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The Myth of Work-Life Balance

Cover of The Myth of Work-Life Balance

The Myth of Work-Life Balance

The Challenge of Our Time for Men, Women and Societies
Borrow Borrow
Many regard the ways in which paid work can be combined or ‘balanced’ with other parts of life as an individual concern and a small, rather self-indulgent problem in today’s world. Some feel that worrying about a lack of time or energy for family relationships or friendships is a luxury or secondary issue when compared with economic growth or development. In the business world and among many Governments around the world, the importance of paid work and the primacy of economic competitiveness, whatever the personal costs, is almost accepted wisdom. Profits and short term efficiency gains are often placed before social issues of care or human dignity.

But what about the impact this has on men and women’s well being, or the long-term sustainability of people, families, society or even the economy? Drawing from interviews and group meetings in seven diverse countries – India, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, the UK and USA – this book explores the multiple difficulties in combining paid work with other parts of life and the frustrations people experience in diverse settings. There is a myth that ‘work-life balance’ can be achieved through quick fixes rather than challenging the place of paid work in people’s lives and the way work actually gets done. As well as exploring contemporary problems, this book attempts to seed hope and new ways of thinking about one of the key challenges of our time.

Many regard the ways in which paid work can be combined or ‘balanced’ with other parts of life as an individual concern and a small, rather self-indulgent problem in today’s world. Some feel that worrying about a lack of time or energy for family relationships or friendships is a luxury or secondary issue when compared with economic growth or development. In the business world and among many Governments around the world, the importance of paid work and the primacy of economic competitiveness, whatever the personal costs, is almost accepted wisdom. Profits and short term efficiency gains are often placed before social issues of care or human dignity.

But what about the impact this has on men and women’s well being, or the long-term sustainability of people, families, society or even the economy? Drawing from interviews and group meetings in seven diverse countries – India, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, the UK and USA – this book explores the multiple difficulties in combining paid work with other parts of life and the frustrations people experience in diverse settings. There is a myth that ‘work-life balance’ can be achieved through quick fixes rather than challenging the place of paid work in people’s lives and the way work actually gets done. As well as exploring contemporary problems, this book attempts to seed hope and new ways of thinking about one of the key challenges of our time.

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About the Author-
  • Richenda Gambles is currently working as a Lecturer in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Oxford, UK. As well as being an Associate of the Work–Life Research Centre, she has been involved with the Institute of Family and Environmental Research as a Research Associate and has worked at the Open University as an Associate Lecturer. She has also worked as a journalist. She has a degree in Social Policy and a masters degree in Gender and Social Policy, both from the London School of Economics.

    Suzan Lewis is Professor of Organisational and Work–Life Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, a director of the multi-site Work–Life Research Centre and was formerly Visiting Professor at the School of Management, UMIST. She has a degree in Psychology and a PhD in Organisational Psychology. Her research focuses on workplace practice, culture and change in different social policy contexts. She has led many national and international research projects on these topics and is currently directing a European Union funded eight-country study on gender, parenthood and well-being in changing European workplaces. She has published extensively including The Work Family Challenge, edited with her son, Jeremy Lewis (1996) and Work–Life Integration: Case Studies of Organisational Change, with C. Cooper (2005). She is also a founding editor of the international journal Community, Work and Family, published by Taylor & Francis. She has advised governments and worked with employers and policy makers in Britain, the USA and Japan, undertaking consultancy and research on work-life issues.

    Rhona Rapoport was director of the Institute of Family and Environmental Research from 1977 until its closure at the beginning of 2005. In addition, for over 20 years she has been a consultant to the Ford Foundation working on affirmative action issues and work and family issues in the United States and in ‘developing’ countries, and in 1994–1995 she was a scholar in residence at the Ford Foundation. During the 1990s, she was also Distinguished Fellow and adviser at the Center for Gender in Organizations at the immons Graduate School of Management in Boston. She has a degree in Social Science from the University of Cape Town, South Africa and a PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics, which was based on work done in Uganda for two years. A major concern in her work is the issue of equity between men and women. She has collaborated with action research projects in the USA and the UK as well as with a training programme on organisational change and work-family issues for advancing diverse groups in South Africa. She has published extensively over the past 50 years, often with her husband Robert. These publications include Dual Career Families (1971) and Leisure and the Family Life Cycle (1975). In 2004, she was awarded The Work Life Legacy award by the Families and Work Institute in New York. She has also won an award from the European Work–Life and Diversity Council.

Table of Contents-
  • About the Authors.

    Foreword by Robert B. Reich.

    Foreword by Tripti P. Desai.

    Acknowledgements.

    Prologue Global Stories from the Front Line.

    PART I: Setting the Scene.

    Chapter 1: A Pivotal Challenge in the Global Context.

    Chapter 2: Evolutions and Developments in Seven Countries.

    Chapter 3: Thinking about Change at Multiple Levels.

    PART II: Making the Connections.

    Chapter 4: The Invasiveness of Paid Work.

    Chapter 5: Care and Connections: Families, Communities, Friendships and Care of the Self.

    Chapter 6: Reciprocal Relationships Between Men and Women: A Critical Issue.

    PART III: Moving Forwards.

    Chapter 7: Visions and Strategies for Change.

    References.

    Index.

Reviews-
  • Accounting Technician, May 2006 " ... essentially an extended report on a research project carried out by the authors."
  • People Management, May 2006 "...policy-makers, students and trade unionists...will find original material and ideas in this book."
  • Peoplemanagement.co.uk, June 2006 "...academics who have worked extensively in the field..."
  • Peoplemanagement.co.uk, June 2006 "...original material and ideas in this book..."
  • Work, Employment and Society, Vol. 21, Issue 3 "a well-written, honest overview that challenges many current Work-Life policy debates... It succeeds in providing many avenues for thought."
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The Challenge of Our Time for Men, Women and Societies
Richenda Gambles
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