The expression "work-life balance" was first used in the late 1970s to describe the balance between an individual's work and personal life. (New Ways to Work and the Working Mother's Association in the
United States, this phrase was first used in 1986. As the separation between work and home life has diminished, this concept has become more relevant than ever before.
Over the past twenty-five years, there has been a substantial increase in work which is felt to be due, in part, by information technology and by an intense, competitive work environment. Long-term loyalty and a “sense of corporate community” have been eroded by a performance culture that expects more and more from their employees yet offers little security in return. Many experts forecasted that technology would eliminate most household chores and provide people with much more time to enjoy leisure activities; unfortunately, many have decided to ignore this option being “egged on” by a
consumeristculture and a political agenda that has “elevated the work ethic to unprecedented heights and thereby reinforced the low value and worth attached to parenting.” [http://www.worklifebalancecentre.org] In her recent book, Willing Slaves – How the Overwork Culture is Ruling our Lives”, Madeleine Buntingstated that from 1977 to 1997 Americans working full time have increased their average working hours from 43.6 hours to 47.1 hours each week. (This does not include time required to travel to and from their places of business). [http://www.worklifebalancecentre.org]
Many Americans are experiencing burnout due to overwork and increased stress. This condition is seen in nearly all occupations from blue collar workers to upper management. Over the past decade, a rise in workplace violence, an increase in levels of absenteeism as well as rising workers’ compensation claims are all evidence of an unhealthy work life balance. 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. [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] . According to a recent study for the
Center for Work-Life Policy, 1.7 million people consider their jobs and their work hours excessive because of globalization. These difficult and exhausting conditions are having adverse effects. According to the Study Fifty percent of top corporate executives are leaving their current positions. Although sixty-four percent of workers feel that their work pressures are “self-inflicted”, they state that it is taking a toll on them. The study shows that, nationally, seventy percent, and globally, eighty-one percent, say their jobs are affecting their health. Between forty-six and fifty-nine percent of workers feel that stress is affecting their interpersonal and sexual relationships. Additionally, men feel that there is a certain stigma associated with saying “I can’t do this”.
According to a survey conducted by the National Life Insurance Co., four out of ten employees state that their jobs are “very” or “extremely” stressful. [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] 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.
tress and work-life balance
The number of stress-related disability claims by American employees has doubled according to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association in Arlington, Virginia. Seventy-five to ninety percent of physician visits are related to stress and, according to the American Institute of Stress, the cost to industry has been estimated at $200 billion-$300 billion a year. [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400] 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”. [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] Michael Feuerstein, professor of clinical psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at Bethesda Naval Hospital states, “We’re seeing a greater increase in work-related neuroskeletal disorders from a combination of stress and ergonomic stressors.” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.]
It is clear that 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 healthproblems, a weaker immune systemand 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 alcoholconsumption.
One example of the effects of work-related stress is exhibited in the life of Barbara Agoglia as recounted in Forbes. [http://www.msn.com] Ms. Agoglia was a director in American Express’ small business unit. After working more than fifty hours each week, as well as driving a ninety minute commute each day, she was on the brink of burnout. The “breaking point” came when her son started school and she didn’t have the time to wait with him at his bus stop. She compared her life to “the hamster-on-the-wheel” and felt that her only option was to quit her job. [www.msn.com] Another example is demonstrated by a Harvard University president, Neil Rudenstine, leaving his position for two months in order to have a time of “rest and recovery.” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] According to James Campbell Quick, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Texas-Arlington, “The average tenure of presidents at land-grant universities in the past ten years has dropped from approximately seven to three-and-a-half years.” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] 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 divvied up among relationships, kids, and sleep.” [http://www.msn.com] 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 pursing activities that one enjoys and taking the time to grow personally and spiritually. [http://www.worklifebalancecentre.org]
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.” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] Although some employers feel 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.” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.]
