Job Quality Indicators » Work-Life Balance

<< Back to list of all indicators

Solutions To Work-Life Imbalance

What steps can be taken to reduce, or eliminate, role overload and work-family conflict? For clues, we will examine several workplace factors that are directly associated with the high role overload and high work to family conflict: work hours, the ability to refuse overtime, the extent of work flexibility, and the financial situation of families.

 

Long Hours of Work: Implications for Role Overload and Work-Family Conflict

Source: Duxbury and Higgins (2001). Work Life Balance in the New Millennium:
Where Are We? Where Do We Need to Go?
 

The number of hours one works seems to have an effect on both role overload and work-family conflict. As the chart indicates, longer working hours are related to increased role overload and work-to-family conflict. For example, while 45 percent of those working under 35 hours per week report a low level of work-to-family conflict, only 18 percent of those who work in excess of 45 hours characterize the level of work to family conflict as low. Similarly, while 25 percent of those working under 35 hours per week characterize their work-to-family conflict as high, a full 60 percent of those working in excess of 45 hour weeks agree that this is the case.

In practical terms, ensuring that employees do not work excessively long hours will likely have the effect of reducing the number of Canadian employees who feel highly overloaded or who experience a high level of work-to-family conflict.

 

The Ability to Refuse Overtime Reduces Role Overload and Work-Family Conflict

Source: Duxbury and Higgins (2001). Work Life Balance in the New Millennium:
Where Are We? Where Do We Need to Go?
 

Being able to refuse overtime hours also is associated with an employee’s level of role overload and work-life conflict. For instance, while 46 percent of those reporting low role overload cannot refuse overtime, 87 percent of those reporting high role overload say they are unable to refuse overtime hours. Likewise, 54 percent of those reporting low work-to-family conflict cannot refuse overtime, 82 percent of those reporting high conflict cannot.

These survey findings clearly suggest that providing employees the right to refuse overtime hours can help reduce the incidence of role overload and work-family conflict. However, recent changes to employment standards in some provinces have actually extended the normal workweek and made it easier for employers to require overtime hours of their employees.

 

Job Flexibility Reduces Role Overload and Work-Family Conflict

Source: Duxbury and Higgins (2001). Work Life Balance in the New Millennium:
Where Are We? Where Do We Need to Go?
 

Providing employees with greater flexibility regarding when and where they work also may reduce role overload and work-to-family conflict. As the chart indicates, employees with a high level of flexibility in their work are more likely than those with limited flexibility to report low role overload and low work-to-family conflict. While 20 percent of those with low role overload say that their job is highly flexible, only 3 percent of those who have little discretion over when
and where work is performed enjoy a low level of role overload. Similarly, while 60 percent of those who report that their job is highly flexible also say they experience little difficulty in balancing work and family, only 16 percent of those in jobs they deem inflexible experience a low level of work-to-family conflict.

In terms of solutions, these findings suggest that providing employees with increased autonomy regarding when and where they work can contribute to a healthy balance between work and family life, and can have the effect of reducing role overload and its negative effects.

 

Family Income Matters

Source: Duxbury and Higgins (2001). Work Life Balance in the New Millennium:
Where Are We? Where Do We Need to Go?
 

Finally, a family’s financial situation appears to mediate, or buffer, role overload and work-family conflict. While 68 percent of families reporting high role overload say that ‘money is an issue,’ this is reported by only 52 percent of employees where money is ‘not an issue.’ Similarly, while over one third (36 percent) of employees reporting high work-to-family conflict also said that money was an issue, high work-family conflict was less common (25 percent) among employees who said that family finances were not an issue. The fact that more well off families are less likely to indicate high levels of role overload or high levels of work-to-family conflict may reflect in part the ability of wealthier families to buy child- or eldercare services. Families with fewer resources may be less able to leave non-supportive work environments or to buy goods and services that make it easier to balance competing demands. Indeed, such families may need to work longer hours simply to ‘make ends meet.’ Therefore, ensuring that Canadians earn decent good incomes can help in reducing high role overload and high work-to-family conflict.

Additional Charts and Information