The elusive goal of work-life balance is sought by most people, but progress is often blocked by lack of understanding of all the barriers preventing it, according to an RMIT University research project.
Recent research by Dr Michelle Turner suggests that companies and their employees often don’t know enough about the total demands being made in the workplace, or the resources that individuals need to create better balance in their lives.
Dr Turner has been seeking to shed light on the frustration felt by many people seeking work-life balance but sensing that their situation is not well understood or respected.
Her initial interest was sparked in a very personal way when working in a previous job when she noticed that colleagues with dependent children were often given consideration for their child-rearing duties. However, those without young children were assumed to have no important outside commitments or interests.
“People without children were assumed to be available to work long and irregular hours and be away from home frequently”, Dr Turner said.
She was struck by the unfairness of the assumption that anyone not rearing children would be free of all other demands or interests in their life outside work.
“It seemed that some outside roles and responsibilities were respected, while others were ignored.”
Dr Turner’s project has produced new data on the impact of work demands on arange of people, particularly in the construction industry, and better identification of some important resource needs, including the fact that many people have different needs at different stages of their working life.
One of the outcomes of her research is a mechanism for planning which matches the demands of each job with the situation of each individual, for potential use in annual staff performance reviews.
Dr Turner believes her research will be valuable not just to workplace researchers but to companies seeking to retain good workers of all kinds – including older workers whose valuable experience is often lost too soon.
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Do you feel you have adequate work-life balance? Are non-parents treated differently from parents?