Women and family
Unfortunately, many women feel additional stress when they must decide what they feel is best for their families or what is best for their career. Lawyer Lisa Kay Bennett is presently searching for a job. Ms. Bennett has fourteen years of litigation experience and has been a Federal judge clerk. However, after sending fifty resumes to various firms and companies, she has received only two responses for low-paying positions. The problem is the fact that this highly qualified lawyer took seven years off to raise her children. According to Sylvia Hewlett, president of the
Center for Work-Life Policy, if a woman takes time off to care for children or an older parent, employers tend to “see these people as less than full committed. It’s as though their identity is transformed.” [http://www.pbs.org/nbr] Brett Graff, Nightly Business Report correspondent states that (because a female may have trouble re-entering the market or, if she does find a position, it will likely be a lower position with less pay). “If you thought choosing a baby name was hard, you have yet to wrestle with the idea of leaving your career to be a full-time mom or take care of an older parent…Most will want to reenter, but will do so accepting lesser positions or lower wages.” [http://www.pbs.org/nbr] This circumstance only increases the work-life balance stress experienced by many women employees.Similar discrimination is experienced by men who take time off or reduce working hours for taking care of the family.
Research conducted by the Kenexa Research Institute (KRI), a division of Kenexa, 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. For many employees today—both male and female—their lives are becoming more consumed with a host of family and other personal responsibilities and interests. Therefore, in an effort to retain employees, it is increasingly important for organizations to recognize this balance. [http://www.kenexa.com/en/AboutUs/Press/2007/07JUL25.aspx]
An increasing number of young children are being raised by a
childcareprovider or another person other than a parent; older children are more likely today to come home to an empty house and spend time with video games, televisionand the internetwith less guidance to offset or control the messages coming from these sources. No one knows how many kids are home after school without an adult, but they know the number is in the millions. Also, according to a study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the “more time that children spent in child care, the more likely their sixth grade teachers were to report problem behavior.” [http://www.abcnews.go.com/health] The findings are the results of the largest study of child care and development conducted in the United States; the analysis tracked 1,364 children from birth.
Responsibility of the employer
Companies have begun to realize how important the work-life balance is to the productivity and creativity of their employees. Research by Kenexa Research Institute in 2007 shows that those employees who were more favorable toward their organization’s efforts to support work-life balance also indicated a much lower intent to leave the organization, greater pride in their organization, a willingness to recommend it as a place to work and higher overall job satisfaction.
Employers can offer a range of different programs and initiatives, such as flexible working arrangements in the form of part time, casual and telecommuting work. More proactive employers can provide compulsory leave, strict maximum hours and foster an environment that encourages employees not to continue working after hours. 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 leaveand the non-discrimination of part-time workers.
United States history
The first enforceable hours' law in the
United Stateswas in 1874 when Massachusettsenacted a law which limited the amount of time that women and children could work each week. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us] This limit was set at sixty hours per week. Similar laws were later adopted by about half of the country’s states. Only men in exceptionally hazardous jobs were covered in early legislation and most had no limit to the number of hours their employers could have them work. Ten-hour workdays were accepted in the agricultureindustry during certain seasons and six-day workweeks were not unheard of. Bakers did not win the right to work less than ten hours per day until 1905 with the court case of Lochner vs. New York. The general presumption during this period was that the courts would allow regulation of labor concerning women and children, who were thought to be incapable of bargaining on an equal footing with employers and in special need of protection. Men were allowed freedom of contract unless it could be proven that regulating their hours served a higher good for the population at large. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us] During the turn of the twentieth century, the push for an eight-hour workday was geared primarily toward raising the hourly wage. The idea was that by maintaining the current weekly pay while lowering working hours, a fairer rate of pay would result. The slogan, “Whether you work by the piece or work by the day, decreasing the hours increases the pay,” seemed to carry the mood of the day. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us]
The early twentieth century laid the groundwork for the idea of work-life balance. Advancements in social sciences would move the focus towards the impact of long hours on the physical and mental health of the employee. At this time, however, the new information was used to enhance
