Balancing Family and Work Life
Work and family are the two most important areas of human life. Increasingly, however, we balance between work requirements and family responsibilities, trying to solve arising problems with minimal losses. Over the past two decades, the modern family has undergone significant structural and functional changes. These changes are not accompanied by equally dramatic changes in organizational politics. Today there remain families in which the father works and the mother stays at home, keeping house and taking care of children and elders, but many companies continue to conduct traditional policy, which was formed at the time when this state of affairs was the most common. Nevertheless, the number of women, single parents, and couples increase among the general workers. The likelihood of conflict and stress increases because most employees balance between work requirements and family responsibilities.
Being a single, military working woman I realize the potential problem of experiencing the family-work issue in the future. Thus, balancing family and work life is a significantly important research issue, because the solution of the family-work conflict positively impacts on the healthy relations in the whole society and well-being of people in both emphasized fields.
Essence of Family-Work Conflict
Work and family form the core of most people’s lives. These two aspects of human being have always existed, but today people talk about the conflict between them more and more often. What is the reason? In agrarian, pre-industrial society the concepts of “work” and “family” were different. Work of the farmer or artisan proceeded in close proximity to the home, and the whole working process was closely associated with family life; it involved almost all members of the family. And the family was different as well: all members stayed together for a long time. Moreover, there always was someone, who provided inner needs of the family, taking care of the kids and elderly, curing ill ones. The development of industrial activities pushed the household out of the humans’ life center. The distance between the workplace and the home and family becomes more remote both literally and figuratively. Work becomes more specialized, while the family becomes less numerous. When able-bodied family members are at work, children and elderly remain unattended. Harmony is broken and family responsibilities come into conflict with work. Women are forced to focus on the work at home, caring for children and the elderly, men are gradually becoming the main breadwinners (Batt & Valcou, 2001).
There are three principle models that represent different visions of people’s performing work and family roles.
“Overflow” model. It stresses the similarity between events at the workplace and the family activities. It is also argued that everything happened at work affects the life outside of it. Work attitudes are transferred to home life, affecting fundamental relationships between family members. This concept summarizes positive connections between work and family variables when job satisfaction beneficially affects family life.
The compensation model. It is mostly contrasted with the model of “overflow,” postulating the feedback between work and family. Additionally, according to this approach, a person employs different aspects of its personality in these two spheres of life; thus, provisions of both spheres could compensate each other. For this reason, the lack of something important at work is offset by non-working activities.
Segmentation concept. According to this model, labor and non-labor spheres are independent; thus, that success in one area doesn’t have any effect on the other one. These two areas exist in parallel with each other and in practice are separated by human unconscious or rational suggestion. This separation by type, space, and functionality, allows people to segment their lives effectively. It is usually assumed that the family is the realm of intimacy and empathy, and the work is impersonal and instrumental obligatoriness.
Impact of Family-Work Interaction on Population
Woman and Family-Work Environment
A woman is the first one who becomes hostage to the “work-family” conflict, because naturally, she is assigned to the procreation mission. Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and caring for children are hard to combine with full-time high workloads. Under the influence of traditional stereotypes, which impose on a female a care of the sick, and elderly, and housekeeping, a woman, as a rule, sacrifices her professional career and opportunities for decent and independent income for the family comfort. It is not surprising that employers in this situation see her as a potentially “problem employee,” who will be often absent from the workplace, requiring additional conditions, e.g. due the birth of a child. It creates a fertile ground for gender discrimination: women are reluctantly employed, pregnant women are fired, and women are poorly paid, not promoted, and so on.
My job of the military medical worker requires continuous duty and willingness to engage in direct duty performance. Military-bound person does not belong to itself. He or she should serve the state, leaving personal wishes by the wayside. The families of those people who work in the military field have to put up with the constant absence of one of its members, or lack of attention and care form him/her. I’m worried that I will have not enough time to realize myself as mother and wife in the future. I want to give my children enough care and love that they could feel and see.
Other Sufferers in Work-Family Conflict
In contrast to woman, man -employee is not burdened with family responsibilities and becomes a model of the “ideal worker.” However, winning in earnings and career, men lose the necessary support in family life. Ultimately, this leads to excessive workload, increases susceptibility to stresses that adversely affects both physical and the mental health., As a result, it leads to a high mortality rate among men of working age, particularly in countries with transition economies. However, numerous men, who would like to devote more time to family, are as discriminated at the workplace as women; but unlike women they don’t receive social support. A society generally doesn’t approve of deviations from established stereotypes. Thus, workers and their families, employers and enterprises, government and society suffer from the existing “work-family” conflict.
Particular attention should be paid to children’s needs. These little citizens are the most vulnerable to the system because they couldn’t understand the importance of work and desire just attention from their parents. Unfortunately, those who have to work are forced to make painful choices. This choice is particularly difficult for single women who don’t have decent support. Such type of females has to earn a living for themselves and their child as well. Women’s feelings of anguish and guilt are amplified because of kids’ grief, and their own feelings of hopelessness. In turn, the children grow up without feeling the full love of parents. It negatively affects their further development as personalities.
Consequences of Conflict
The consequences for employees (men and women) and their families are the following: increased load and stress at the workplace; incompatibility of conditions and modes of operation with the implementation of family responsibilities; limitations and disadvantages associated with no or limited family support services; adoption of poor, displaced solutions; insufficient or unreliable income or loss as a result of complete dismissal; the deterioration of family relations, the increase in divorce rate and so on.
