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Work-life balance programs in Canadian workplaces: Factors affecting availability and utilization

TitleWork-life balance programs in Canadian workplaces: Factors affecting availability and utilization
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsWang, J.
Date PublishedDecember
UniversityUniversity of Toronto
CityToronto, ON

The thesis explores the factors affecting the availability and utilization of work-life balance programs in Canadian workplaces and how employee involvement and participation programs can help employees balance their work and life. The introductory chapter provides background information on the importance of balancing work and life. It outlines chapters two, three, and four and reveals the overarching theme that unites them. Chapter Two explores how business strategy affects the availability of work-life balance programs. This chapter uses the 2003 and 2004 Canadian Workplace and Employee Survey to demonstrate that product leadership business strategy is positively related to the likelihood of adopting work-life balance programs (i.e. employee assistance programs, fitness and recreation centers). Cost leadership strategy is shown to be negatively correlated to the adoption of these programs. This study also finds that high performance work systems mediate the relationship between business strategy and employer responsiveness to work-life balance issues. Chapter Three investigates how a company's family-friendly culture affects the likelihood of an employee's use of parental leave. Using a national representative and linked employer and employee survey, this study finds that a long-hour organizational culture, which is revealed through managers' work hours, discourages new parents from taking parental leave. This study also finds that when managers work long hours, it has a greater negative effect on the probability of male employees taking parental leave than female employees. Chapter Four discusses how participation in decision making (PDM) can help employees balance the demands from work and life. Using Karasek's (1979) job demand-job control model, this study finds that PDM can reduce work-life conflict, but the reduction only works for employees who work long hours. For those employees who work short hours, PDM increases their work-life conflict. Chapter five summarizes the empirical results. Implications for employers, labour unions, and policy makers are discussed.

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