Researched Works

Coping to Balance Paid Work and Personal Life

As they perform various social roles, employees adopt coping mechanisms to eventually achieve paid work and personal life (PW-PL) balance.

Men and women form the core of human resource management (HRM) and industrial relations (IR). All social institutions—the family, the community, the workplace, the school, the church, the government—would not thrive if they fail to look after the welfare of their members.

As they address the demands of their various social roles, employees adopt coping mechanisms to eventually achieve paid work and personal life (PW-PL) balance. How they cope is influenced by their individual personalities, workplace policies, and social support system, among others.

Pursuing PW-PL balance: An issue without boundaries

In 2002, Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick conducted a study entitled Are You Happy at Work? Job Satisfaction and Work-Life Balance in the US and Europe. One item states “I would like to be able to spend much more time with my family,” which included responses from countries in Asia and the Pacific. This shows the global scope of the PW-PL balancing issue. This could also mean that much coping is involved in order for workers to somehow “spend much more time” with their families.

Although other survey details are absent, Oswald specified three interesting related findings: (1) a person’s yearning for more family time due to “over work” peaks during her/his early 40s; (2) highly qualified people suffer it most; and (3) the feeling is most acute among men rather than women. The report then provides some demographic factors that influence the PW-PL balancing issue – i.e., age, education, and gender.

Prior to the Oswald survey, IBM headquarters in the US–a pioneering firm in the field of information technology–launched its first Global Work/Life Survey in 2001. With a 44% participation rate, it was “the largest, most complex single-focused work/life survey by any corporate, academic, or government entity…”, according to Ted Childs (2003), IBM’s vice-president of global workforce diversity. He notes “that time with family was more important than earning a higher salary” among 80% of men and women aged 24-34, a result that echoes the Oswald report.

Childs further points out the remarkable link “between work-life programs and greater productivity,” as well as its implications to “quality of life”.Through its survey, IBM management realized that balancing paid work and family needs, particularly dependent care responsibilities, is a major concern among their employees worldwide. Consequently, IBM improved its existing work-family/life programs and provided more of these among its branches in other countries like the Philippines, Italy, Mexico, and Korea. Moreover, Childs explained that these initiatives help “motivate and retain the best talent in our industry.”

Helping employees cope through workplace policies

It is imperative for social institutions, including the workplace, to take care of its human resources (HR). Part of this process is to recognize that people have many social roles to perform, and that they also need to take care of themselves in order to be productive. The workplace then should implement humane and gender-sensitive HR policies that allow employees to perform their various social roles.

These may include provisions for day care facilities, flexible work time, maternal and paternal leave benefits that may go beyond what is required by state laws, telecommuting, credit employee cooperatives, mini-gym and recreational area, and grants for education and training.

Written by Leann Zarah (

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