Chapter 1: Introduction
Work and family are perhaps two most important parts of an adult life. Work-life balance occurs when work and non-work activities (such as family) are compatible and promote growth according to the current life priorities (Westman, Brough & Kalliath, 2009). In contrast, work-life conflict is a stress that occurs when demands from work and family are in conflict (Erkmen, & Esen, 2014; Porter & Ayman, 2010). Work-family conflicts are particularly crucial for women, who, on the one hand, have a traditionally dominant role in family life, and, on the other hand, they are increasingly participating in the country’s workforce. Women comprise 46.2% of all employees in Australia: 24.8% of them are working full-time, and 21.4% are working part-time (Workplace Gender Equality Agency [WGEA], 2016).
Nursing, a female-dominated profession, forms a crucial part of current health labour force in Australia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2015). The role of work-life conflicts in job satisfaction levels is increasingly being realized for the nursing workforce (Skinner, Madison & Humphries, 2012). When family-related variables were considered, Eley et al (2010) found that ‘family responsibilities’ was the third and fifth most common reason for the decision to leave nursing among the nursing students (between ages <20 to 50-59 years, n=272; females were 91.5%), and professional nurses (from age >20 to 60+, n=259; females were 88.4%) in an Australian quantitative cross-sectional cohort study.
The workforce participant rate for women in Australia is 59.3%, compared to 70.4% for men (WGEA, 2016). Women have a workforce participation rate of 59.3%, while for men it is 70.4% (WGEA, 2016). Although the proportion of women in the nursing profession has fallen from 90.5% in 2008 to 89.8% in 2012 and further to 89% in 2015 because of the increase in men within the workforce, women remain an important component (AIHW, 2012; AIHW, 2015). Despite this reality, nursing workforce increased during the same period; for example, there was a 0.5% increase in nursing workforce between 2008 and 2012 (AIHW, 2012). The observation that average working hours per week during 2008 to 2012 were 33.4 (AIHW, 2012), which increased to 33.5hrs in 2015 (AIHW, 2015), and the possibility that men are increasingly opting for nursing, cannot explain the drop in the proportion of female employed nurses (AIHW, 2015). The drop in number of female nurses, despite the increase in nursing workforce, may imply some degrees of job dissatisfaction related to women nurses’ work in Australia. Roche et al. (2015) elucidated the factors underlying the nurses readiness to enter and remain within the profession, among them being heightened level of work- and family-related stress.
As one of the most important aspects of employment, management of various conflicting commitments within the time constraints, job satisfaction appears to be an important multi-dimensional construct. Job satisfaction is a positive emotional state resulting from appraisal of job experience. It is the gratification and fulfilment that comes from work, and the appraisal of work experience. Satisfaction is not the same as motivation (Asegid, Belachew & Yimam, 2014). Intriguingly, less attention is paid to nurses’ job satisfaction and retention, especially for older nurses, than on nurses’ recruitment (Storey, Cheater, Ford & Leese, 2009). Despite the overall decline in number of Australian women nurses in 2015 as compared to the year 2008, the two age groups in which the number of older employed nurses have increased, were found to be 25-34, and 55 and over (AIHW, 2015). These data indicate that generation-specific knowledge needs to be developed to understand what factors can increase job satisfaction and the nurses’ intention to leave or stay, particularly in Australia. Roche et al. (2015) proposes the need for incentives to motivate more students to join the profession. Gender roles are one of the areas that explain the gender disparity in job satisfaction.
Feminist sociologists use the term “gender” to mean a socially constructed, learnt behaviour, whereas ‘sex’ indicates physical/bodily characteristics. Gender discrimination is based on acquired behaviour; that is, gender inequality is a cultural phenomenon rather than a result of physical differences between male and females (Jacobsen, Fursman, Bryant, Claridge, & Jensen, 2004). Gender differences and gender equity and discrimination greatly influence work-to-family conflict (WFC) and family-to-work conflict (FWC) because they appear to be gendered. Being a women worker and/or being involved in careers dominated by women can also shape the work-life conflicts. Family structure and marital status have also been known to greatly influence WFC and FWC in Australian women nurses. Some of the influencing factors include: having children; having children with illness/disabilities; being in a dual-career relationship; or being a single parent (Bardoel et al., 2008). The feminist explanations for gender inequality, as a form of social inequality, focus on male patriarchy that has systematically discriminated against women. The glorification of motherhood and nuclear family has obscured the experiences of family life faced by women, particularly working women (Jacobsen et al., 2004).
