Over the last six decades, research on work-life balance has been primarily concentrated in the advanced western world. One of the employee categories which have not been extensively researched for work-life balance is higher education teachers.


Work-life balance, higher education teachers,


Due to industrialisation and other related factors, workload and work intensity increased tremendously since 1950 and the rate further intensified 1990's onwards (Todd 2004; Paoli and Merllie 2001). At the same time nuclear families in cities which lived without the social support network of the extended family experienced greater challenges especially where both the parents were working (Blunsdon 2006). With increasing number of mothers in the workforce, a new employee segment with special family needs also got created (Evans and Kelley 2004). The conflict between part of life spent at workplace and personal life intensified as both these aspects of life (work and personal life) demanded more and more time out of the limited 24 hours available in a day (Thornthwaite 2004). Increasingly stress from work started to spill-over to personal life and stress from personal life started to spill-over to workplace (Pickering 2006). Working individuals thus started facing the new challenge of how to balance between their workplace priorities and personal life priorities. To help employees achieve better work-life balance and in turn to enhance work productivity, employers in the advanced nations started to address the work-life balance issue by providing facilities such as flexible working time, in which an employee could report at workplace at a personally convenient time. But till date work-life balance initiatives at organisational level have been primarily focussed at mothers at workplace and dual earner couples and most of the work-life balance theories address the advanced nation's work culture. This calls for a wider research on work-life balance issues especially in countries and cultures other than the western advanced nations. Further, work-life balance issues differ from profession to profession and employee segment, as such there is a need of extending the work-life balance research to niche employee segments.

Defining work-life balance

Work flexibility in higher education teaching

Teaching profession has had greater element of work autonomy, independence and provides more opportunities for application of multiple skills (Buffardi et al. 2004). Teachers also enjoy generous vacations and relatively higher job security (OECD 2006). Teaching profession has inbuilt features which facilitate work-life balance with facilities such as term time working, flexi-time and working from home (Hall 2003). Over the years changing structure of teaching profession has resulted into work-life imbalances in the lives of teachers. Important reasons responsible for the work-life imbalance of higher education teachers are discussed in the following section.

Work overload due to multitasking

Teaching hours have been primarily considered for calculating teacher's workload (OECD 2007). But teachers are increasingly overloaded with research and administrative work. Academic year undergoes the phases of peaks and troughs (Hall 2003) and traditionally work overload in teaching profession was a temporary phase in an academic year, but it is more of permanent nature now. This has been caused by increase in administrative work such as bulk photocopying, record keeping and filing, attendance analysis, student absenteeism, examination invigilation and processing results (Hunt 2006; Bubb and Earley 2004). In absence or lack of support staff teacher's work overload further gets enhanced (OECD 2007). Covering for absent colleagues is another reason for work overload for teachers (Bubb and Earley 2004)

In higher education, teachers have to perform multiple roles which involve teaching, planning, tutorials, seminars, laboratories, student's personal problems, research, experiments and attending conferences. Due to this role overload and role conflicts is high in teachers (Fisher 1994 as cited by Hunt 2006).

Longer working hours and unpaid overtime

Due to overload of work, teachers are increasingly working longer hours at workplace (Hall 2003) resulting into one of highest rate of overtime amongst different professions (Duchesne 1997 as cited by Johnson et al. 2001), which has negatively influenced the work-life balance of academic and research staff (Hunt 2006). Not only teachers are working longer hours, most of this extra time spent at workplace is in the form of unpaid overtime (Duchesne 1997 as cited by Johnson et al. 2001).

Higher work intensity

Teachers are working longer hours and their work intensity has increased over a period of time. They are expected to work at higher speed and respond to matters in lesser time (Adams 2006) resulting into more intensive work (Bubb and Earley 2004).

Lesser time for planning, preparations and assessment

Due to increasing workload and intensity, teachers find lesser time for planning, preparations and assessment at workplace (Bubb and Earley 2004). Taking work home is becoming regular (Adam 2006) and has created work and home integration with fluid boundaries (Hunt 2006) resulting into work-life conflict.

Lesser competitive compensation and problem of affordable housing

In recent years teacher's compensation has become less competitive (OECD 2006) and their dissatisfaction with salary is rising. Personal finances and affordable housing are common reasons of teacher's stress (Buffardi et al. 2004).

Other reasons for work related stress of higher education teachers

Some of the other reasons of work related stress amongst teachers are: pupil misbehaviour (Wilson 2002), poor working conditions (Dunham and Varma 1998), stagnated career (OCT 2006), lack of own offices, poor facilities for collaborative work (OECD 2007), absence of recognition of work (OCT 2006; Buffardi 2004)

Significance of research

In GCC, government sponsored higher education infrastructure is still at a nascent stage and as such the governments have introduced liberal policies to promote private foreign higher education investment. Private higher education teachers are to play a prominent role in the growth of education system in GCC countries. In view of above, the research scope was further narrowed down to Indian expatriate higher education teachers working GCC countries.

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