productivityfor the company. The shorter hours movement began to focus on the fact that an overworked employee is more prone to injury or mistake and becomes less productive. Josephine Goldmark wrote a book in 1912 detailing this fact and the Federal Public Works Actwas passed the same year. This new act required a forty-hour workweek for employees of government contracted firms. Over the next ten years, the government passed legislation requiring a forty-hour work week for individual industries nearly every time the issue arose in court. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us] When the employees of the steelindustry failed to obtain a reduction from their eighty-four-hour work week in 1919, the industry soon allowed their employees an eight-hour workday, a four hour per day reduction—a move brought about by much “arm-twisting” on the part of President Harding. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us] By the 1920s, the average work week was fifty hours and was considered a great stride and well-earned award for America’s working man. (Whaples) The push for fewer hours had come to a close, but they had one more hurdle to overcome. The new concentration was on the ability to work half a day on Saturdays or have the day off completely. The ability to have two days of rest was unprecedented, but was considered vital to finalize an ethical work schedule. Pressure was put on businesses to make the change, especially in industries and cities with a large number of Jewishworkers (since the Jewish Sabbathis on Saturday), and they finally achieved this goal by the end of the decade. Where only thirty-two firms had a five-day workweek in 1920, nearly half had adopted the practice by 1927. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us]
Their success was short lived. In the 1920s, the workers were coaxed into believing that they wanted to work longer hours and that they would be harmed by measures that limited how many hours they were allowed to work. Social scientists would later name this force the “gospel of consumption.” Beginning in the 1920s, advertisers persuaded Americans that happiness would not come from leisure time but from purchasing commodities, and he concluded that this made it easier for managers to “allow” workers to make more money by working longer hours. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us] Social scientists would conclude that a new work ethic began as Americans left the psychology of scarcity and adopted one of abundance. Some argue that this mentality of consumption or “
consumerism” persists to this day. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us] During the twentieth century, the average workweek has changed drastically. In 1900, the average workweek in manufacturing was approximately fifty-three hours. However, the workweek is responsive to business conditions. During the Great Depression, the average number of hours for production workers in manufacturing dropped to 34.6 each week. During World War II, hours worked rose to forty-five each week. The normal range of hours worked during the four decades after World War II was thirty-nine to forty-one hours; (Whaples) however, starting in the 1990s, factory workweek hours began to exceed forty-one hours. As previously mentioned, Americans work approximately 47.1 hours each week; some employees work up to seventy hours. Therefore, it is safe to state that the average number of hours Americans presently work each week is the highest it has been in nearly seventy-five years. One fact of interest is that in 1900, only nineteen percent of women of working age were in the labor force. In 1999 sixty percent of women worked outside the home. (It is also interesting to note that even if the hours worked were slightly higher at the turn of the century, most households were supported by one paycheck) “In 1900, eighty percent of American children had a working father and a stay-at-home mother; however, by 1999, that figure was only twenty-four percent.” [http://www.bls.gov/opub/cwc/]
During the Great Depression, working hours were reduced. By 1932, approximately fifty percent of Americans were working a shortened work week. Instead of reducing wages, employers decided to lay off many workers and attempted to protect the employees that remained by encouraging them to job share. President Hoover’s Commission for Work Sharing pushed voluntary hours reductions, and it is estimated that nearly three to five million jobs had been saved. (Whaples) Companies such as Sears, General Motors, and Standard Oil reduced the number of days worked each week, and Akron began a six-hour workday. The AFL began to call for a federally-mandated thirty-hour workweek. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us]
By 1933, some experts were predicting that the “thirty-hour workweek was within a month of becoming federal law.” [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us] Congress began hearings on mandating the thirty-hour workweek, and the Senate even passed the bill (which was written by
Hugo Blackand sponsored in the House by William Connery) fifty-three to thirty. Newly-elected President, Franklin Rooseveltinitially supported the bill, but had second thoughts when he realized that the bill had a provision to forbid importation of goods produced by workers who worked longer than thirty hours a week. Instead, Roosevelt began to support the National Industrial Recovery Act. Labor leaders were encouraged to support the NIRA instead of the Black-Connery Thirty-Hour Bill with a guarantee of unionorganization and collective bargaining. With the threat of a mandated thirty-hour work week, businesses “fell into line.” [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us] When specifics codes for the NIRA were drawn up, shorter hours were no longer a genuine concern. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us]
After the Great Depression ended, the average weekly hours worked began to rise. (According to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1934 the average hours worked each week was approximately thirty-four hours). During World War II, hours increased by approximately ten hours a week but, in the aftermath of the war, weekly work hours averaged forty hours. [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us] With automationof the workplace in “full swing” by the 1970s, large numbers of women began entering the work force and an “awareness of stress rose to the forefront” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] In the publication "Type A Behavior and Your Heart", cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray H. Rosenman wrote about the “hurry sickness” common to “ workaholics”—people who had no friends and who “never relaxed or went to museums” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] In the late 1970s, Professor Robert Karasek of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, developed a method for analyzing stress-producing factors in the workplace. It has been widely employed to examine workplace pressures and their relationship with research data on coronary heart disease, musculoskeletal illnesses, psychological strain and absenteeism. Karasek explains, “In situations where an individual has high demands on him and low control, the undesirable stress of work and other situations becomes problematic.” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.]
