It is a truth that work and family life cannot be separated, they both act together and the lines of demarcation of family life and work life cannot be drawn. With changing times, social structure, nature of business and globalization at fast pace; boundaries of work is changing rapidly. Working patterns and timings are in constant change but the pace of change is more rapid. The need for the change is being derived from individuals and organizations. Organizations are expected to perform at its optimum and provide better services 24/7 which requires employees to devote extended working hours to deliver service and this in turn effects personal lives of employees and creates an issue of work-life imbalance which is of paramount concern for everyone to have work-life balance (Jacobs & Gerson, 2001) (Taylor, 2001).
Work life balance is an adjustment in working patterns to mingle work with other responsibilities (Smithson & Stokoe, Discourses of Work-Life Balance: Negotiating ‘Genderblind’ Terms in Organizations, 2005) regardless of gender. Work-life balance reflects; “The extent to which an individual is equally engaged in – and equally satisfied with – his or her work role and family role” (Aziz & Cunningham, 2008), similarly according to Clark (2000) as cited by Othman, Yusof, & Osman (2009) work life balance is defined as, “Satisfaction and good functioning at work and at home with a minimum of role conflict” (Othman, Yusof, & Osman, 2009). It is also eloquent that every individual is to require maintaining and achieving a balance between their paid work and family responsibilities be it child care, elder care, leisure time, self development (Hogarth & Bosworth, 2009). It is debatable that the word “balance” means settled equilibrium but can work and life outside work can be in equilibrium?
Initially, work was considered as the only responsibility of male members of the society while women were only responsible for the domestic chores (Bailyn, Drago, & Kochan, 2001), (Eikhof, Warhurst, & Haunschild, 2007). This framework has been followed for ages and it was widely believed and accepted that the bread-winners of the family were only men. However as time evolved and in order to earn and have better lifestyles for their family, female workforce in the labor market started to increase, the conventional image of male as bread winner started to transform and now female also played an equally important role as an earning member of the family (Easton, 2007), (Flechl, 2009), (Malik & Khan, 2008) (Hakim, 2006), (Strober, 2010), (Lourel, Ford, Gamassou, Gue´guen, & Hartmann, 2009).
Evolution of females at work life
The Second World War brought the contribution of women to the forefront. The discrepancy between men and women started to emerge, as it came in to notice when the female gender entered the work force around the globe (Goldin, 1991), which added another responsibility to their account that now they were multitasking between work and family life, taking care of their family as well as their work both came under their life domain (Tijdens, 1997), (A.Milkie & Peltola, 1999).
It was seen that at the time of Second World War keeping aside the traditional division of labor on the basis of gender, women entered the work force and start performing the men’s job in the industries to prove themselves as capable enough to perform tasks in a more organized and better way (Milkman, 1987). It is a sad fact that in spite of their dual dedication, even during this time period, they were not considered as a factory worker instead their identity was recognized as women only (Trey, 1972), (Hyman & Summers, 2004).
At the end of the war; the female workers were forced and left stranded out of the labor market in order to take care of their more traditional responsibilities. Fortunately, for women this was just a temporary setback, as the number of women workers has increased after the Second World War which shows that the pattern set during the war time is still being pursued by females persistently till present (Milkman, 1987), (Bird, 2006). This is evident from a research conducted by Goldin (1991) on the percentage of working females in USA as according to this study; the participation rate in 1890 was 5 percent, 1940’s was around 10.1 percent, while in 1950’s it increased to 22.2 percent and then kept on increasing and finally reached 60 percent in 1990’s (Goldin, 1991).
Female workforce is not only increasing in European countries, but also in Pakistan; women are entering in the labor force with an increasing trend (Hussain, Malik, & Hayat, 2009). According to Federal Bureau of Statistics of Pakistan, the women entering into the work force have increased to 11.81 million (53.72%) in 2009 from 10.96 million (51.78%) in 2008. This labor force comprises of 74% females in agriculture sector, 11.9% in manufacturing, 11.6% in service sector, while the rest of 0.9% are working in other sectors (Federal Bureau of Statistics, 2010). These statistics shows that with an increasing number of female workforces, it has become mandatory for women to maintain a balanced work and family life.
