Understanding Work Life Balance

Chapter 1


Public awareness and understanding of the term work-life balance has grown dramatically in recent years. The high level of interest among employers, consultants, and the media has generated a healthy business in conferences, websites and guides. It is a growth area in academia too, encompassing diverse disciplines including economics, social policy, feminism, sociology, industrial relations, human resource management, health and psychology.

The term Work life balance can be defined as employment based on emergent new values, which doesnt discriminate against those with caring or other non-work responsibilities, and which provides an opportunity for people to realize their full potential in work and non work domains (Lewis, 1996).

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1.1 Background of the study

Todays life environment has put a great demand on employees time to deliver work and non-work responsibilities. This is a central cause of occupational stress and work-life conflict, which has become a costly problem at both the organizational and individual levels. It might take the form of absenteeism, high staff turnover, lost productive value, increased recruitment and selection costs and medical expenses (Arnold, 2005).

According to a recent study by Georgetown University, employee stress from trying to find time for their children correlates with decreased productivity and increased absenteeism. The study found that unplanned absences were costing some businesses nearly $1 million a year (Georgetown University, 2010). In addition to the financial losses associated with this conflict that are clearly documented, the indirect effects of unsympathetic working conditions can include a decrease in motivation, job satisfaction, trust, job commitment, and other important factors that decrease firm profitability (McHugh, 1997). Therefore, despite the fact that many companies neglecting employee needs, conscious HR specialists are trying in many attempts to overcome these problems by introducing new working strategies that satisfy employees and help them to attain certain balance between work and life. Such strategies give the employee greater flexibility upon the time, the place and the style of work. These include part-time work, job sharing, working from home and flexible working time. This flexibility enhances employees ability to adjust the time or submit the work as completed. It can mean compressing 40 hours into four days, starting and ending workdays at different times, or doing some work at home. The reason may be as simple as wanting to better manage a long commute or choosing to arrive at work later so parents can take their children to school. Some companies may offer these options to retain female employees who might consider leaving their jobs after having children.

This research emphasizes particularly on flexible working hours (Flexitime) which is one form of flexibility in the working environment. Flexitime is an arrangement where an employee is able to choose when to start and finish work within a specified period of core hours. The reason for this emphasize on flextime is that, it is the most widespread form of workplace flexibility (Erin, 2008) and most previous studies has shown apparent results upon other working strategies and their good influence on work-life balance, but this was not the case with flextime. Another reason for this spur is researcher observations on many cases of flextime where employee missed the control over work-life balance, and that what inspires the idea of this research.

1.2 Problem statement

Organizations which adopted , found it beneficial to their business. In a study about the efficiency of the family-friendly working arrangements, it was found that 90 percent of managers experiencing those arrangements considered they were cost effective for organizations (Dex and Smith, 2002). However, the literature on flexible working arrangements covering a wide range of policies, declared that only some of which might be deemed to support a work-life balance. Moreover, while there is a discussion about the business case for flexible polices and the potential problems it may create for employers, the assumption is often that these policies are invariably beneficial for employees. This is also reflected in the recommendations of the National Framework Committee for Work-life balance policies in Ireland (Helen et al, 2009).

Some flexible working arrangements may actually exacerbate work-life conflict, for example, flexibility in the timing of work may result in employees being asked to work unsocial hours. Thus, it is very important to consider the effects of such practices as experienced by employees. Indeed there is very little research on the impact of flexible working hour on workers ability to balance work and other demands, despite this being a major rationale for such practices (Helen et al, 2009).

As many Bahraini organizations nowadays are moving toward flexibility, it would be a significant effort to conduct a study that assesses the determination of such practice. Especially that International evidence on the incidence of flexible working arrangements is limited and tends to come from national surveys which, because they are not harmonized, may not be directly comparable. Another factor that boosts the need to this study is the difference in the demography, culture and peoples life style between Western countries and Bahrain.

While the incidence of flexible working hours (flextime) is important information in itself, the key questions for this research is: Does it and does it help to improve employees productivity? Other sub-questions might also arise such as: Is there a difference between males and females, or those who have children among those who do not regarding work-life balance? Does employee prefer to manage his/her time or like to be committed to a specified timing because he/she may not be able to manage time?

On this basis, this research brings together material from diverse sources to provide an overview of recent research, current thinking and future debates on the significance of flextime and work-life balance, especially to evaluate constructive practices for employee in Bahrain.

1.3 objectives of the study

The objective of this study is to put emphasis on the importance of work-life balance for Bahraini employees, and to evaluate its effect on both individual and organizational levels. In addition, this study attempts to assess the impact of adopting flextime working option on employees work-life balance and organizations productivity.

A careful review of research questions led to the development of the following specific research objectives:

  1. To explore the existence of a relationship between flextime and work-life balance.
  2. To examine the relationship between flextime and productivity.
  3. To explore the relationship between work-life balance and productivity.
  4. To examine the impact of some demographic variables such as gender, marital status and having children on the work-life balance.

1.4 Significance of the study

This significance of this study is its potential contribution to both the theoretical and practical fields. At the theoretical level, the present study is expected to bridge a research gap as most studies focus on either work-life balance or flexible working polices in general. However there is a very little research on the impact of flexible working on work-life balance (Helen et al, 2009). Moreover, it was recommended by some researchers to examine the relationship between specific types of flexible working practices like the flextime and productivity.

For the practical contribution, this study is expected to make contribution to Bahraini private and public organizations as it reveals employees preferences on the subject of flexible working time, in addition to exploring the benefits that flextime provides for employers and employees, thus aiding management decision upon adopting such working option.

Another feature which grants strength to this study is that the study spots the light on both, the importance of work-life balance and its implications on the organizational and individual levels in the first place, besides exploring the existence of a relationship between flextime and the work-life balance as recommended in previous literatures.

1.5 limitations of the study

The greatest limitation to this study is the non-probability sampling technique used; hence the results cannot be generalized on the whole population. Another limitation is that the study was entirely based on self-reported data. Although this is the best way to assess the work-life balance of an employee as it requires some privacy, this method has been criticized that the respondents may give socially desirable answers and bias results (Sackett, Burris, and Callahan 1989). However, anonymity and confidentiality assurance might be the key to make respondents more truthful. Finally, the questionnaire was developed for employees, thus it reflects employees point of views, while it passes over the management respective. Hence it would be a great achievement to combine other research methods such as case studies and focus groups to strength this study.

1.6 organization of study

This report is organized into five chapters. The first chapter presents the introduction, significance and limitations of the study. Chapter two provides an extensive literature review and background information on the variables of the study, which are flextime, work-life balance and productivity. The third chapter identifies the research methodology, the sampling technique and the data collection procedure. Chapter four presents the results of data analysis. And the last chapter provides the discussion, a conclusion and recommendations for further studies.

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