Work life: How work-life balance became an issue

At this point, it is not a matter of a radical assessment of these developments, which are related to the opportunities and risks for workers. However, it turns out that the described working conditions are not only associated with the intensification of work and the endangerment of self-interest, but also pose special challenges to the separation of work from other areas of life. Nor is it necessary to explain further that these challenges are increasing again with the progress of digitalization.

Thus work-life balance refers to a problem seen by employees, which has its origins in social and work-related developments and also affects people of high socio-economic status (income and education). So nothing seems to speak against turning to the measures required for WLB to succeed. The remaining columns discuss why this should not be the next step, at least from a comfort perspective. The focus here is on the (often implicit) assumptions that are made in WLB discourse about life and work, which target groups are or are not addressed and any attribution of responsibility that is made in favor of a failing WLB.

Boundaries and demarcation

The term work-life balance requires the separation of work and life. This becomes especially evident in the picture of frequently used metrics. But even in the Fordist system of labor, with the associations and identities of workers shaped by the profession or employer, there are examples which show that life also occurs in work and that work permeates life. Rather than assuming separation, it is better to ask what forms of demarcation can be observed between the different areas of life in which different expectations of action and logic of evaluation apply. Work-life boundaries research follows such an approach. Between the poles of integration and fragmentation there are empirically very different forms of delineation, permeability and mutual influence of different spheres of life, depending on, among other things, occupations, employment systems, individual life situations and value orientations.

It is also necessary to ask who draws the boundaries and influences them. For certified employees, there is a difference as to whether organizations allow, tolerate or even require daily practices in the course of work. Labor subordination does not necessarily mean that employees are allowed to bring their own problems to work. Instead, many measures of work-life balance rely on keeping these issues out of organizational work processes, even though work itself is not limited in terms of time, space, and cognitive development. So drawing boundaries is always a process of authority.

WLB Individual Responsibility and Performance Policy

The company’s measures to promote work-life balance generally have two advantages. They address only those employees for whom it makes sense to invest in making them attractive as an employer and to mitigate the loss of performance or motivation resulting from overwork. It does not address the demands and intensity of the work, i.e. the performance policy itself.

It would be naive to see the resolution of reconciliation problems for precarious employees in the low-wage sector, low-skilled workers and the self-employed (eg in the IT and media industry) as the responsibility of the employer or client, given the lack or weakness of programmed determination and strength of the employee; Seeing them as the sole responsibility of the workers is ironic. Political organization is required here.

For groups of employees who benefit from WLB measures (such as childcare, more flexible hours, mobile work, sabbaticals, and training), they (should) use the freedom to work and support services granted at their own risk in such a way that their ability to work and employability does not Stand still so that they can withstand the increasing work demands. There is nothing wrong with this at first glance, because it has been scientifically proven that flexibility and the disintegration of borders in terms of time and space (mobile work) is not only a solution, but also a cause of individual disputes about border demarcation and reconciliation of each other. As a result, stress on performance, fatigue, burnout, and perceived impulsiveness at work are not reduced. If the work-life balance fails “despite” the said measures, the responsibility for this is not attributed to the structure, i.e. performance policy, but to the individual.

Mixing work and life as a future?

As a counter-model to inflexible hierarchical organizations that limit creativity, the currently much-discussed notions of “new work” promote forms of work organization that are based on eye level, flexibility, agility, innovation, self-determination, and clients consistent orientation and meaning (purpose). In a new business context, resolving business boundaries as a “work-life blend” becomes an obvious strategy. Work can be done anytime and anywhere, and private matters can also be done at and during work. It is clear that only under certain conditions full of prerequisites, a work-life balance that can actually be described as work-life integration is conducive: if the performance policy allows compliance with contractually agreed working hours, if the integration of work and other areas of life corresponds to individual preferences, if there are competencies and possibilities to draw boundaries and a blanket scope for self-organized work is already granted, but until then the fundamental question to be answered remains whether we want paid work in a subordinate job – no matter how useful it may be Let’s be one with our lives.

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