The in-depth analysis of WFC and FWC is important since the conflicts have an impact on society and the economy. The traditional family structure of one full-time male earner is no longer the most common family type in the developed world including Australia. Dual earner families are the norm. Despite this gender convergence, equity is missing in terms of contribution to the childcare time, domestic labour, providing emotional support to partner, comforting children, making efforts to maintain or improve relationship, and so on (Bardoel et al., 2008; Brough et al., 2008; Westman et al., 2009). Full-time employment of mothers is still below that of fathers in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2016). This situation creates societal issues where married couples (or partners) tend to delay parenting; and WFCs, FWCs, and the consequent job dissatisfactions among Australian women nurses will add to the growing problem. On a positive note, in Australia, where role of men and women in family and work are becoming indistinctive, working women face lesser conflicts than women in the patriarchal societies (Bardoel et al., 2008; Brough et al., 2008; Faisal & Naqvi, 2014; Westman et al., 2009).
The term “work” is often understood as paid employment, while “life” refers to everything else outside of work setup. Since there are some employees who do not have a family, the umbrella term ‘work-life’ balance/conflict is generally used instead of work-family balance/conflict (Bardoel, De Cieri & Santo, 2008). Traditionally, work-life conflict has been measured unidirectionally. The perspective that it is only the conflict that occur when work interfered with the non-work activities (especially related to family) has been the subject of academic discussions (Carlson, Kacmar & Williams, 2000). However, it has increasingly been realized that work-life conflict is a bidirectional phenomenon: non-work (mostly family-related) issues can also interfere with work (Bardoel et al., 2008; Erkmen, & Esen, 2014; Porter & Ayman, 2010). In other words, work-life conflict has two parts: work-family conflict (WFC) and family-work conflict (FWC), but the two concepts are often used interchangeably in the literature (Brough, Holt, Bauld, Biggs & Ryan, 2008; Skinner, van Dijk, Elton & Auer, 2011; Westman et al., 2009).
Work-family conflict can be understood as a conflict that occurs when a person’s participation in the work interferes with his/her participation in the family matters (Westman et al., 2009). The conflict takes place when a person’s participation in family interferes with his/her participation in the work. On the other hand, family-work conflict transpires where the work-related factors have an impact on the family life. In other words, both WFC and FWC are inter-role conflicts: in WFC, work role interferes with family role, and in FWC, family role interferes with work role (Premeaux, Adkins & Mossholder, 2007).
1.1.3 Gender Diversity in WLC
Past research has indicated that men and women do not experience conflict at the same level. Based on the findings from a survey of 790 employees, Rothbard (2001) found evidence for enrichment (positive effect of multiple roles), depletion (negative effect of multiple roles, or resource drain), and gender differences in conflict experience. Women experienced resource drain and the direction was always work-to-family, while men felt enriched and the direction of enrichment was work-to-family. The enrichment experience of women was from family to work. Interestingly, Rothbard (2001) also found that overall women had more linkages between work and family than men. The researcher indicated that depletion is a reality for women, and hence, in female-dominated professions and in the work-to-family direction, while enrichment is a reality for men moving in the family-work direction (Rothbard, 2001). The study is critical to identifying the response to conflict within a gendered perspective.
Role identity is a concept that can be applied in explaining the socially-constructed gender roles as they impact on WFC and FWC. Identifying with a particular role and a person’s emotional response to a certain role imply a greater participation in that role. Role identity – the salience or importance of a role to a person – is important to explain the negative (or positive) feelings associated with WFC or FWC. A person’s attachment to a role, or his/her commitment, and identification provide the reason why he/she is psychologically more engaged in one role than the other. Two constructs are important here: attention and absorption. Former indicates cognitive availability and amount of time a person spends thinking about a particular role. Absorption indicates intensity of focus on a role. When people are absorbed in work, they may ignore family-related matters; and when they are less engaged/absorbed, family problems become a distraction (Rothbard, 2001). This professional role identity is known to influence work-life conflicts and job satisfaction among nurses (Elliott, Kennedy & Raeside, 2015; Paustian-Underdahl et al., 2016). The same applies to gender identity where there are roles that society assigns to men and women in the family which can interfere with the modern concept of paid job at the workplace.
