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Balance Between Work and Family Life

Abstract

The current paper explores the issue of work and family life balance. Family is the fundamental institution of society. The transformation of family relations has a significant impact on the entire system of working environment and vice versa. In modern industrial societies, the institution of family and marriage is undergoing numerous profound changes. As a result, Western and European civilizations are faced with a historically unprecedented challenge, revealed in the threat of depopulation and aging of the population. Explaining the reasons for the demographic catastrophe, most experts refer to the socio-cultural factors and changes in the value system of modern societies. Both of these aspects are related to work. The ability to balance the work and family life is one of the most outstanding talents which have to be evolved throughout the human life. The paper is based on several points of view regarding how this balance is to be analyzed and eventually established.

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Recently, many researchers have studied the phenomenon of balance between work and family life. This balance is an actual ratio of the two areas of life that does not mean they are equal and of the same importance for the workers/employees. The balance is mainly represented by a fixed approach, the proportion of which can be moved in either direction. The satisfaction balance, which will be discussed in the current paper, is obviously subjective, meaning that it is an expression of the worker to the set ratio.

All employees are faced with the need to find a balance, and this question becomes particularly acute. This is dictated by the specifics of the activities of an employee. They are related to the spatial and temporal blurring of the boundaries between work and family life and manifest themselves in the necessary contact between the work and the family related spheres of life. The features include the lack of continuous self-monitoring over the progress of work by the immediate superior. Thus, the formation of satisfaction with the balance between work and family life among the employees may have its characteristics. It is still poorly understood since the bulk of the balance between labour and research focuses on the life of employees in the state institutions. Therefore, the purpose of the current paper is to investigate the degree to which the balance between work and family life is to exist and how it should be evolved.

The Approaches to Study the Work and Family Balance

There are several ways to study the balance between work and family, among which are the role theory, the theory of boundaries, etc. In terms of this study, the balance between work and family life is discussed from the point of view of the theoretical approach, called ‘responsibilities and resources.’ This method appears to be useful in the context of exploring the category of satisfaction, concerning the use of quantitative analysis (Albertsen et al., 2014). The main idea of the approach is the classification of tangible and intangible factors that correlate with the contentment of the balance between work and family life, human responsibilities and available resources.

Thus the working resources include salary and professionalism, while the family responsibilities comprise of the presence of children and housework. As a part of the approach, it means that the increase of duties reduces the satisfaction with a balance between work and family, and, on the other hand, the increase in resources will be positively associated with the increasing satisfaction.

The relevance of the study on the balance between work and family life is characterized not only by the large-scale covering of topics in the course of its analysis on the new socio-professional group but also by the insufficient degree of scrutiny regarding the selected concept from the theoretical perspective. The phenomenon of a balance between work and family life has been widely discussed in scientific literature. The issue is rarely studied using the theory of responsibilities and resources.

All modern societies are interested in balancing family and professional roles. Modern industrial, technocratic, urbanized habitat requires over-work of the employees and their intellectual potential, psycho-emotional and physical strength. Many experts are inclined to consider that the time and effort of people are increasingly consuming work that creates a relation between their family life and the outside world; it is becoming a more challenging profession. Thus, it results in the updated search for answers to the questions about how the current economic, social, cultural and information conditions of life affect the functioning of the family as a social institution and a small social group. These conditions affect the stability and well-being of the household and its way of life, family relations and responsibilities, the distribution of power, material resources in the family, and other aspects.

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‘Family – Work’ Format and Its Compounds

With the emergence and development of industrial production, family members work outside home, and the economic function of the family has started to be expressed mainly in earning and spending money. The financial component (money, their availability or lack of it) affects the functioning of the family and its role in the structure. Regardless of one’s role in the household, its implementation involves some form of making money and their spending. This primarily concerns the role of the so-called ‘breadwinner,’ i.e. a family member in charge of the financial situation and family support (Albertsen et al., 2014). Consequently, the family money is linked with the whole system of relations in the ‘family – work’ format.

In the family, similarly to the work setting, there are the relationships of leadership, which is referred to as subordination. It is a centre of power which forms certain types of family budget management. This kind of money primarily constitutes a particular family life, a style of behaviour and consumption. Experts believe that many marriages fail not because of psychological and sexual reasons, but because of ‘financial incompatibility’ of spouses. Monetary compensation for work outside one’s home is often the primary measure of the professional and family self in the eyes of the family members. Therefore, parents raising children are often forced to seek additional income. This aspect disturbs the balance between the work and family.

