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    Having our voices heard: different narratives of work-life balance

    Fernando, J. and McDowall, Almuth (2014) Having our voices heard: different narratives of work-life balance. In: European Academy of Occupational Health Conference, 2014, Birkbeck College, University of London, London, UK. (Unpublished)

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    Work-life balance (WLB), defined as the perceived fit between work and family life, is a key predictor of employee wellbeing. A lack of WLB has become a key concern for employers over and above work-related stress (Grid, 2012). Much research has focused on working parents who are required to manage the competing demands of home and work. Diversity in terms of sampling and measures is notably absent in work-family research (Gattrell et al., 2012; Ozgilbin et al., 2010). The literature to date has considered how caring for a dependent can adversely affect WLB. However, reflecting the lack of diversity inherent in work-family research, studies have focused on parents of neurotypical children. The present study challenges the stereotypical idea of a ‘dependent’ by exploring WLB in nine mothers who care for a child with a disability: namely Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Data were collected through semi-structured interviews. Utilising a narrative approach (NA) within a lifespan perspective, these mothers’ accounts were studied over time. A shared trajectory emerged across all accounts, which fluctuated according to the mothers’ WLB wants and needs. Transition periods (pre- and post-ASD diagnosis) were found to trigger profound uncertainty in these mothers and thus greater work-life conflict. Poorer WLB led to physical (exhaustion, ill health), emotional (depression, confusion and social isolation) and cognitive (loss of concentration) functioning in all nine mothers. Employer and family support, diagnosis of the child’s disability and workplace flexibility were considered integral to maintaining healthy WLB. All narratives ended with an element of uncertainty due to mothers’ concerns that their child would have a long-term dependency on them even into adulthood. The present study also highlights the importance of active communication between employer and employee which encourages legitimate dialogue on these issues within the workplace. The importance of taking a preventative rather than reactive stance on WLB management and catering for diverse populations and needs is emphasised.


    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2016 12:30
    Last Modified: 07 Aug 2023 16:10


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