Image: iStock. By: Judy Rose, The University of Queensland.
Workplace flexibility is particularly important to working parents whose childcare needs may not fit well with standard work hours.
To date, it has proved difficult to know how satisfied employees are with their level of balance and it has been similarly challenging for employers to assess balance in their organisations, with some disputing the usefulness of the term.
Yet, it is well established that organisational culture and managerial support for work-life balance is vital to the success of such policies. However, balance remains difficult to measure, partially because people’s definitions differ and it is an elusive concept. (Some healthy stretches for the office? Look no further. Post continues after video.)
My research has found that measuring time pressure is a more tangible way to assess balance. Time pressure refers to how rushed or pressed for time people feel on a daily basis.
It also relates to whether individuals perceive they have sufficient time to do what they need or want to do (including time for work, family, leisure, travel, study, volunteering or exercise). For men, long work hours is the main predictor of time pressure, and for fathers having young children increases this time stress.
While the upside of this is that fathers are spending more time caring for their kids, it is mainly squeezed in evenings or weekends and on collaborative or more enjoyable childcare tasks. For women paid work, housework and childcare contributes to time pressure.
Unsurprisingly then, women are significantly more time pressured at home than men, and mothers far more time stressed at home than fathers. This is despite many mothers in Australia reducing to part-time hours at work when their children are young. It seems job quality counts as well in terms of minimising time pressure.