Predictors of Work-life Balance in Select Nongovernment Organizations in Ethiopia.

AuthorMengistu, Abeba Beyene


Work-life balance has always been a concern of those interested in the quality of working life and its relation to broader quality of life (Guest, 2002). Work-life balance is defined as individuals' perception that work and non-work activities are compatible and promote growth in accordance with an individual's current life priorities (Kalliath & Brough, 2008). Work-life issues seized management's attention in the 1980s following the increased entry of women with dependent children into the workforce (Robbins & Judge, 2013). Advances in technology and the related requirements in speed and quality of services in recent decades have also created too much pressure on employees and led to work-life imbalances (Wambui et al., 2017).

Researchers identified several antecedents of work-life balance, for example, long work hours, long travels, and inflexible work schedules (Stephanie, Jennifer & Casa, 2008), supportive work culture, working conditions, work provisions and travelling distances (Shaikh & Dange, 2017), and work demands, hours worked, family demands, job autonomy and supervisor support (Haar et al., 2019).

Work-life balance is a concern in NGOs too. According to Gupta (2006), NGOs include many groups and institutions that are entirely or largely independent of government and that have primarily humanitarian or cooperative rather than commercial objectives. They are considered as "key third sector actors on the landscapes of development, human rights, humanitarian action, environment, and many other areas of public action ..." (Lewis, 2010:1). NGOs have been operating in different areas of Ethiopia starting from early 20th century to participate in the economic and social development of citizens (Teka, 2006).

This research was conducted in three selected NGOs believing that they represent other Ethiopian NGOs in terms of their program interventions and work-life balance situations. The first NGO focuses on food security, health and HIV& AIDS response, child development, relief and emergency response. The second NGO has been taking the lead in responding to natural and manmade disasters affecting Ethiopia's most vulnerable communities. It has a diverse portfolio ranging from very large food-supported emergency response to cutting edge development programs. The third NGO is a pediatric orthopedic teaching hospital. It provides modern medical and surgical care to physically disabled children.

Statement of the Problem

NGOs in Ethiopia provide several humanitarian services to needy local communities. These communities are usually located in remote areas to major towns of the country with low access to basic amenities. To achieve their goals the NGOs recruit employees from local communities, from the city of Addis Ababa, and from other towns and deploy them to the operational areas. The employees are required to either frequently travel to the operational communities or live among the needy communities. Their job requires them to stay away from their homes for longer hours due to long physical distance and commuting time. Observations also show that many NGOs hire a professional for multiple tasks to cut cost. This makes the job of employees somewhat demanding in terms of attention, time, and energy.

These employees are also expected to discharge their family life demands; such as, developing themselves, taking care of the house's daily activities, caring for children and helping them with their daily studies, caring for elders, and attending social and community affairs. They mostly do this without having adequate and reliable assistance. As a result, some employees are observed complaining about the challenges they face in striking a balance between their work and life responsibilities.

Investigating the factors that affect the work-life balance of the NGO employees may help to address the challenges they are facing and add to the body of literature. Therefore, this paper tries to provide an answer to the research question: "What are the predictors of work-life balance of employees in the selected NGOs in Ethiopia?"

The general objective of this study is to assess the predictors of work-life balance on selected NGOs in Ethiopia. It examines the effects of Work Overload, Family Overload, Social Support, Work Place Support, and Organizational Work-Life Policies on the work-life balance of managerial and professional employees.

Overview of Work-Life Balance

Scholars have given several definitions of work-life balance. For example, Clark (2000) defined work-life balance as satisfaction and good functioning at work and at home with a minimum of role conflict. In her definition, she clearly indicated that work-life balance is not about total absence of conflict; but it should be kept to minimum. According to Bird (2003) work-life balance does not mean an equal balance between work and other aspects of life because trying to assign an equal number of hours for each of an individual's work and personal activities is usually unrewarding and unrealistic. He stressed that an individual's best work-life balance will vary over time, and this can happen on a daily basis. The right balance for someone today will probably be different tomorrow.

Greenhaus and Powell (2006) noted that work-life balance refers to the efforts of employees to split their time and energy between work and the other important aspects of their lives. It is a daily effort to make time for family, friends, community participation, spirituality, personal growth, self-care, and other personal activities in addition to the demands of the workplace.

Supporting employees to reasonably strike a balance between their work and non-work responsibilities is very important for both the employees and employers. Workers who are satisfied with their work-life balance are likely to be happier social citizens, parents, and more productive workers (Pocock, 2005). From the employers' point of view, Hassan (2016) argued supporting employees in their work-life balance attracts new hires, help reduce turnover and absenteeism, and increase the chances of employees voluntarily engaging in "prosocial" behaviors that rise above and beyond their job requirements.

Work-life Balance Theories

There are several theories that have guided the theoretical discourse in the field of work and family balance (Schultz & Higbee, 2010). Examples of work-family balance theories include border theory (Clark, 2000), segmentation, spillover, compensation, instrumental and conflict theories (Guest, 2002), work-family enrichment theory (Greenhaus & Powell, 2006). In this paper Conflict Theory and Conservation of Resources (COR), discussed below, are used for argumentation and hypothesis development.

Work-Family Conflict Theory (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985) proposes that high levels of demand from both the work and family spheres necessitate individuals to make choices that may create conflicting situations. It explains how an individual has to perform several roles and how family and work compete in demanding time, attention and commitment. The basic tenet of the COR Theory is that people strive to obtain, retain, protect, and foster those things they most value in life (Hobfoll, 2001). The things people value are called resources, and anything that threatens them is the potential or actual loss of these valued resources (Hobfoll, 1989). Therefore, people work to obtain resources they do not have, retain or preserve the resources they have, protect resources when threatened, and optimize resources so that their resources can be put to best use.

Predictors of Work-Life Balance

Former work-life balance researchers have identified several predictors of work-family balance. This paper examines the predictors of work-life balance from a demands and resources perspective (Valcour, 2007). In this paper, demands of work-life balance include Work Overload and Family Overload while resources include Social Support, Workplace Support, and Organizational Work-life Balance Policies.

Work Overload & Work-Life Balance

According to McDowall (2009), workload refers to the quantity of physical and cognitive work that workers can perform without endangering their own health and safety or that of others, yet still remain efficient. Elloy and Smith (2003) mentioned that work overload tends to happen when employees receive several work demands that are beyond their...

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