all the things I want to do, such as spend time with my family and do volunteer work, but unfortunately, I have to work to live.

The second key theme identified related to ‘employer facilitation’. Employer facilitation refers to the extent an employee perceives that their firm recongises the existence and importance of their non-work roles, and the extent to which they believe their firm affords them opportunities to enact them. This theme had three components: ‘recognition of employee’s non-work roles’, ‘open communication’, and ‘employer assistance’. The recognition of employee’s non-work roles referred to the extent that employers recognised the array of non-work roles that employees enacted. Open communication referred to the extent that employees and employers communicated in terms of these roles and how it may potentially impact the employee’s working-life. Employer assistance referred to the extent that employers assisted employees in facilitating the enactment of non-work roles. These components were exemplified by the following respondents:

They are aware of some impacts, but not all.

It doesn’t occur to people that when you have a young family you have other roles as well.

I mainly discussed a non-work role that eventuated through work that boosted my role in the interview. I am a mentor to a student … They were very supportive and impressed that I had taken this on, as well as try and study. They have even offered me a vehicle on occasions for getting to the college during the day for workshops.

Moving into that new role, I felt I needed to be honest about my priorities and they respected that and said they would work with me to balance it. They said they wanted to retain me in that workplace and were prepared to introduce flexible working arrangements to do that.

I was pretty annoyed with them. I mentioned that my long work hours were interfering with my home life and so they bought me a laptop to work at home instead of in the office.

Respondents reported that where the organisation failed to recognise and/or engage in communication regarding non-work roles, and/or did not facilitate their enactment, respondents indicated increased dissatisfaction and intention to leave. The dissatisfaction and intention to leave was exemplified by the following:

They weren’t [flexible] up until 12 months ago, but we got a new general manager who is much more family and flexible friendly, which has had a huge impact on me. I was previously looking to change to a company with more flexibility, but now I am happy to remain where I am.

I have thought about leaving, but they are paying for my university fees, which is an incentive to stay.

The third key theme related to ‘compartmentalisation’. In this research, compartmentalisation refers to the attempts by employees to minimise the impact between their working-life and the enactment of their non-work roles. Specifically, respondents reporting compartmentalisation efforts indicated that they were doing so in order to reduce role-conflict in their working-life, and not to hide the fact they enacted multiple-roles. This theme was exemplified by the following comments:

I try to have a clear separation between work and home life.

Cram in as much activity before and after work. I make a mental choice to do all this activity and I also make a mental choice to try not to make it have an impact.

I have to actively resist the temptation (internal) and pressure to work more or do further study in order to manage my work-life balance.

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I ‘attempt’ to finish work, go home and leave work at work.

I keep the two separate as much as I can.

Compartmentalisation tactics included both cognitive and behavioural components. Cognitively, respondents reported their compartmentalisation efforts as the selective non-disclosure of non-work roles to their colleagues. Behaviourally, respondents reported their compartmentalisation efforts as including refusal to work overtime, refusal to ‘take work home’, refusal to allow family members to visit them at work, and refusal to socialise with their work colleagues. Respondents reported that where their attempts to compartmentalise were unsuccessful, and that this led to role-conflict, they indicated experiencing a greater level of stress and dissatisfaction. This perception was exemplified by the following respondent:

In my private life I’m always going through what I’m trying to do at work and when I’m at work I’m wondering about other things such as is my son okay at school today, he had the sniffles this morning, he’s not getting sick is he; and I can’t concentrate totally on work. I sometimes lose my train of thought during work processes.

ORT and the WLB: Reconceptualising the Role-taking and Role-consensus Assumptions.
Given the need to explore the tenets of the WLB, the key themes of the ‘multi-faceted employee’ and ‘employer facilitation’ can be used to inform a reconceptualisation of the role-taking and role-consensus assumptions. Firstly, the ‘multi-faceted employee’ theme necessitates that the WLB literature incorporate a more comprehensive array of non-work roles that impact on employees’ working-life, and not just those associated with family duties. The research indicates that three components of the ‘multi-faceted employee’ (i.e. self-validation, self-definition, and relationship management considerations) influence employee decisions and ability to enact work-roles, and therefore must be considered within any framework of effective human resource management. The recognition that organisations employ ‘multi-faceted employees’ requires managers to expand their understanding of the manner in which employees’ construct their role-sets. It also requires managers to recognise the manner in which family and non-family-based roles influence employees’ ability and motivation to enact their work-roles to the standard required. Where managers were unable to do this, respondents in this study indicated higher levels of stress, dissatisfaction, and intent to leave the workplace.