The 1980s brought new complaints of work-life balance related stress. This time period was given such names as “the ME generation,” “the age of
narcissism” and “the pursuit of loneliness.” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] The number of cases of emotional depression in the United States was believed to have doubled between 1970 and 1990. “What you do is what you are” was the common and unhealthy assumption. According to The Workaholic Syndrome, written by Judith K. Sprankle and Henry Ebel, “By their sheer numbers and the consequently narrowing opportunities at every upward run of the organizational ladder, the baby-boomershave been compelled to do more, to move faster, to compete harder. They, in turn, have set the pace for other age groups. The signs of increased stress are legion and have been intensified by an economic climate that mandates that if we marry at all, we marry a working spouse.” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.]
In the late 1980s, the “
computer revolution” was not only responsible for corporate downsizing, but also increased the demand of employee output. Social critic Jeremy Rifkin states, “Back in the agriculture-based society, people were more attuned to generatively [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] , and middle-stress disorders and diseases of affluence were not part of life. They weren’t triggered until the Industrial Age, and now the Information Agehas worsened them. Nowadays, instead of seconds, it’s nanoseconds. We have moved from designing a schedule that real people can execute in whatever time it takes them, to a program which people can monitor but can’t affect.” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] Also, in the 1980s, the number of workers’ compensationclaims for “gradual mental stress” began to rise. Claims rose from 1,844 cases in 1981 to 15,688 in 1999 in the state of Californiaalone. Because of the large number of cases as well as evidence of numerous cases of fraud, efforts were made in the early 1990s to reform the workers compensation program. Led by Republican Governor of California Pete Wilsonand Democratic Party State AssemblySpeaker Willie Brown, the new law stated that claimants had to prove that stress was at least 51 percent of the reason for their illness. [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] Unfortunately, because of these reforms some feel that it is now extremely difficult to be approved for workers compensation. John Burton, dean of the school of management and labor relations at Rutgers Universityfeels that part of the reason for the decline is that “a number of states made it difficult to get stress into the system. So even if the stress is out there, it’s not showing up (in the compensation statistics). Some of it shows up in the rising violence, which is a crude proxy for the stress out there.” [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.]
Laws and policies
The 1990s saw the introduction of additional laws designed to help the American worker. One current law that guarantees employees time off is the
Family and Medical Leave Actof 1993. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, any “eligible” employee is entitled to twelve weeks of leave for immediate family member need and medical reasons during a twelve-month period. An employee’s spouse, children, and parents are considered immediate family. The term “parent” does not include an employee’s in-laws or children over the age of eighteen unless they are “incapable of self-care” because of mental or physical disability that limits one or more of the “major life activities.” [http://www.dol.gov/esa] Employees are eligible to take FMLA leave if they have worked for their employer for at least twelve months, have worked for at least 1,250 hours during the previous twelve months, and have worked at a company with a minimum of fifty employees that work either at that work site or at work sites within a seventy-five mile radius. Employers may select one of four options for determining the required twelve-month period. They can decide to determine eligibility by the calendar year, by any fixed twelve-month “leave year” such as a fiscal year, a year required by state law, or a year starting on the employee’s “anniversary” date, by the twelve-month period measured forward from the date when an employee’s first FMLA leave begins, or by a “rolling” twelve-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses FMLA leave. Pregnancy disability leave or maternity leave for the birth of a child would be considered qualifying FMLA leave. This law, however, does not guarantee paid time off; the FMLA only requires unpaid leave. However, the law permits an employee to elect, or the employer to require the employee, to use accrued paid leave, such as vacation or sick leave, for some or all of the FMLA leave period. It is unlawful for any employer to deny the right of any eligible employee the use of FMLA leave. [http://www.dol.gov/esa]
In addition to the Family Leave and Medical Act, there are many other federal and state statutes that allow employees legal time off from work. Massachusetts enacted the