Change in the Role of Women with Added Responsibility
The role of women modified after the Second world war, as females started entering in the labor force as bread earners to support their families due to economic pressures (Hakim, 2006) and to improve the life style of their living (Emslie & Hunt, 2009), and changed the traditional image of male being the sole responsible for earning the livelihood for all family members. With the enhancement of this new role as bread earners, the responsibility also increases for the women as now they have to look after their work life also along with the family which makes it difficult for them to manage both responsibilities simultaneously (Lourel, Ford, Gamassou, Gue´guen, & Hartmann, 2009),(Flechl, 2009), (Work-Life Balance, 2010).
Although the conventional model of male bread winner starts to modify but still the distribution of duties between men and women remains unchanged. As now women are sharing the responsibilities of men by entering in the work force but on the other side the duties performed by females are not being shared (Emslie & Hunt, 2009), which is creating a conflict between their family and career life (Zulu, 2007), (Thompson & Walker, 1989).
Originally, women had to take care of family matters only while men were responsible for work related issues. But with the change in the role of female, now they have to manage their family and professional life effectively which is creating a burden on them (Malik & Khan, 2008), (Callan, 2008), (Dulk & Peper, 2007). As they have to perform tasks like;cooking, shopping, cleaning (A.Milkie & Peltola, 1999), listening and comforting children, providing emotional support to partners and parents (Emslie & Hunt, 2009) and other domestic chores; which were previously considered as the only responsibility of females. But with the passage of time, now they have to perform their official tasks along with all these household chores but men are still only responsible for work related issues.
Due to this unending list of duties women had to perform at home which are less flexible, demanding and experience interruptions (Aziz & Cunningham, 2008); effects professional life or relaxing time of females which leaves negative impression on work life balance as compared to men (A.Milkie & Peltola, 1999). Hence, in order to run work and family life smoothly women are expected to make larger sacrifices because they possess less power and authority due to the tradition and cultural norms of the society. Women can equally enjoy roles as mothers and workers but still feel more pressure than men because home responsibilities are greater and require more sacrifice (Stephen, 1977), (Thompson & Walker, 1989).
According to Coltrane (2000), Greenhaus and Parasuraman(1999), Rothbard and Edwards (2003) as cited by (Malik & Khalid, 2008) it is a known fact that women typically do a bigger share of the household labor than men and that extra work at home partially constrains the time women can spend in paid work. Straub (2007) identifies that women tend to spend more time to family activities as of men and the same amount of work hours as of men.
Challenges Faced by Women while Handling Work and Family Life
With the amount of responsibilities added to the role of women, it has given rise to multiple challenges that they are facing in their daily life. Performing various tasks and playing different roles which includes; mother, wife, caregiver (for parents and elderly) and employee simultaneously becomes very difficult for women to fulfill (Straub, 2007), (Beauregard & Henry, 2008). It is a challenge for women to give proper time and attention to; children especially who are very demanding under age of 13 (Thompson & Walker, 1989), husband to maintain healthy relationship (Jacobs & Gerson, 2001), other members of the family (parents, elderly) (Lourel, Ford, Gamassou, Gue´guen, & Hartmann, 2009) and to their work life for career progression (Aziz & Cunningham, 2008). A balance between all these responsibilities is directly linked with the career performance as well as physical and mental wellbeing of women (Whitehead & Kotze, 2003), (Creating Work Life Balance, 2009).
Female workers also have to face lots of social pressures which do not allow women to have late sittings at the work place for official matters or to visit places related to work (Hakim, 2006), (Jacobs & Gerson, 2001). These restrictions are mostly raised by the members of the family which includes; husband, in-laws, brother and parents which creates hurdles in their career progression (Schwartz, 1989). Women also encountered issues like stereotyping, sexual harassment and discrimination which make them feel insecure and confused about whether they should raise voice against inequality or remain quiet and face it (Ibrahim & Marri, 2008), (Lee & Brotheridge, 2005).
According to Easton (2007) and Zulu (2007), Glass ceiling is also one of the obstacles which hinders women while climbing ladders of hierarchy in organizations because business environment for women is more stressful and not at all easy as compared to men. As women are in minority and mostly perceived by men as blend of doubt, attraction, respect, confusion, competitiveness, pride and animosity; therefore this mixed perception creates glass ceiling at the time of promotions (Flechl, 2009), (Lourel, Ford, Gamassou, Gue´guen, & Hartmann, 2009).
