Gender, work-life balance and health amongst women and men in administrative, manual and technical jobs in a single organisation: a qualitative study

Gurney, Sarah (2010) Gender, work-life balance and health amongst women and men in administrative, manual and technical jobs in a single organisation: a qualitative study. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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There is increasing interest in how people manage the multiple demands of paid work, home and personal life, and the consequences that failure to achieve ‘balance' between these domains may have on health. There has been limited qualitative research exploring the meanings and connections people attach to gender, ‘work-life balance’ and health; this is particularly so for workers who do not occupy managerial or professional jobs. To fill this gap in the literature this qualitative study examined narratives about ‘work-life balance’ amongst women and men working in ‘non-professional’ jobs in a single organisation.

Forty semi-structured interviews were carried out with women and men working in administrative, technical and manual jobs within a single organisation based in various cities across the UK. As with the wider labour market, jobs were largely segregated by sex; all the administrative workers were women, whilst all but one of the manual employees were men. The sample included people who worked full-time and part-time, along with participants who also had other employment or were in further education. The sample was diverse in relation to age and family situation.

The study was framed within the context of Clark’s (2000) work/family border theory, which aims to explain how individuals balance paid work and family, and construct the borders between these domains. The thesis focused on paid employment, family, leisure, and reported experiences of work-life balance amongst the sample. It concludes by revisiting Clark’s work/family border theory, considering the importance of different domains and borders for this sample, and the role of gender within the theory.

The accounts of work-life balance given by these participants differed from those reported in studies of professional employees. Whilst much of the literature problematises paid work as being the main source of conflict, within this sample experiences varied. Due to the relatively low-paid nature of the work carried out amongst the sample, in many instances the necessity of work in providing for self and family predominated over considerations of work-life balance. Borders surrounding the leisure domain were highly permeable, meaning this domain was often compromised by work and family demands.

Participants generally held traditional attitudes to gender roles, particularly in relation to the domestic sphere. This influenced choices constructed around paid work, and experiences of work-life balance. Health was not a key concern, although high levels of strain in different spheres, particularly in relation to the home and family sphere, led to stress for some participants.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: work-life balance , health, gender, work, qualitative
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing
Supervisor's Name: Carol, Dr. Emslie and Sally, Prof. Macintyre
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Ms Sarah Gurney
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-1641
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:44

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