Small Necessities Leave Actin 1998 which expanded upon the rights guaranteed by the FMLA. The Small Necessities Leave Act allows eligible employees a total of twenty-four hours of unpaid leave during any twelve-month period, “over and above” the leave granted by the FMLA. This act allows an employee to participate in school activities directly related to the “educational advancement” of his/her child. This includes parent-teacher conferences, “back to school” activities, and even interviewing for a new school. The term “school” includes any public or private elementary or secondary schools, Head Start programs, and licensed children’s day care centers. (Gallitano) The SNLA also allows employees to attend routine medical or dental appointments with their children. In addition, the employee is allowed to accompany an “elderly relative” to medical or dental appointments or any other services that provide professional services related to elder care. (The elderly relative must be at least sixty years old and be related by blood or marriage to the employee) The SNLA includes time off to arrange for professional care at a nursing home or rehabilitation facility. The eligibility required for leave under the Small Necessities Leave Act is the same as for eligibility under the Family and Medical Leave Act and, like the FMLA, the employer is permitted to choose the method for determining which twelve-month period will apply when calculating the twenty-four hours of leave that may be taken by the employee. Also, it is important to note that leaves of absences can be taken intermittently. For example, if the employee needs to take off two hours in the morning to attend a parent-teacher conference, the employer may not require the employee to take time off in blocks of half or full days. Also, the employer is given the option of requesting certification (from a physician or school, for example) for leave requests. [http://www.Connkavanaugh.com]
Massachusetts created the
Massachusetts Maternity LeaveStatute in 1972. This law provides eight weeks of leave to female employees who have met certain criteria. This statute applies to all employers having six or more employees. Those eligible under the Massachusetts statute must be full-time employees who have completed three months of work. It also applies when an eligible female adopts a child under eighteen years old (or under twenty three if the child is mentally or physically disabled).The employer can decide if this leave will be paid or unpaid. If the leave is unpaid, the employer must permit the employee to use accrued paid sick, vacation, or personal time, but the employer may not require the employee to use that accrued time. [http://www.Connkavanaugh.com]
Massachusetts also has a statute, known as the
Wage and Hour Law, which creates a number of additional rights for employees regarding time off. Massachusetts law requires employers to provide a thirty-minute meal break to every employee who works more than six hour a day; it does not require that the meal break be paid. Another form of time off from work that is governed by the statute is the creation of “legal holidays.” Massachusetts law presently includes eleven legal holidays. If employees are required to work on a legal holiday (such as retail employees) they must be paid time and one-half. Massachusetts also has a “Day of Rest” stature that provides that all employees are entitled to one day off from work in seven calendar days. [http://www.Connkavanaugh.com]
Many employers offer short and /or
long term disabilityto their employees. These plans offer wage replacement benefits for employees who are not able to work based on a physical or mental condition. [http://www.Connkavanaugh.com] There are no laws requiring an employer to grant paid vacations to its employees in Massachusetts. However, nearly all employers provide paid vacationbenefits in some form in order to remain competitive. [http://www.Connkavanaugh.com]
One interesting addition to the effects of stress related to work-life balance deals with the differences between exempt and
nonexempt workers. Besides the different compensation structures between the two groups of employees (for example, exempt employees are excluded from minimum wageand are paid a salary rather than minimum wage; whereas, nonexempt employees must be paid at least the federal minimum wage for each hour worked), there are differences in overtimerequirements and expectations. Exempt employees are usually expected to work the number of hours necessary to complete their tasks, regardless of whether that requires thirty-five or fifty-five hours per week. On the other hand, nonexempt employees must be paid overtime if they work more than forty hours per week. If an exempt employee’s “tasks” are extensive and time consuming, he/she is required to put in an indeterminable number of hours at the workplace. If staying late or coming in early is required to do the job, exempt employees are frequently expected to do just that. [http://www.monster.com] This could cut down on the amount of time he/she has for family, friends, or leisure activities, increase stress, and could even lead to burnout.
