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Businessman chilling out

The truth about wanting more work-life balance



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While local workers are constantly complaining about working 50 hours a week , their counter-parts in the more laid-back western world are not having the time of their lives either, at least this is what they believe.

A research recently published in the journal Social Forces found that workers, in countries where working hours are shorter, staff are more likely to complain of poor work-life balance.

Authors Leah Ruppanner and David J. Maume explored the impact of legislated maximum working hours on work-family conflict in 32 countries.  They were surprised to find that workers in countries with shorter work weeks complained more about work disrupting their family life.

They found the employees in countries with shorter working hours reported more work-family conflict.  Their explanation for the situation is simple: give people more of something and it increases their expectations, which creates greater dissatisfaction when experiences do not meet their standards.

Take the Netherlands for instance, in 1989, only 25% of Dutch respondents said they preferred less time at work.  By 2005, the number was close to 40%, even though the legislated weekly work time decreased by three hours and workers spent 11 fewer hours working than required by law.  A similar pattern was spotted in Canada, Norway, Denmark, and New Zealand.

This means that even though work hours have been shortened,  people increasingly view work time as a problem because they have higher expectations on work-life balance.

Maybe it is time to drop the debate on setting an ideal number of standard working hours and how to compensate for overtime work and turn to providing a caring workplace.

ALSO READ: Staff at Hong Kong’s Café de Coral protest against working hours

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