Men and women both face similar WFC and FWC in societies where involvement of both genders in work and family is similar (Westman et al., 2009), such as Australia (Bardoel et al., 2008), in contrast to the nations where there is distinction between their roles, such as Pakistan (Faisal & Naqvi, 2014). In the latter countries working women face greater WFC and FWC than men. Moreover, it is gender role framework that can explain why women often report lower levels of family-to-work interference than man: family presents a traditional role for women, so they do not typically consider the tasks related to family and home as being imposed on them. So, women can perform family-related tasks with less difficulty and effort as compared to men (Duxbury & Higgins, 2005; Greenhaus & Powell, 2006). The gender-role ideology can be understood along a continuum: on one hand, women bear the family responsibilities and men’s obligation are primarily work-related; and on the other end of the continuum, in the egalitarian societies, men and women share equal role distribution.
1.1.4 Implications of Work-Family and Family-Work Conflicts
The above mentioned theories typically explain WFC and FWC in terms of psychological involvement and the experience of social support. The psychological involvement or importance workers give to job can lead to WFC, while family involvement can lead to FWC. Support from family, friends, or organisations reduces such conflicts (Eby, Casper, Lockwood, Bordeaux & Brinley, 2005; Kirkman, Lowe & Gibson, 2006). However, in a sample of Hong Kong and Singaporean nurses who showed greater collectivism and lower individualism than US and Australian nurses, individualists scored higher than the collectivists on job satisfaction (Kirkman et al., 2006).
For a collectivist society, ‘family’ also includes extended family, while household of most children born individualist societies comprises two parents and extended family is rarely seen (Hofstede, 2001). This collectivism versus individualism is another theoretical framework to explain WFC and FWC. In 2007, Spector et al contrasted four clusters of countries – individualistic (Anglo, including Australia) and collectivistic (Latin America, East Europe, and Asia) – and reported a weaker relationship between work demands and WFC for collectivist nations than for individualist nations.
The work-family crossover deals with the stress experienced by the individual that leads to the strain felt by individual’s team members or spouse. The effects of work-life imbalance can crossover from one spouse to the other (Westman et al., 2009). The research in this area has revealed that psychological distress, turnover, organisation commitment, life satisfaction, job satisfaction, and other outcomes are seriously influenced by WFC and FWC (Kalliath et al., 2015). In other words, work-life conflicts not only impact the individual, but also his/her family and the workplace.
It should be pointed out that workaholism (compulsive working) can undermine other forms of undertaken activities related to the family, resulting in the damage to the social relationships such as functioning of a family. The spouses of workaholics have often reported that they feel that they bear the major responsibility of parenthood and marriage (Hauk & Chodkiewicz, 2013). However, coping strategies (that a person naturally adopts when faced with time constraints) also influence WFC and FWCs. Likewise, health status, well-being, stress and burnout play a crucial role in this regard (Bardoel et al., 2008).
1.1.5 Job Satisfaction among Nurses
Nurses face a lot of pressures: longer working hours; constant pressure to keep the skills updated; and take shorter breaks for childcare (Forsyth & Polzer-Debruyne, 2007). Due attention to the job satisfaction and retention in older nurses is largely missing (Storey et al., 2009). Societal expectations and demands place additional stress on the female nurses. So, it is crucial to focus on women’s experience of work-life conflicts in Australian context (also see “Purpose of the Current Study”).
In this regard, a randomized survey of 574 Victorian registered nurses (94.41% females) revealed a sense of high personal accomplishment and negative cynical feelings about clients (Patrick & Lavery, 2007). Likewise, in a descriptive study on 550 Australian nurses and midwives from public hospitals, community health centres, and aged care facilities, Skinner et al (2012) found that a vast majority of the nurses were moderately/highly satisfied with their work. Paustian-Underdahl et al (2016) collected and analyzed data from 347 registered American nurses and their supervisors (n = 40). Results indicated that increase in nurses’ family involvement enables them to accumulate resources from family role, and to transfer these resources to their workplace, leading to family-to-work enrichment. This enrichment benefits nurses since supervisors perceive this attitude a potential for promotability. Job satisfaction levels are interlinked with this perception. In other words, family-life balance leads to job satisfaction, and for this balance, the work-to-family interference faced by women nurses must be addressed (Paustian-Underdahl et al., 2016).
Considering these studies in light of previous research on work-life conflicts and their negative effects on various interlinked factors – such as health and job performance, satisfaction and retention – in Australia (Schluter, Turner, Huntington, Bain & McClure, 2011) reveal that work-life conflicts affect the majority of women nurses in Australia.
