Work-life balance debates “over-simplistic”

High earners love their jobs according to a new Industrial Society Futures report, which reveals that 70 per cent of those earning over £70,000 would carry on working even if they had enough money to live as comfortably as they liked. This group also say they feel as appreciated at work as at home.

The report, New Community or New Slavery? The Emotional Division of Labour examines the emerging divide between those who can’t wait to get to work and those who can’t wait to leave. While big earners are the most positive about their work, 52 per cent of all workers would keep their jobs even if they came into money, and one- third (30 per cent) say that work is the most important thing in their life.

Over half (58 per cent) of respondents feel equally appreciated at work and at home and another 12 per cent feel most appreciated at work. Women are more likely to feel appreciated at work. They are also more likely to meet their friends at work – 49 per cent of women compared to 19 per cent of men.

For the “willing workers”‘ who find their jobs rewarding and enjoyable, the new riskier, individualised labour market is all good. On the other side of the coin are “the wage slaves”‘ – generally those in front line service jobs or in clerical and secretarial jobs. They find work dull and unsatisfactory.

Eighty-three per cent of secretaries or those doing clerical work say that a job is a job, but life is for living. Only 28 per cent of those in front line jobs agree that work is their primary source of self esteem, compared to 41 per cent of senior managers and directors.

Judith Doyle, author of the report, says that employees’ attitudes to work depend on more than their salary and promotional opportunities. “What makes the difference between a good job and a bad job are the intrinsic, emotional elements. People want a job that matches their skills and abilities and where they find recognition and respect.”

She says it makes sense for employers to focus more attention on encouraging sociability and healthy gossip. “Employers should give their staff more room to enjoy their work, and instead of seeing sociability at work as the antitheses to efficiency and productivity, they should see it as crucial to the bottom line.

“Gossip is the cement which holds organisations together. Providing communal space such as coffee areas or lunchroom, allows employees to share information, knowledge and build relations that benefits both company and the employee.”

The evidence that so many people love their jobs is likely to fuel arguments that the current debate on work-life – with its home good, work bad overtones – is often over-simplistic.

Judith Doyle agrees: “There are three assumptions underpinning some of the work-life rhetoric which need to be interrogated. First that the divide between work and life is clear. Second that home or ‘life’ is necessarily positive and third that work is a negative drain on our time and energy. It should be obvious that for some people home is a place of oppression while work is a place of liberation.

“The barriers between work and home are coming down as more and more people find love, friends and a sense of community in their jobs, but that there is still too little acknowledgement of this from much of the work-life lobby.”

Source: The Industrial Society

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