Landmark study to define work-life balance across cultures

October 18, 2006

Australian and international experts will contribute to the development of a practical measure of work-life balance for use by Australian industry and government.

The Griffith University-led study will help inform Australian debate on issues such as paid parental leave - a government-funded entitlement in New Zealand, the UK and other European countries.

Chief investigator and senior lecturer in Griffith's School of Psychology Dr Paula Brough said conflict between work and family responsibilities cost Australia about $8 billion each year in losses such as staff turnover, absenteeism and health costs.

"Some employees, women in particular, will also scale down their career aspirations to balance work and family. This might be good for the new parents but is not necessarily good for the workforce."

One aspect of the study will document the employment experiences of new parents over three years - monitoring changes in job performance, satisfaction, wellbeing and aspirations as family responsibilities change.

The study, funded in the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery projects, will gather evidence from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and China.

"It will provide useful insight into cross-cultural differences between Western individualistic societies and more collectivist Asian societies," she said.

Dr Brough said the study will also test a work-family balance measure - a tool which could be used by organisations to track the impact of their family-friendly policies and practices.

"The measure could also be used to assess or rate organisations on the degree of work-family balance offered, as perceived by their employees."

"It goes beyond measuring just the negatives such as work-life conflict, and also measures the positive side of parenting and impact on employees' psychological health."

Dr Brough said the issue of work-life balance was not just about parents surviving in the workforce as many other employees also accessed organisational practices such as flexitime.
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Research Australia

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