According to a new study by Harvard and
McGill Universityresearchers, 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 U.S. 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.” [http://www.msn.com] 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). At the same time, Senator Chris Doddfrom Connecticutis proposing new legislationthat would enable workers to take six weeks of paid leave. Congress is also expected to reconsider the Healthy Families Act which is a bill that would require employers with at least fifteen employees to provide seven paid sick days per year. [http://www.msn.com]
At the state level, California has paid family leave benefits for its workers.
New Jerseylawmakers 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.” [http://msn.com] 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-LifeAction 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.” [http://www.msn.com]
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. For example, the study notes that the United States is one of only five countries out of 173 that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave. (The other countries are
Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea). [http://www.msn.com] Other differences include the fact that fathers are granted paid paternity leaveor 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. At least 107 countries protect working women’s right to breast-feed and, in at least seventy-three of them, women are paid. The U.S. does not have any federal legislation guaranteeing mothers the right to breast-feed their infants at work. When it comes to sick days, 145 countries provide sick days to their employees; 127 provide a week or more per year. There is not a federal law requiring paid sick days in the United States. 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 overtimethat an employee is required to work each week. (survey) Denmarkand Norwayhave the highest level of maternity benefits—Norway provides ninety-six weeks of paid maternity leave while Denmark provides fifty two. [http://www.hrmguide.co.uk]
Deutsche Bankrecognizes that individuals must have a balance between their professional and private lives. Some of the ways that Deutsche Bank help employees to accomplish this include part-time working and telecommuting, sabbaticals, job sharing, and time out during family circumstances (maximum twice, for periods of up to six months). (Work-Life Balance) The company also helps arrange for day care, emergency child care and decisions related to elderly care. Also, Deutsche Bank offers company kindergartens, special advice programs for expectant parents, employee assistance programs, and seminars on the subjects of stress and time management. [http://www.db.com]
American workers average approximately ten paid holidays per year while British workers average twenty-five holidays and German employees thirty. Americans work twelve weeks more a year in total hours than Europeans. [http://www.worklifebalancecentre.org] In
Europe, the Working Time Regulationhas implemented a maximum of forty-eight hours of work per week. Many countries have opted for fewer hours. The Netherlandshas a thirty-two hour week for public sectorworkers, Franceattempted to introduce a thirty-five hour workweek, and Finlandexperimented with a thirty-hour week in 1996. [http://www.worklifebalancecentre.org]
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. [http://www.worklifebalancecentre.org]
In all twenty-five European 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.” [http://www.ergoweb.com] According to a report by the Families and Work Institute, the average vacation time that Americans took each year averaged 14.6 days. 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. [http://www.ergoweb.com]
Arizona State University's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication has a strategic initiative called the Project for Wellness and Work Life. From its website:"The Project for Wellness and Work-Life (PWWL) is a consortium of scholars who are pursuing research on the intersections of private, domestic life spheres and the public, commodified world of work. Furthermore, we examine organizational topics related to work-life well-being including workplace bullying, emotion labor, burnout, negotiation of gender and family issues and identities at work. PWWL explores these issues from a variety of perspectives, including: How work-life balance is interactionally negotiated between family members at home and with supervisors at work; how organizational policies enable and constrain work-life wellness choices; and how larger cultural discourses frame our understanding and experience of work and life."
More information can be found at: http://www.asu.edu/clas/communication/about/wellness/
The Quality of Life Research Center (QLRC) at the
Drucker School of Managementat Claremont Graduate Universityis a non-profitresearch institute that is currently conducting research jointly with Harvardand StanfordUniversities on the conditions that make good work in the professions possible. From their website: "The Quality of Life Research Center (QLRC) studies " positive psychology"; that is, human strengths such as optimism, creativity, intrinsic motivation, and responsibility.