As managerial positions require strong decision making skills while women are considered as emotional and required ample amount of time to make decision for important matters (Aziz & Cunningham, 2008), therefore women are not easily designated for senior managerial positions because of perception that they are best regarded as housewives’ and mothers (Dulk & Peper, 2007), (Kafetsios, 2007).
The other challenge for women is the career development and promotion in their professional lives. Senior positions require long hour’s commitment, work related seminars, conferences, workshop and tours which makes it difficult for women to reach due to family responsibilities (Beauregard & Henry, 2008), (Hochschild, 1997). Also the fact that creates hurdles in women’s progression is pregnancy and childbirth; because they have to take maternity leaves which results in missing out opportunities for promotion (Straub, 2007), (Doherty, 2004), (Schwartz, 1989).
Although there are many women who want to achieve career advancement with fulfilling other house hold tasks (Kafetsios, 2007), but organizations fail to realize that talented and motivated women can be committed to family as well as career and can do best for the middle management (Saltzstein, Ting, & Saltzstein, 2001) but as organizations are reluctant to reduce pressure and provide flexibility this leads to recruit other employees rather than providing training to women employees (Clutterbuck, 2003), (Doherty, 2004).
Consequences of Imbalance Work and Life
Due to the challenges faced by women in their work life, it becomes difficult for them to maintain a balance between their work life and family life. Therefore it leads to number of negative consequences, not only at part of individuals but organizations also have to face certain setbacks (McPherson, 2007), (Hyman & Summers, 2007).
As women have to execute variety of roles in their family and work life, it becomes tough for them to handle diverse tasks effectively at the same time providing equal amount of attention to every role. When women were unable to manage all these roles, it results in physical as well as psychological problems (Kirrane & Buckley, 2004); which includes increased level of stress, anxiety, lack of concentration and decrease in levels of alertness, energy and general health (Beauregard & Henry, 2008), (Franche, Williams, & al, 2006)
Work life imbalance also has implications on the relationship among family members as due to the demanding nature of work, it becomes difficult to spend time together which results in lack of bonding among family members (Lee & Brotheridge, 2005). Hence due to this situation, women may experience guilt and regret because they are unable to meet expectations of their families (Abercromby, 2007), (Creating Work Life Balance, 2009).
Unbalanced work and family life also have negative impacts on the part of organizations, as when women workforce are not satisfied with the roles they are playing it reflects in their performance at work place (Tausig & Fenwick, 2001), (Nolan, 2005). According to Straub (2007), Kafetsios’s (2007) and Lambert et al., (2006); collision in work and family life results in reduced levels of job satisfaction, loyalty, organizational commitment, work effort, performance; while increased the level of absenteeism and turnover.
Policies and Steps taken by Organization to Support Work Life Balance
With the changing trends of economic development, equal employment opportunities and others, the issues regarding work-life balance has gained much attention from media and researchers globally (Kirrane & Buckley, 2004). The work-life balance debate mostly discussed the fact that individuals have too much work to do that very little time left for themselves or family (Eikhof, Warhurst, & Haunschild, 2007). As the time spend on work does not only include the contractual hours of employment but it also include the unpaid activities such as unpredictable long journey times, hence the line between work and family is becoming more blurred than before (Hyman & Summers, 2004).
These issues make employers realize the importance of work-life balance in woman’s daily lives in order to get optimal outcomes from the female employees (Leeds list the benefits of better work life balance, 2004), (Jacobs & Gerson, 2001). Hence during 1980’s, many organizations starts to change their internal workplace policies, procedures and benefits. The changes included maternity leave; Employee assistance programs (EAPs), flextime, telecommuting, paid maternity leaves, home-based work, vacation, professional counseling, and child and elder care referral (Bird, 2006), (Hudson inc), (Sunil Joshi, 2002). At present, the work-life balance issues are assumed as the most discussed topic in the field of Human Resource world due to the recognition of its value and need in the lives of females (Smithson & Stokoe, 2005).
Considering these consequences resulting from imbalance work and family life, European companies have shown interest in reducing this imbalance and have launched numerous work-life balance programs specifically for females (Sikora, Moore, Grunberg, & Greenberg). According to a research conducted by Caroline Straub; on average 95 percent of European companies offer flexible timings facility to their employees, 79 percent employers allow employees to work from home, 23 percent provides opportunity to take paid vacations and only 34 percent emphasis on child care facilities (Straub, 2007).
