The constraints of a ‘work–life balance’ approach: an international perspective.

Lewis, Suzan and Gambles, Richenda and Rapoport, Rhona (2007) The constraints of a ‘work–life balance’ approach: an international perspective. International Journal of Human Resource, 18 (3). pp. 360-373. ISSN 1466-4399

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Locating work–life balance discourse in time and place The huge recent growth in attention to ‘work–life balance’(WLB) dilemmas in academic, political, professional and popular literature might give the impression that this is, at best, a new area of concern, or at worst, a passing fad. This would, however, be misleading. The WLB metaphor is a social construct located within a particular period of time and originating in a Western context, but dilemmas relating to the management of paid work alongside other parts of life, especially family, have been the focus of research for several decades (see, e.g., Rapoport and Rapoport, 1965). Research on this topic has always reflected social, economic and workplace developments and concerns, shifting in response to new trends. For example, as the numbers of women entering the labour force grew, from the 1960s, research in certain contexts tended to focus on ‘working mothers’ or dual earner families, while concerns about stress and burnout associated with workplace changes in the 1980s and 1990s were reflected in research and debate about work–family conflict (Lewis and Cooper, 1999). The terminology used to refer to these issues continues to evolve in response to current concerns. In particular, a shift from ‘work–family’ and ‘family-friendly policies’ with their implicit focus on women, especially mothers, to ‘work–life’, the precursor of the more recent ‘work–life balance’ (WLB) discourse began in the 1990s. This linguistic shift reflected a broader and more inclusive way of framing the debate to engage men and women with and without children or other caring commitments and was partly a response to backlash against work–family policies by those without obvious family obligations.

Item Type:Article
Research Areas:A. > Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations
Citations on ISI Web of Science:29
ID Code:4257
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Deposited On:25 Feb 2010 12:34
Last Modified:19 Mar 2015 17:19

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