1.1.6 Factors Influencing Work-Life Conflicts for Nurses
There are several factors that influence work-life conflicts of female nurses, ranging from demographics (age, income, marital status, gender, and family structure) to characteristics related to work or the person him-/herself.
188.8.131.52 Demographics. The total number of nurses and midwives registered in Australia in 2012 was 334,078, which indicated a 6.8% increase since 2008 (AIHW, 2012). In 2015, registered nurses (RN) and registered midwives (RM) were 266, 800 (263,209 RN and 3,591 RM; AIHW, 2015). Many demographic variables are important in order to examine work-life conflicts: increasing participation of female workforce, more single-parent and dual-earner families, increasing divorce rates, more families with both elder and child care responsibilities, a rethinking of traditional gender roles, and so on (Duxbury & Higgins, 2005).
184.108.40.206 Age. Age is a noteworthy factor that can shape the conflicts. Shacklock and Brunetto (2012) described the results of a self-report survey of 900 hospital nurses from three generational cohorts across four states of Australia. The three generational cohorts were from seven private hospitals, and they were: born in Australia between 1946 and 1964, called baby boomers; born between 1965–1979, called generation X; and born between 1980 – 2000, called generation Y. A vast majority of the respondents were women (96%) and married (79%). It was baby boomers (≈ 47-65 years old) and generation X (≈32-46 years old) that reported WFC to be an important variable for intention to continue working: reduced WFC was reported to entice baby boomers and generation X to stay (Shacklock & Brunetto, 2012). Along these lines, professional nurses (age >20 to 60+) have reported ‘family responsibilities’ to be one of the common reasons for leaving the nursing profession (Eley et al., 2010).
220.127.116.11 Income differentials. Income status plays an equally important role. Ford (2011) studied 1472 married employees that had children, and found that a lower household income was associated with a stronger relationship between family-strain and work-to-family interference. The family-to-work interference was also found to be strongly associated with family-strain in these low-income individuals as compared to high-income households (Ford, 2011).
18.104.22.168 Working Conditions. Organisational work-life policies, support/facilitation, values, and work-life culture are also important determinants of the work-related stress and conflicts (Bardoel et al., 2008). Policies such as on-site childcare, flextime, and others ensure that duties to one’s family do not interfere with the work. The underlying fear is that engagement in family matters is achieved at the expense of job (Rothbard, 2001). Workload or work hours, shiftwork, flexible work options, and labour market changes are all the factors that are known to influence WFC and FWC (Bardoel et al., 2008). For example, nurses on rotating shifts tend to spend less leisure time with family (Eby et al., 2005).
Organisations that allow the stress to remain in the moderate limits, where employees do not feel burnout, find improved job satisfaction. In other words, moderate amounts of work-induced stress can arguably improve job satisfaction as was found in a descriptive study on 550 Australian nurses where the majority reported that they enjoyed their work and considered themselves to be well-suited for the job (Skinner et al., 2012). It should be noted that government policies such as allowable parental leaves and childcare have also been reported to shape the work characteristics and the resulting conflicts (Bardoel et al., 2008).
Research, both qualitative and quantitative has been carried out reporting that both men and women face similar WFC and FWC in societies where involvement of both genders in work and family is similar (Westman et al., 2009), such as Australia (Bardoel et al., 2008). However, women have been found to perform family-related tasks with less difficulty and effort as compared to men (Duxbury & Higgins, 2005; Greenhaus & Powell, 2006). When Australian society is viewed as an individualistic society, Australian nurses were found to score higher on job satisfaction than the nurses from collectivist societies (Kirkman et al., 2006), and there was a strong relationship between work demands and WFC in Australia and other individualist societies (Spector et al., 2007). Current study is aimed at exploring the direction of conflict (work-to-home, or home-to-work), these studies have largely ignored. Secondly, the study investigates the findings: the society being egalitarian, or being individualistic. To the best of our knowledge, this latter question has not been addressed thoroughly in any empirical study. It is possible that both aspects play significant role, but we want to see the extent of roles of each of these explanations (egalitarian versus individualistic).
