The first article of a new series entitled “Making Our Work Real” (MWR), these posts will explore various aspects of the business world, as seen by first year students at the Southampton Business School.
In a society where the 74.1% employment rate is at its highest since 1971 (Office for National Statistics, 2016) and where the technology industry is constantly producing new products to help us work on the go, it is important to stop and reflect on whether we are dedicating too much time to the workplace and not enough time to our loved ones.
Thanks to technological innovations, the number of employees who have a ‘virtual office’ arrangement is growing exponentially (Hill et al., 1996, p.294). However, does this provide the UK workforce with more flexibility or does it cause more business employees to work longer hours, leading to less leisure time and reducing time spent with their families? Research from Biggins and CV-Library (2016) suggests that “while technology has certainly made working life easier, it has blurred the boundaries between our working and private lives.”
Not only is technology causing work-family balance to become harder to juggle, the increasing price of childcare creates added stress for working parents. It was found that on average, childcare expenses for two preschool children can take up to 20% or more of the total family budget (Immervoll et al., 2006). This causes dilemmas for parents in full time work as, “For too many families, it simply does not pay to work.” (Ferguson, 2015)
Longer working hours can cause parents to miss out on important family moments which can have a negative effect on both parties. A poll conducted by Family Friendly Working Scotland group found that, “44% of parents felt work got in the way of attending school or nursery shows and events often or all the time,” (BBC, 2016). This highlights the concern that employment patterns of parents are having a negative impact on their children. Research also indicated that children’s educational attainment was reduced when mothers had longer periods of full-time employment when their children were pre-schoolers, (Ermisch et al., 2001). However, these negative impacts can be counter-balanced with other studies that state that overall working women are “happier than non-working women,” (Brough, 2012).
Therefore it cannot be assumed that parents working part time are ‘better parents’ as they set similar high expectations for their children. Research from Harvard Business School found that, “Role modelling is a way of signalling what’s appropriate in terms of how you behave…” (Sugar, 2015). This supports the idea the working parents set a good example to their children which benefits them in the long term.
To conclude, being a successful member of the business world today while juggling childcare and family life can be possible. Alain de Botton summaries that, “There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” (Radha, 2016, p.63)
Sameena Ramsden studies BSc Marketing (with placement) at Southampton Business School. The views in this article are those of the author. This article is part of the ‘Making Our Work Real’ series.