A recent study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (reported here by the BBC) has found that women are more likely to report failing to meet their own standards in meeting work and home commitments.
Statements included in the questionnaire included: “the time I spend with my families interferes with my work responsibilities”; and “when I get home from work I am usually too frazzled to participate in family activities”.
Respondents were categorised into those who set themselves very high standards but felt they did not meet them, those who set high personal standards and were happy with their performance, and non-perfectionists.
At work, 38% of women did not feel they met the high standards they set themselves, compared with 24% of men.
When it came to home and family life, 30% of women felt they were failing to meet the standards they wanted to compared with 17% of men. In both groups more men than women were classed as perfectionists who were happy with their achievements.
This has obvious implications for women’s satisfaction with their work-life balance and Dr. Mitchelson’s point about a possible cause of this being the mixed messages women receive in society seems spot on:
She added that one area of interest was whether mixed messages in society about women needing to stay at home more to look after the children but also going out to work and having a career were related to the findings.
This also highlights the needs to theoretically approach any examination of work-life balance in a bi-directional way. That is, to examine how pressures can come from both the work-to-home direction and the home-to-work direction. Research to date has overwhelmingly overemphasised the former, but more recent innovative studies are examining the latter in more detail.
In addition, our work and our home lives can enrich each other – research demonstrates that a positive mood established in one domain (e.g. work) can “overspill” into another (e.g. home) having a positive impact. Similarly, skills acquired in one domain (e.g. time management) can be put to good use in the other. So work-life balance isn’t all about negative pressures and coping.
Indeed, the topic’s name is even a little misleading as “balance” between work and home implies a static situation, when are own experience demonstrates that are lives are dynamic and full of changing situations. We continually strive to find balance between the two, but perfect balance is never achieved – it’s an ongoing process.