The employers could experience the next consequences: unreliability and/or unpunctuality of personnel due to the conflict “work-family”; staff turnover and loss of skilled workers; the costs spending on search, selection and training of new employees; productivity reduction; incomparability of mentioned costs with the cost loss associated with the increased load on workers with family responsibilities.
The society as a whole also faces the results of the family-work conflict. They are the persistence of poverty and inequality in society (especially in low-income families which cannot pay for child care, babysitting services, etc.); the loss of human resources, obstacles to the growth of women economic activity and the use of their professional skills and knowledge; difficulty adjusting demographics, fertility decline due to lack of incentives, especially for mothers; difficulties in providing appropriate care for dependent children and elderly family members; overloading of the social protection system; feminization of children upbringing and education; barriers to equal treatment and equal opportunities for men and women in employment, as all restrictions due to family responsibilities mainly affect women.
State and International Regulation of Family-Work Relationships
Domestic Policy and Legislation
In 2011 the American Psychological Association found that only 36% of the US working population is satisfied with employers’ help in balancing work and family. Employers don’t have a particular desire to recruit family people. The overview of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 2010, focuses on the fact that firms reduce benefits for family-responsible people, care support for the elderly, and assistance in adoption issues.
The level of employer’s full-time salary and free time for maternity leave also decreased from 27% to 16% in comparison with previous years. It shows how deep the problem in work-family system is (Kossek, Baltes, & Matthews, 2011).
The core laws on occupational safety and well-being in the United States are the following: 1935 Social Security Act (support of workless, elders, mothers and children); 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (first nation’s regulatory scopes of hours and wage); 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (prohibition of oppression on grounds of pregnancy); 1990 Law of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) (protection of the disabled in out-of-work). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the core agency for the Civil Rights Act, explained how the legislation acts that establish equality at the workplace also guarantee protections for persons with family responsibilities in 2007 (Boushey, 2011).
In the US, there is a system of family vacations. Back in 1993, President Clinton approved the Law on vacation for family and medical reasons. Today, the government just tries to support the working population by providing incentives and financial support.
World researches prove that men experience the same kind of oppression at the work place as women when they claim their rights as workers with family responsibilities. In fact, offences of all workers with family responsibilities regardless of gender, are explored.
The United States is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO). ILO Convention considers the elimination of discrimination against workers with family responsibilities number 156 and its accompanying Recommendation number 165 (1981). Unlike Recommendation number 123 of 1965 defending the rights of women as workers with family responsibilities, the Agreement number 156, or the Convention on Equal Opportunities and Equal Treatment for Men and Women Workers and Workers with Family Responsibilities, considers the provision of equal opportunity and treatment for all workers with family responsibilities as a common goal of all measures aimed at eliminating the “work-family” conflict (O’Brien, n.d.).
Another ILO Convention number 183 deals with Maternity Protection, 2000. Its counterpart Recommendation number 191 is devoted to protection of natural rights and responsibilities of females, including health protection during pregnancy and breastfeeding, motherhood leave and related leave and advantages, breastfeeding, and non-oppression in employment. It also extends the compulsory parentage leave to 14 weeks at a minimum, thus providing global health and well-being of more working women and their children.
Solutions and Results
The Main Directions of Family-Work Conflict Settling
In my opinion the work on work-family balancing must be performed mainly in the following two ways: the adoption of measures aimed at a more harmonious combination of family obligations (childcare, housework) and work; the adoption of measures that make working conditions and employment (e.g. holidays, working hours and so on) more compatible with family responsibilities, that is the organization of workplaces in the interests of the family.
Measures related to the first group can include the care for children and the elderly: the support of children in groups or kindergartens (state, public and commercial); babysitting service (including situations when children are looked after at home); consumer services and social services and pensions (daily boarding) for the elderly.
Taking into account the interests of the family measures relating to the organization of jobs can be grouped in the following way: working hours and work schedule; reduction of “antisocial” working time (work at night, on weekends); timely notification of overtime work, “predictability” shifts; part-time employment, segregation of duties (rates); reduction of working time; flexible working hours, the accumulation of “time bank” (operating hours) and work from home.
Granting leaves (mandatory and optional: regular, parenthood, and paternity) is also principle. Information services and training should be wide-spread (provide basic data on general corporation activity; data on ongoing and planned activities; organization of training courses and lectures).
The employees’ benefits from both Conventions of ILO and our recommendations are clear: it is an opportunity to fully organize personal life, maintaining stable income and career prospects. Employers’ bonuses from the implementation of the policy on the harmonization of work and family responsibilities are not so obvious. The creation of favorable conditions for persons with family responsibilities often requires certain administrative decisions sometimes associated with additional costs, and so on. Nevertheless, if an employee is successful in family life, his or her productivity increases.
Much our advice, however, may lead to slower career development due to stereotypes about the “ideal worker.” However, we are confident that this advice can lead to more harmonious staff work and employee satisfaction. Healthy atmosphere in the workplace will favorably affect family relationships. Ability to obtain leave may give grounds for workers to do more for best results, and additional training courses will provide new knowledge for career advancement.
Balancing family and work is an integral part of modern life. This is especially important for women who have to take care of families and continue to work. In order to break the stereotypes and prove that family people can work more efficiently it is necessary to make a lot of effort. For this reason, it is important to coordinate the work of employees and companies, and get the state support. Time allocation is the most important for preventing members of family, especially children from suffering. If corporations provide employees with families with their help, overall quality of life will significantly improve. A military person should rely on the state. I hope that the government will allow military experts to raise families boldly, avoiding work-family conflict.
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