In the past, the study of behavior has focused mainly on what goes wrong in human affairs:
aggression, mental disease, failure and hopelessness. While it is essential to study and contain such pathologies, it is equally important to understand those aspects of human experience that make life worth living. The QLRC conducts research on such issues, and provides a forum for scholars from the U.S. and abroad who wish to extend their studies in positive psychology."
More information can be found at: http://qlrc.cgu.edu/about.htm
The Sloan Work and Family Research Network at Boston Collegeoffers a vast amount of information about work-life balance topics offering free resources to academics, workplace practitioners and state legislators as well as other interested in these issues. Topics covered on the site include Afterschool Care, Elder Care, Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Family Leave, Flexible Work Schedules, Gender and Use of Workplace Policies, Health and Workplace Flexibility, Low Wage Workers, Overwork, Part-Time Work, Phased Retirement, Shift Work and Work/Family. The Sloan Network started off as a resource only for academic scholars, students, and researchers.
More information can be found at: http://wfnetwork.bc.edu/index.php
Labour market flexibility
* [http://www.worklifebalance.ie Irish Work-Life Balance]
* [http://wfnetwork.bc.edu The Sloan Work and Family Research Network at Boston College]
* Anderson, Jennifer. "Report Highlights Gap Between European and US Vacation Time." Ergoweb. 15 May 2005. 20 Feb. 2007 [www.ergoweb.com]
* Barada, Paul W. "Exempt Vs. Nonexempt Workers." 2007. Monster.com. 24 Feb. 2007 [www.monster.com]
* Clark, C S. "Job Stress." "
CQ Researcher". 4 Aug. 1994. CQ Researcher. 1 Mar. 2007 [http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1995080400.] .
* "Effects of Stress." WebMD. 2 June 2005. Healthwise, Incorporated. 3 Apr. 2007 [www.webmd.com] .
* Freking, Kevin. "Study Links Child Care to Poor Behavior." ABC News. 26 Mar. 2007. The Walt Disney Company. 4 Apr. 2007 [www.abcnews.go.com/health] .
* Fisk, Donald M. "American Labor in the 20th Century." Compensation and Working Conditions Online. 30 June 2003. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 4 Apr. 2007 [http://www.bls.gov/opub/cwc/] .
* Gallitano, Thomas J. "Small Necessities Leave Act, Maternity Leave Act,." CKRP & F. 2007. Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP. 16 Feb. 2007 [http://www.Connkavanaugh.com/images/stories/publications/time%20off%20article.pdf] .
* Halpin, Nick. "Work Life Balance – an Overview." Work Life Balance Centre. The Counseling Service, The University of Dundee. 3 Apr. 2007 [www.worklifebalancecentre.org] .
* How extreme is your job? There is a danger of the 70-hour workweek becoming the new standard. SURVEY. 18 Feb. 2007. 18 Feb. 2007 [www.msn.com] .
* O'Bannon, Brent. "Balance Matters: Turning Burnout Into Balance." R&B Publishing, TX: 2007 [www.brentspeaks.com]
* Paving the Road for Women to Return to Work. Nightly Business Report. PBS. 8 Dec. 2005. 3 Apr. 2007 [www.pbs.org/nbr] .
* Survey: U.S. Workplace Not Family-Oriented. Forbes. 1 Feb. 2007. 17 Feb. 2007 [www.msn.com] .
* The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. U.S. Department of Labor. 1 Mar. 2007 [www.dol.gov/esa] .
* Wide Variation in European Maternity Benefits. HRM Guide. 17 Feb. 2007 [www.hrmguide.co.uk] .
* Whaples, Robert, ed. "Hours of Work in U.S. History." EH.Net Encyclopedia. Aug. 2001. 3 Apr. 2007 [http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us] .
* When It's Just You After School. Kids Health. 2007. The Nemours Foundation. 4 Apr. 2007 [www.kidshealth.org] .
* Work-Life Balance Defined. From www.worklifebalance.com, 2006. [http://www.worklifebalance.com/worklifebalancedefined.html]
* [http://www.kenexa.com/en/AboutUs/Press/2007/07JUL25.aspx "Kenexa Research Institute Finds That When It Comes To Work/Life Balance, Men and Women Are Not Created Equal"] , "Kenexa",
July 25, 2007. Accessed May 27, 2008.
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