The dual factor in the format ‘work – family’ which is related to the balance between labour and life is the marital status. Todd and Binns (2013) interpret the marital status as the support and assistance from a partner, family, or relatives, which is invaluable in performing family and work responsibilities. In spite of this fact, the researchers observe the factor of marital status and duty, which are expressed in the desire to spend more time with the family, and the need to care for other family members.

The research by Shanafelt et al. (2014) refers to the burdening feature of marital status in the context of misunderstanding on behalf of families, originating primarily from the partner having a regular employment. The same is perceived in the framework of misunderstanding on what a home is and the fact that it can be a place of work for a person having a free time. After reviewing the responsibilities and resources, as well as the factors that have a dual origin, the scholars can confidently emphasize the feasibility of their classification’s establishment.

Family and Work Balance Policies

The problem of finding and establishing a balance between professional, family and parental responsibilities of working adults during the previous decade is a heated topic in the field of domestic policy, management, and social studies’ debate. On the one hand, and the family balance system operation, as well as the workplace, and a friendly family are the key indicators of reformatting the nature of the relationship between the state and the family (Jones, Burke, & Westman, 2013). The latter ceases to be regarded solely as an object of paternalistic and controlling care of the state. On the other hand, in the field of family policy, an institutionalized actor of the ‘average’ level can be found. It allows reducing the distance between the political sphere of strategic decision-making regarding the regulation of citizens’ behaviour in the areas of employment, family, reproduction, and the strategies and practices of individual families aimed at combining work and care about children.

It seems important to address the topic of a workplace, which is family friendly in a particular set of the support measures provided by employers to employees with family responsibilities (Hilbrecht & Lero, 2014). This is because it allows demonstrating the heterogeneity and the multi-layered architecture of the family policy of a country.

In the western academic discourse, there is a whole body of research devoted to the family-friendly workplace. Under the workplace, a family which is friendly to work is understood as the social and family policy at the level of both the state and the individual enterprise (Albertsen et al., 2014). This approach is focused on the needs of working parents, faced with the challenge of striking a balance between their domestic and professional responsibilities.

The corporate family policy includes special support measures, which are addressed to workers with family responsibilities and are aimed at reducing the role of tension among the employees (Halpern & Murphy, 2013). This issue is seen by Western authors in three dimensions: the state policy on family and work balance; employer, who aims to reduce conflicts between professional and family responsibilities of the employees; and the needs of particular types of families in direct and indirect support for the optimal combination of vocational and parental roles.

The family balance and work policies are understood as the institutional support designed to enable working adults to optimally combine professional, family and parental responsibilities.

The problem of finding and establishing a balance between family and labour was included in the current political agenda of Western welfare states in the late 1990s (Karkoulian, Srour, & Sinan, 2016). According to some researchers, the increase in the government’s attention to the problems that have traditionally belonged to the organization of private life and personal choice of an individual is explained by the instrumental logic. It is coupled with a desire to address better the social, economic and demographic problems that were faced by Western countries during previous decades. They include the aging population, a decrease in the birth rate, which results in a shortage of labour resources and the loss of competitiveness in the future.

The economic motives play a leading role in defining and shaping family policy and balance of work that has changed the ‘traditional’ family policy. It is to improve the women’s participation in paid employment and to reduce the load related to the implementation of child care at the expense of infrastructure development of kindergartens and other educational institutions for children.

The family and work balance policies started to be seen as a response to the ongoing structural, social and economic changes in the area of household and employment (Allen, Johnson, Kiburz, & Shockley, 2013). It can be materialized at the state level in the form of programs and legislations enshrining the equal opportunities for men and women to ensure the implementation of professional and family spheres. There are three main areas of application, namely: infrastructure, educational services for children (organizations of social care for children); leave for working parents (maternal and paternal) for child care, as well as the increased participation of men in care for the children; policy, a friendly family, and the workplace.

The Aspects of the Work and Family Balance

According to the literature analysis, it is possible to state that the family and work balance measures should include the following aspects. First, this is the time that involves regulation of the duration and schedule of work, apart from providing time for informal care (Annink, Den Dulk, & Amorós, 2016). Second, it is money, i.e., material payments to those who exercise care (benefits to parents who are on a leave for child care), subsidies or vouchers, which allow parents to pay for services of child care carried out by third parties (e.g., nurse); direct funding of childcare facilities (Aamir et al., 2016). Third, there should be the available excellent quality services for the implementation of child care that should be directly funded by the state and supported by the employer or the third sector (Zheng, Molineux, Mirshekary, & Scarparo, 2015). Each area includes a different set of actors (government, family, voluntary and market sectors), as well as a package of supports provided.