Secondly, the ‘employer facilitation’ theme necessitates that the WLB literature incorporate the three distinct role-groups (i.e. Work-role, Work-family, and Work-life) along with ‘open communication’ into its tenets. It is important to note that both the Work-family and Work-life role-groups had varying influences on respondents ability and motivation to enact their Work-roles, and that managers need to be aware of the ‘whole person’ in their efforts to manage their workforce holistically. As individual employees will construct role-sets according to their specific circumstances, managers must be equipped to detect individual differences for the effective construction of role-consensus in the workplace. Whilst this may appear a challenge to managers in larger organisations, respondents indicated that they only expected their organisations be aware of a small number of non-work roles they felt as important to their well being. Where respondents felt as though they were treated as ‘one-dimensional’, they reported higher levels of stress and dissatisfaction in their working-life. A second implication for managers is that they need to remain aware of how the influences of an employee’s array of non-work roles change over time. Respondents indicated that their roles tend to change over their lifetime, and that accommodations made to them by their organisation needed to similarly change to remain relevant to their wellbeing in their working lives.

The Management of the WLB and Role-Conflict.
The issue surrounding the management of role-conflict was based on the WLB literature’s inadequate account of the manner in which employees enact their multiple-roles. Given this issue, the key themes of the ‘compartmentalisation’ and ‘employer facilitation’ inform a reconceptualisation of this issue. Firstly, the ‘compartmentalisation’ theme necessitates that the WLB literature incorporate the tendency for employees to physically separate the enactment of their non-work roles (i.e. Work-Family and Work-Life roles) from their Work-roles. This research found that where possible, conflicting work and non-work roles were physically separated from each other, so that the boundaries between their working and non-working lives did not overlap. Where respondents were able to successfully compartmentalise their conflicting work and non-work roles, role-conflicts were minimised, as were reports of dissatisfaction and stress. Conversely, where respondents were unable to compartmentalise their conflicting work and non-work roles, dissatisfaction, stress, and intention to leave the workplace were reported.

Given the recognition that employees will attempt to minimise role-conflict in their working and non-working-life, the second key theme of ‘employer facilitation’ also informs the reconceptualisation of effective WLB management. Specifically, where the managers assisted respondents to effectively compartmentalise conflicting roles (e.g. ‘family-days’ off work, not providing laptop computers so that employees were unable to work from home, etc.) satisfaction and lower stress levels were reported. As such, the WLB literature needs to incorporate the notion that both managers and employees are able to minimise the occurrence and impact of role-conflict in the workplace.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION.

The non-work roles found to impact on the working-life of respondents in this research were categorised into five distinct groups, each of which had varying impacts on their working-life. Although the research findings supported the relevance of the WLB literature to ORT, there was evidence that at least four other categories of non-work roles needed to be considered for the effective management of human resources. This research recommends that a distinction be made between three groups of roles (i.e. Work-roles, Work-Family roles, and Work-Life roles) that directly affect employee working-life. In terms of Work-roles, academics and practitioners must remain aware of the work-roles currently recognised by the WLB literature, and how these roles tend to impact on the fulfilment of non-work roles. In terms of better defining the WLB boundaries within a firm, this research recommends that an ‘impact audit’ system be adopted to more specifically indicate how the array of work-roles tend to impact on the employees’ overall WLB. With such knowledge, both the firm and the employee will have a better understanding of the manner in which a change in work-role is likely to impact their non-work roles, and therefore, their perception of the WLB.

In terms of Work-family roles, academics and practitioners need to recognise the specific impacts of the work-family interface, and that the importance of varying aspects of this interface necessarily change over a lifetime (i.e. as a person changes from single to married, from childless to a family, etc). With this understanding, firms may be better able to match employees with particular work-roles, and change them as it becomes necessary for both parties. It is also important that employers become aware of the limitations of ‘family-friendly’ practices that serve only to enable workers to spend more time at work. In terms of Work-life roles, academics and practitioners need to recognise the significance of both non-work and non-family roles that are none-the-less important to employees in terms of stress relief, skill development, and the development of social support networks.
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