The level of satisfaction among Australian women nurses in light of their family role is also largely missing from previous studies. The descriptive study of Skinner et al (2012) on 550 Australian nurses and midwives from various settings (hospitals, community health centers, and aged care facilities) showed a vast majority of nurses to be moderately/highly satisfied with their work. Current study is aimed at reproducing these findings since family-related factors were not specifically determined in the study by Skinner et al (2012). Similarly, the study by Patrick and Lavery (2007) on Victorian nurses also did not focus on family-related factors, and it included men nurses as well. Our current study will focus on women as we think gender role (such as gender inequality/discrimination) may be a good explanation of current status of Australian women nurses’ WFC/FWC and their levels of job satisfaction.
The purpose of the study is to investigate the connection between work-family conflict and job satisfaction for female nurses in Australia. The study will investigate the individual, workplace and family factors that shape work-life conflicts in nursing and the role of these conflicts on nurse’s job satisfaction levels. The potential implications of the factors in the prevalent reporting of moderate to high levels of satisfaction in their organisations will be explored (Patrick & Lavery, 2007; Skinner et al., 2012). The possibility that addressing the conflict has the potential for improving the levels of satisfaction forms a critical component of the study (Eley et al., 2010). The growing trend of participation of Australian women in workforce beside their traditional roles in family is placing huge stress on women. Due to the real and perceived societal expectations of women in Australia (Pocock, 2005), the women nurses – particularly those born during 1946-1979 – are facing WFC and FWC (Brough et al., 2008; Westman et al., 2009) that is resulting in job dissatisfaction (Schluter et al., 2011) and reduced intention to continue working (Shacklock & Brunetto, 2012). It is fair to say that previous studies are limited in dissecting out the role of the various individual, workplace, and family factors play in shaping these phenomena. Current study is aimed at filling those gaps in knowledge.
1) To examine the work-life conflicts and their direction – both work-family conflicts (WFC) and family-work conflicts (WFC) – existing in the Australian women nurses (AWN).
2) To examine influences of work-life conflicts on the level of job satisfaction of AWN.
3) To identify the challenges and the ways of mitigating work-life conflicts in AWN in order to improve their job satisfaction.
4) To determine the differences in work-life conflicts that affect AWN as compared to the women nurses from some of the other developed countries.
The major research question is: what are the most pertinent work-life conflicts that women nurses face in Australia, and to what extent do these impact on their job satisfaction levels (such as attrition and retention rates)?
Other pertinent questions are the following:
1) What are some of the work-life conflicts experienced by commonly seen in AWN?
2) What are the challenges faced by AWN in terms of work-life balance?
3) What are the impacts of work-life conflicts on job satisfaction levels of AWN?
4) How the work-life conflicts faced by AWN are different from the conflicts faced by nurses in other countries (in terms of individualistic/collective societies) to understand the role of gender in shaping the conflicts.
5) To what extent the gender roles with regards to family in Australia facilitate work-life balance in AWN?
6) What strategies could be recommended to mitigate work-life conflicts to improve job satisfaction in AWN?
The current study is aimed at finding the knowledge gaps related to the WFC and FWC faced by Australian women nurses and the relationship of this work-life balance/imbalance on their level of job satisfaction. Both quantitative – such as cross‑sectional cohort (Eley et al., 2010) – and qualitative studies – employing focus group and telephone interviews (Skinner et al., 2011) – will be reviewed that facilitate in knowing the level of existing WFC and FWC among Australian women nurses and the contributing factors to these conflicts. The level of job satisfaction will also be evaluated in relation to work-life balance/imbalance.
The literature review will be based on Australian studies only due to the direct applicability of the findings. Studies that compare the situation in Australia with other countries (having individualistic or collectivistic societal behaviours) will also be elaborated (see the matrix of evidence). The measurements of the variables at one time-point in the studies cannot be understood to mean that characteristics of the participants have remained constant over the years: that is, perception of conflict and satisfaction may change over the period of time, depending on various factors such as governmental/organisation policies. The latter are outside the scope of the literature review.
The review of previous literature will also be limited to the studies published between 2000-2016 to get a more recent picture of the variable and factors that are shaping the dynamic relationship between work and family. The review will be presented in a chronological order of the published articles. It should be pointed out that the current literature review may not address all the dimensions of the reviewed articles in one chapter. The study focuses on one gender, since it is believed that the findings may not hold up for the males. One factor could be the societal constraints that women face uniquely. Keeping that in view, the study will also touch upon some of the social aspects as well in order to better understand nature of FWC and WFC, and how the egalitarian (and other) components in a society shape these conflicts.