Using the concepts of order and disorder to explore the issue of work-life balance Liz James & Louise Wattis Liverpool John Moores University
Combining Work and Family Life: Removing the Barriers to Women’s Progression • To assess the impact of UK ‘family-friendly’ policy & workplace flexibility & the potential of policy from the Netherlands • To explore the ways in which childcare persists as a barrier to employment progression • To investigate the lived experience of work-life balance for women
Conceptualising Work-Life Balance • Contested terms • Implications of separation (Fergusson, 2004) and stasis • Non-market work discounted (Levitas, 2001) • Process not product • How can the concepts of order and disorder help us to explore women’s diverse experiences?
Concepts of Order and Disorder • Macro level – economic & social order • Micro – ordering of everyday lives • Sense of structure, regularity, smooth running of life, everything in its place • Significance of boundaries in maintaining order • Implications of permeability • Implications of disorder
Late Modernity • Bauman’s understanding of modernity as concerned with the creation of order; creation of order became a task & uncertainty became characterized as failure • Order depends on the maintenance of boundaries: spatial & metaphorical • Shift into late / liquid modernity • Individualization & marketization
New Labour Policy ‘Family-friendly’ agenda & concern with work-life balance However: Agenda dominated by business concerns (Lewis, 2003) “flexible working seems to be more concerned with accommodating life to rather demanding and unquestioned working hours rather than one of reorganizing work to allow time for domestic and caring responsibilities” (Perrons, 2003:69)
Acting ‘unencumbered’: maintaining the work-life boundary You don’t mention your children. I don’t ever mention my children. So for people to come into your work and talk about your children and your family is not….. Do you find that quite strange. Why is it that you don’t discuss? I think it’s because you just want to go in and do your job and that’s …. My children, yes I never forget about them but it’s a separate thing. Ann It’s just a thing you don’t mention… don’t bring it to work, just leave it at home. Kim
Ordering priorities The bottom line is the service to the client and meeting your targets and making the, however many million pounds they make in a year because like all of us have individual targets, well actually the teams have targets and you are very much judged on whether you make those 5 targets or not. Kathryn The nature of what we do is you have got to be very reactive you know if a client turns up at 24 hours notice then you’ve got to well you know that takes preference over everything else. Liz My son would be sick and rather than us worrying about him being sick, we would be arguing about whose meeting was more important. Megan
Ordering family life Data echoes Bailey - use of ‘the terminology of work to describe the mothering day’ (2000:63) And Lyon & Woodward: ‘Childcare and domestic time are organized in segmented and rationalized ways, while their paid work has the character of more open and fluid time’ (2001:207) Also problems caused by marketized childcare and journey-to-work difficulties
Ordering family life • Planning and organisation On a Sunday night we plan for the week and you’ve got to take clothes to the child minders and stuff for the children for when they come home from school to change. There is a lot of planning ahead to be done. Ann The ideal spontaneity is out the window, everything is planned… Mary • Shift-parenting I mean it gets to the stage where we have to have diary meetings to work out when I can go out when he’s not away, and we do it like that really. Paula
Work disorders family life Overspill, ‘boundaryless work’ Lewis (2003) If I need to take a 7 o clock conference call for any reason, I can take it at home. I mean it’s not always ideal because it means sticking the kids in front of the video, but you can do it. Liz If a client rings you on your mobile on a Friday you can’t say, ‘sorry, I’m not dealing with you… Genevieve I was away one weekend and he called my husband on Saturday morning to say that there was some really bad news, that sounds like someone has died. But some document I had been working on on Friday needed to be on a clients desk first thing on Monday morning… So I have got to sit all weekend worrying about when I was going to get this done. And I had family over that Sunday night. Anyway I managed to, my secretary came in and she helped me and I sat up all Sunday night and finished it. It didn’t even go anywhere. Mary
Emotional implications • Attempts to order psyche I think you need a huge amount of strength to carve out that boundaries between work and home, and to get both things working quite well. Genevieve I have two completely different personas. Ailsa • Disordered emotions Examples of conflict, guilt, anxiety, stress, worrying about… I was actually at the open day for him going to school and I actually almost physically had a panic attack after the open day cos I started thinking what am I going to do? Stella
Class divisions • Women encountered similar gendered values & expectations, but choices and constraints faced depended on class • Women in professional & managerial occupations had a greater opportunity for using flexibility creatively & more money for child-care, but greater work-related stress & intrusions of work into family space & time • Women in retail & personal service occupations more likely to work part-time, but likely to have their hours rigidly set Well I try to [achieve a balance], I do try you know as I say that’s why I work six till nine just to try and achieve that balance to be home for them and here for them…Me personally probably not but on a family scale I try to balance it…Yeah if I had the choice to not go out at six o’clock I would gladly take it but I haven’t got that choice at the minute. But what can I do you know, we’re fine. Sheila
Conclusion • Concept of WLB implies separate ordered spheres in rational balance, but ‘real life’ is messier and more interconnected than this • Bauman – inevitability of disorder • Attempts at creating orderly separation have heavy personal costs, divided along class lines • Have reached end of either/or model, but have not found a good way of incorporating both/and figures • Debatable how far this is possible in dominant socio-economic order • Utopian solutions?