The tools of the balance policy create a combination of more sophisticated choices than just the direct (money) or indirect (time) support for working parents, while their implementation is not carried out only by the state, but also by the employer, whom some researchers attribute a greater role (Greenhaus, Ziegert, & Allen, 2012). The research on the workplace and the family friendly approach to the working place tends to emphasize the importance of the position of the employer, as well as his/her actions at the level of a particular company.

The supporters of the need for such a policy in organizations expressed in the reduction of tension between family and work at the employer level underline that family-friendly enterprises and policy-makers receive an obvious competitive advantage by improving the company’s image (Kimura, 2016). The employer does not necessarily have only the economic benefits from such activities by increasing the efficiency of labour and improving the motivation of employees.

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Creating jobs, which are family friendly, requires an individual approach, expressed in the idea that the employer respects its employees and their personal lives (Aamir et al., 2016). The reciprocity principle of such an arrangement of the relationship between the company and staff eventually forms a sense of gratitude and loyalty, which also lead to the long-term benefits.

The scientists stand against the so-called fines and mother’s parenting career, believing that social advertising and other campaigns against gender discrimination in the fields of work and parenting help overcome the stereotypes of employers referring primarily to women with small children (Kundnani & Mehta, 2016). This is because they are less attractive and competitive workers (Baltes, Briggs, Huff, Wright, & Neuman, 1999). The studies on the use of the restrictions of the men’s paternity leave for child care allocate the employer’s position as a major factor hampering the implementation of a fathers-friendly family policy (Greenhaus et al., 2012). After all, the employer and the corporate family policy implemented in the company play the role of a mediator between the legally enshrined norms and individual practices of fatherhood (Annink et al., 2016). The attitude of the employer and colleagues provides a range of opportunities for the implementation of the right to paternity leave (Lambert, 1990). It has a significant impact on the adoption of a decision on the design of a man in this release and its duration.

The study on the support of the work and family balance in Sweden has shown that in the majority of state-owned companies with a large number of female employees more men use parental leave (Baltes et al., 1999). It means that the attitude of the employer and colleagues is friendlier to such fathers. Provision of parental leave to men also has a class dimension (Baltes et al., 1999). For example, representatives of the working class are much less likely to take time off after the birth of a child, as they almost do not get the support and approval of this decision by their colleagues (Aamir et al., 2016). Thus, the ownership, gender composition of employees in the enterprise and class employees are the factors that can have both positive and deterrent effects on the implementation of the policy regarding a friendly family approach to the workplace.

The Work and Family Balance Crisis

The sociologists and demographers have noted with concern that the reduced lifetime fertility and childlessness have even become social and cultural norms in developed countries. Nevertheless, cultural analysis does not allow answering the fundamental question: why modern societies are destroying the foundations of their existence and on such a scale replicate and impose the cultural patterns, values and lifestyle models against the very presence of the institution of family and marriage, directly threatening the self-preservation of many societies. In the course of a broader systemic analysis, it has been noted that the presence of distinct fundamental institutional conflicts in a society is based on the market economy.

An international comparative study of the ‘European family’ has apparently recorded the presence of cultural norms, which implies the participation of women in professional careers, in the struggle for the spheres of influence in public life, and even in the family (Annink et al., 2016). It also revealed the existence of two polar types of women: family-oriented and those who are aimed at full employment at home (Beauregard, 2011). It considered a professional activity of the most significant value, successfully competing with family values and motherhood.

The researchers note that in Europe the mass type of working women is now being actively formed. It is focused primarily on the professional advancement (Gignac et al., 2014). Thus, according to the study, 29.0% of women in Western Germany agree that the position of a housewife has no public recognition, and 86.0% say that it is better to live without children (Gignac et al., 2014). However, the real motives of choice in these surveys are often hidden by the respondents themselves, and in most cases, they are related to the economic interests.

In the US, for example, three-quarters of respondents in 2013 said that the main reason that couples did not give birth to more children was a lack of money or economic concerns (Murphy & Doherty, 2011). As a result, the number of US households consisting of married couples has decreased from 78% in 1950 to 48% in 2013 (Beauregard, 2011). This is not just a new historical law, on the contrary, it is a very alarming signal for politicians and society.