However still, a question asked by most individuals today is as to why do work-life balance matter to policy makers, and why it might be of importance to employers? Which has been answered by (Gatrell & Cooper, 2008) through citing Swan and Cooper (2005) that the concept of work-life balance developed initially as a result of European government policies designed to work on addressing the pressures with balancing work and family life together, where both parents were employed. As further addressed by Lewis and Cooper (2005) cited by (Gatrell & Cooper, 2008) it has been observed that, work-life balance policies are associated with presenting employees with the chance to work flexibly, whereas initially the notions of flexible working were considered in equal opportunities program, with a special focus on working mothers. Today it is open to all. This leads to encouraging the concept of work-life balance in clear terms.
In New Zealand, (Kean, 2002) undertook a survey of the employees of 25 organizations which reveals that there is a clear relationship between the work-life balance policies with the employee’s intentions to leave the organization and actual turnover rates. This study suggests that the work-life balance policies have net positive effect on staff turnover rates.
On the other side there are managers who are reluctant to apply policies which promote work life balance; according to the study of Workplace Employment Relations Survey 2004 (WERS), 69 percent managers in private sector believe that it is solely the responsibility of individuals to balance their work and domestic demands (Hyman & Summers, 2007). They have the doubt of the benefits work life balance will bring to their companies and perceive that it will be costly to implement (Hughes, 2007).
But this is not reality, although costs will incur at planning and implementation stage but the benefits that will be availed afterwards will be higher from this cost.
Benefits earned due to implementation of Work Life Balance Policies
Work-life balance has become the focus of companies worldwide, who do not take it lightly at any time. Nowadays, it is important for managers to take work-life balance seriously. The more overworked employees, the higher the demands or the expectations on the department (Clutterbuck, 2003), the more the managers have to depend on their employees to perform at the highest possible level of proficiency, value, and quality (Jacobs & Gerson, 2001), (Human Resource and Skills Development Canada, 2003).
There are companies who believe that if employees maintain a balance between work and family, it will benefit the organization as a whole. A survey conducted of DuPont employees lead to a discovery that those who used work-life opportunities provided by the company were more committed to their work and believed in sticking with the organization (Clutterbuck, 2003).
The U.K 2003 Best Companies to Work for survey states that the companies who allow their staff to work flexibly earn fine dividends. In UK, the government has been promoting the concept of work-life balance for some time now and many large corporations have started to implement this religiously (Clutterbuck, 2003). The benefits that BT, a U.K based company and one of the leading providers of communication solutions and services around the world has achieved from this change are colossal; it results in a more flexible and an approachable workforce, recruitment and training costs have been reduced as now 98% women return to work after maternity leave which saves around £3 million, absenteeism rate has reduced to 3.1% as compared to other U.K. companies whose average comes about to be 8.5%, one of the best aspects of work-life balance has been that around 7000 BT employees now work from home which has increased its gains of 31%, and flexible working arrangements means that BT can now respond to customer’s demand 24/7 (Hughes, 2007).
According to another research, the employee-opinion survey conducted at UK building society Nationwide, where more than three-quarter agreed with the statement that: “I am satisfied that Nationwide provides me with the opportunities to balance working arrangements with my personal life.” Therefore it is apparent as to how Nationwide has gained the following rewards over the period of three years; the number of employees returning from maternity leave has increased to 93%, employee turnover rate has decreased to 9.7% as compared to the industry average of 17%, the number of female part-time employees has increased to 50% and female home workers has risen about 150% (Job flexibility and work-life balance pay dividends for Nationwide, 2003).
In a recent newspaper article (Razvi, 2010) the writer talks about how in a country like ours, most companies apparently operate on an ‘eight to-whenever you’re absolutely finished’ work hours policy. The idea of striking a work-life balance is not always something that young people are made aware about as they enter the professional territory. Even prior to people entering the job market, hardly any are actually able to keep that delicate balance between their studies and their family and social life. What the balance adds up to is in itself dynamic, and fluctuates with the changing status, as well with the altering demands of the multiple roles.
Therefore, it’s necessary to focus on work-life balance, because if people are out of balance or stressed or sick then they will be less committed to the results (Tremblay, 2002), they will be less devoted to the organization (Yasbek,