Work-Life Balance of a Factory Employee

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Introduction

The main task set for the present report is to present the analysis of an interview conducted with an individual who meets the main requirement that follows: he/she should be in full time paid employment. The purpose of the study will be to define and analyze work and non-work roles of the interviewee, to evaluate the existing balance between the work and non-work roles of the interviewee. The subsequent subsections of the present report will assess the degree of balance or imbalance existing, will provide the account of factors causing it, and will offer some recommendations for the interviewee to achieve work-life balance.

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As for the working definition of “work-life balance” in the present report, it will be the one offered by Clutterbuck (2003): “a state where an individual manages real or potential conflict between different demands on his or her time and energy in a way that satisfies his or her needs for well-being and self-fulfillment” (p.8). Thus, the author will try to analyze the degree of work-life balance of the interviewee in terms of the criteria advanced.

As for the interviewee and the main participant of the present study, it will be Mrs. Olivia Bell, aged 30. She has been working as an accountant on permanent contrast for a furniture factory (with the total number of employees of about 200 people) for a year and a half already. Olivia has obtained an accounting degree necessary for the work in the University of Glasgow. This position is her second working place while she had worked for a small private firm (with the total number of employees of 25 people) for two years before she gave birth to her daughter named Lexi, aged four. As for the interviewee’s marital status, she has been married to her present husband, Mr. David Bell for five years already. Since the present work is more challenging and demanding than the previous one and the workload has increased considerably in comparison with the previous work, and additional responsibilities pertaining to motherhood have appeared, the work can sometimes be considered the cause of the stress of the interviewee.

The analysis of work roles

As it has been mentioned in the introductory part of the present report, Mrs. Bell is an employee of a considerably large furniture factory with the total number of employees of two hundred people. Accounting department consists of eight accountants. As for the primary duties that should be carried out by Olivia daily, they include the following: preparation of certain documentation, such as profit and loss statements, monthly reports, payroll entries, etc. An accountant is responsible for the analysis of financial information, establishment and maintenance of the procedures aimed at accounting control, preparation of the budget of the plant. Olivia’s responsibilities also cover the area of automated financial systems while the duty is supervision of the input of specialized data in the systems. Also, the work presupposes interaction with auditors for the purpose of completing audits.

Such an impressive list of primary responsibilities is amended by certain additional responsibilities. For instance, it is the responsibility of the accountants to ensure accounting policy orientation for new employees. However, this responsibility is not imposed on Mrs. Bell yet, some more experienced colleagues are responsible for this type of work.

As the interviewee admits, during the period she has been working at the factory, she has been performing the duties as prescribed by the job description. However, the job description itself comprises a great number of responsibilities as it can be judged by the above mentioned examples of duties. Almost every minute of each working day of Mrs. Bell is scheduled just as it is in case of her seven colleagues. Piles of documents are constantly in the queue to be compiled or reviewed. The end of each month let alone quarters and the end of fiscal year is “the rush hour” or “funny farm” as Olivia calls it. The final days of almost each month are the days when the accountants work extra hours to catch up with the required documentation. “Rush hours” are the days when Olivia has to work about ten extra hours a week. However, these extra hours are traditional at the factory, as the interviewee mentions, the description of the job vacancy said that an accountant should be ready to work a flexible schedule. Still, the schedule has turned to be inflexible, and the pressure of the great number of duties is worsened by the fact that Olivia’s professional experience is not so rich and she is still considered to be “a novice”.

Besides, the head of the accounting department, Mrs. Stone, is very strict and demanding though an efficient specialist. Thus, additional pressure experienced by Olivia comes from the head of the department who often overloads the accountants and demands perfect quality of work asking the subordinates to revise the documentation if considered imperfect. Though stress situations are frequent in accounting department (Olivia states the approximate number of them as three-four per week), she considers herself to be a stress-resistant person and she is willing to develop her professional skills. As for the management structure of the furniture plant, it is traditional, and Mrs. Bell is responsible to the Chief Accountant, the Head of Accounting department. As for other managerial levels, accountants ensure accounting policy orientation for new employees and may occasionally interact with other employees if necessary. Finally, the level of organizational working culture at the factory seems sufficient for Mrs. Bell, she states that the working atmosphere can be characterized by mutual cooperation and friendly attitude among the colleagues that provide each other with assistance if necessary and this is supervised by higher level of management.

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The analysis of non-work roles

The interviewee has been also questioned in terms of the non-work roles she performs. Marital status of the woman has been mentioned in the introductory section of the present report and the current section will enlarge the vision of “out-of-work” life of Mrs. Bell. The woman combines two primary non-work roles: those of a mother and a wife. Main responsibilities implied by these roles can be compiled in a rather long list far exceeding the above mentioned list of professional duties. Olivia has to cope with household chores, devote much time to Lexi’s upbringing and satisfy her personal demands concerning social activity. Olivia includes such duties in the list of non-work roles: taking to and picking up her daughter from kindergarten, bringing her up by means of reading, drawing and other activities, taking the girl to public places (zoos, circuses, parks, ect.), care for her daughter and husband’s health by means of healthy nutrition, keeping the house in order, etc. Olivia stresses the importance of being a faithful and devoted wife, partner, and support of her husband. She also stresses her duty of “keeping the family as one whole” by means of family activities, like walks, picnics, trips to public places.