In the competitive race, work and career left less space for social self-realization in other institutions such as the family, religious institutions, social life and even politics (Peper et al., 2013). The professional career and endless consumer race are the new forms of fetishist consciousness, where the corporations turn into some monastery, absorbing the identity of all its life forms (Wolfram & Gratton, 2014). People have a false choice: family or work; they should either make a career without raising children or pay more attention to family responsibilities? That conflict of ‘family – work’ and ‘family – career’ is the primary cause of the crisis of the traditional family functions and decreasing birth rates.

Numerous studies carried out in developed countries show the crisis of the traditional family, and a sharp decrease in marriage rates and fertility (Annink et al., 2016). The number of marriages has decreased, while the number of households consisting of couples without children has grown (Rafnsdóttir & Heijstra, 2013). This alarming trend is typical for almost all developed countries. As a result, today the households appear not the same as they used to be.

The conflict between the interests of the family and work in modern societies has reached such a pitch that the problem of combining family life and professional employment is among the highest priorities of social policy in many countries (Rantanen, Kinnunen, Mauno, & Tement, 2013). Demographic crisis in developed countries is caused by many factors: the changing nature and content of labour; increased educational level of the population, the expansion of learning opportunities; increased cultural level; changes in the position of women in the society and family (Ford & Collinson, 2011). Other reasons are an increase of the employment rate of women in the professional field and as a consequence, the growth of its financial independence; reduction of child mortality; change in the image of family life; expansion of pension coverage, in which elderly parents are not financially dependent on their children, and others (Whyman, Baimbridge, Buraimo, & Petrescu, 2015). However, economic factors have the most significant impact (Russo, Shteigman, & Carmeli, 2016). This is evidenced by numerous facts. Thus, the income of the family in modern societies, despite various social support programs, still depends on the number of children in the family: the fewer children there are, the fewer funds per one family member are and the slower the career of parents will develop.

The study of the family-friendly workplace, from the viewpoint of workers with family responsibilities, focuses on various family support needs of the employer. It also covers the strategies to resolve the conflict between families and work (Chimote & Srivastava, 2013). Participation in paid employment and parenting are important components of the life of adult family members (Todd & Binns, 2013). Significant changes occurring in the labour market and the organization of household life create a context in which it is increasingly difficult for parents to develop strategies to successfully combine duties (Chimote & Srivastava, 2013). These functions are related to professional employment and the need to exercise care for dependent family members, especially children.

In this case, the scholars discuss the solution of two types of tasks, each of which is characterized by its own logic, i.e. it belongs to the public or private sphere. This problem is a combination of these activities and has a gender dimension (Chimote & Srivastava, 2013). Despite the fact that men and women in a certain way combine professional, matrimonial and parental responsibilities, the problem of finding balance and levelling of the conflict between family and work is usually regarded as a women’s issue (Shanafelt et al., 2014). This is so at the policy level, the employer level, and the household level.

The existing gender asymmetry in parenthood means that for women it is more important to find a compromise between their duties as an employee and as a wife and mother than for men (Chimote & Srivastava, 2013). Women must somehow include motherhood in their professional activities, or conversely, make their role in the employment convenient for parenting.

It is emphasized that the family-friendly policy at the state level and the degree of the individual employer are to be flexible. It should be focused primarily on the needs of workers with family responsibilities, which are not static or homogeneous (Sok, Blomme, & Tromp, 2014). They vary and depend primarily on the age of a child. For example, parents of young children are more interested in measures such as maternity care and guaranteed continued employment (Staines, 1980). The parents of preschool children are greatly interested in the access to institutionalized quality care for children and the reduction of working hours to have time for communication, and cognitive and emotional development of the child. The parents of school-age children are interested in recreation and child care in their free time.

Conclusion

To sum up, many studies do not provide a universal answer to the question of what the family-friendly working place should be like, but it is possible to identify some requirements that it must meet: flexible working hours, the possibility of part-time and distance employment. Furthermore, these compounds comprise the guaranteed parental leave to care for a child with preservation of the workplace, ability to provide social care to children, such as nursery business, vouchers to pay for babysitters’ services, recreation and leisure activities for children during the holidays.

The gender-oriented scientists believe that it is necessary to abandon the model of the ideal gender neutral worker and not to oppose a career and parenthood. Besides, there is a need to shape the organization of the institutional structure that allows employees to optimally combine work and family responsibilities.

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