In a recent study of 133 female physicians and biomedical researchers:
…women who participated in this study worked 59 hours per week on average — with several regularly clocking over 80 hours per week — those who felt their workplace culture was supportive appeared less vulnerable to some of the most dangerous negative effects of overwork.
She goes on to explain:
Ultimately, we made a remarkable discovery: the relationship between work hours and work-family conflict hinged largely on this often overlooked variable. Indeed, women working 60 hours a week in the most supportive departments fared significantly better than those working 45 hours a week in work units viewed as less supportive.
Another key finding: in the departments viewed as the least supportive, levels of work-family conflict were high almost across the board, whether the women in these groups were working 45 hours a week or 70.
Westring goes on to describe the kind of cultures that support women in this way, including respect for the non-work aspects of their lives, equal access to key organisational resources, willingness to address gender bias and proactive support for women’s career progression.
This underlines a key point I make to clients all the time – looking at working hours only gives us one piece of the work-life balance puzzle. Individual factors (e.g. motivation, satisfaction) and organisational factors (e.g. culture) also play a role.
A couple of years ago I wrote about the important role culture plays in fostering a supportive environment for singles in the workplace, especially in their experience of juggling demands of work and home. This research should remind us to look at workplace as well as individual factors when trying to understand work-life balance holistically.