The Bells do not do a second shift, David’s working day ends at 6 p.m. while Olivia often comes back home at 7-8 p.m. On such occasions, the husband takes up the wife’s duties pertaining to their daughter, like picking her up from the kindergarten. Though these duties are not considered by him as burdensome, he is often reluctant to do this as he wants Olivia to spend more time with the family. The woman realizes the imbalance between the work and the family. Her case perfectly illustrates the idea by Walsh (2006) that “parents … are working longer and longer hours and are therefore increasingly caught in a ‘time bind’ with progressively less time for family life” (p.150). The problem of “time bind” has also drawn the attention of Warhurst et al. (2008).

In addition, Mrs. Bell has not much time to be engaged in social activities, though she is willing to be. However, the Bells are regular church goers; they attend the church every weekend. Among recent social activities, Mrs. Bell mentioned her active participation in charity fair that was conducted in their district at the time when she was on vacation. However, though charity is among Olivia’s desired activities, she cannot devote time to it during her working week.

The interviewee mentions that she has not much time to spend outside her work during a working week, though she devotes the weekends, holidays, and vacation entirely to the family. During their recent vacation they had a family trip to France that “has united the family”, as Olivia states herself. On the whole, the woman is interested in art and would eagerly take drawing lessons but cannot find time for that. Her dream is to join a salsa club with her husband but she sees no opportunity for this cherished dream to come true in the near future.

Recently, Olivia has noticed certain problems with her health she explains by her overload at work. Though the woman is in her early thirties, she suffers of tiredness and exhaustion and she has noted increased cases of insomnia. Walsh (2006) offers the conclusion based on the review of 21 studies of the effects of hours of work on health as “significant relationship between longer work hours and psychological and physical ill-health” (p.153). However, Olivia and David have been attending a yoga club for a month already and both have observed certain improvement of their health.

Due to inherent optimism, Olivia considers these current problems as short-term term problems. The explanation offered for this is that the balance will be found as soon a she develops her professional skills up to the desired level and will cope with the documentation within the working hours. However, this opinion is not shared by her husband; he ascribes long-term character to the problems and is concerned about their becoming “chronic”. David wants his spouse to find a working place that would be a less stressful one while Olivia herself is reluctant to do this. She is ready to sacrifice her own needs (salsa club) for the sake of the work but she will never neglect the needs of her family for the sake of work.

Evaluation of the balance between work and non-work roles

Walsh (2006) stresses the importance of the quality of the experience an individual has in his/her work and family roles (p.155). Absence of proper balance between work and family roles is evident in the analyzed case of Mrs. Bell and her insufficient working experience is one of the primary causes of the imbalance. For the time being, the interviewee is unable to find the proper balance between work and non-work roles that can be proved by a number of above mentioned facts, such as Olivia’s shifting some part of her traditional roles onto her husband, her working long hours, her husband demonstration of dissatisfaction with the present situation as well as state of Olivia’s health.

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To a certain extent, Olivia has failed to achieve the balance between work and non-work roles because she has established a priority in the wrong way. She is demonstrating the sings of workaholism that can be defined as “addiction” to work roles at the cost of family roles. While Olivia herself is stress resistant, she is unable to protect her family from the stress she faces at work (Warhurst et al., 2008, p.27).

Degree of balance or imbalance

In order to determine the degree of balance or imbalance in the analyzed case of Mrs. Olivia Bell, it is necessary to resort to the five states of balance/imbalance offered by Clutterbuck (2003, p.10). The states of balance include subsistence, conflict, integration, idleness, and hedonism (Clutterbuck, 2003, p.10).

It is evident that the participant of the present study experiences the second state that refers to imbalance more than to balance. Though she continuously works long hours, the woman has never mentioned doing this out of necessity, thus the situation does not fit the description of the first state, “subsistence”. In fact, Olivia is in the state when “an individual recognizes conflicting demands and struggles to resolve them” (Clutterbuck, 2003, p.10). She realizes the essence of the problem with her work-life balance and she is displaying certain attempts to achieve the balance: yoga club membership, weekends and holidays with family, family trips and activities.

The interview has contributed to Olivia’s realization of the seriousness of the problem with her work-life imbalance. If she had never considered the idea of the change of a working-place, she stated that she would think it over and discuss it with David.

Recommendations

The possible recommendations can be addressed in two directions: to the participant of the study and to the management team of the furniture factory Mrs. Bell works at. As for the woman, her work-life balance can be achieved by means of elimination of the main obstacle separating her work and family life, long hours she has to work. The development of professional skills can be facilitated by means of in-service training for accountants. Besides, there is the possibility of gaining professional experience in some company that offers lesser amount of work with subsequent applying for the same or similar position.

Undoubtedly, the changes recently introduced by the woman into her life are important and beneficial. She has to work in the same direction, as the preferences for the benefit of the family are evident (Walsh, 2006, p.156). In addition, the woman has to reconsider her personal schedule so that she could take up the activities she is interested in.

Besides, it is evident that the management team of the furniture factory has to implement staff increase in order to distribute equal duties among the accountants and provide flexible schedule for them. Also, the organization has to adopt a special course providing the employees with general work-life skills: practical insight into the situation, understanding pros and cons of flexible working options, tools for thinking creatively about alternative ways of working (Clutterbuck, 2003, p.132).

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Reference

Cutterbuck, DK 2003 Managing Work-Life Balance. Chartered Institute of Personnel Development Press, Ontario.

Walsh, JL 2006 “Work Life Balance: Challenging the Overwork Culture.” In Managing human resources: personnel management in transition, ed Bach, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, pp. 148-177.

Warhurst, C, Eikhof, DR, & Haunschild, A 2008 Work less, live more?: Critical analysis of the work-life boundary. Longman, London.

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