Work-Life Balance: individual or organizational responsibility?

September 27, 2017

The conciliation of working and private life (ie work-life balance) is an important goal in the life of all workers, especially those belonging to the new generations. A question, often debated between experts and HR insiders, concerning the relevance and division of responsibility in the work-life balance between the individual and the company.

The North American vision attributes complete pertinence and responsibility to the individual, the only agent able to act in order to achieve the desired level of work-life balance, in relation to his personal and family situation, to his preferences and career aspirations.

This individualist vision contrasts with the European vision, which attaches greater importance to government institutions and organizations. According to this view, institutions and companies, with their choices in terms of flexibility, working hours and, above all, with their culture, have a heavy impact on the conciliation choices of individual citizens/workers, favoring or preventing the achievement of a good level of work-life balance.

An example is that of many women-mothers who prefer to stay home and take care of their children because of the high cost of kindergartens and/or the presence of a poor organizational culture that evaluates office attendance until late at night or the possibility of sacrificing by working on the weekend as unique elements of loyalty and value for the company. This type of organizational behaviour makes it more convenient to leave a job (with important but not immediately measurable negative repercussions for mothers confined within their home walls and children who would benefit from their inclusion into kindergartens).

As always in medio stat virtus and for future HR Managers, “managing boundaries” is an important skill that the Master in Human Resources and Organization of Bologna Business School is intended to provide. If it is true that on the one hand contemporary workers must learn to protect themselves and their families from continuous work intrusions on non-working hours (a topic of great importance today because of new technologies), it is equally true that national culture and in particular organizational culture plays a key role.

For example, it has been widely demonstrated that in the presence of a ‘presencialist’ culture and in the absence of a boss that is inclusive and attentive to the need for his collaborators, the HR management and HR policies have no effect. Workers, in fact, for fear of being judged by their own boss or colleagues as ‘not devoted’ to the work cause and ‘distracted’ by personal events, often prefer to sacrifice their family sphere.

Gabriele Morandin, Director of the Master in Human Resources and Organization, Bologna Business School and Professor of Business Organization, University of Bologna

Marcello Russo, Researcher of Business Organization, University of Bologna


Cross-Cultural Analysis of Work-Life Balance 

To investigate this phenomenon and identify solutions that can help individuals and companies to develop a better awareness of their participation in work and off-work time, an international research is currently underway in 30 countries to investigate how the weight of national and organizational culture affects the choices of workers’ conciliation.

The University of Bologna, through its professors Gabriele Morandin and Marcello Russo who are coordinating the project, has been chosen to represent Italy in this important research. It is possible to participate to the research if possessing two requirements (ie being employees with at least one dependent child): Cross-Cultural Analysis of Work-Life Balance Project (the questionnaire is in Italian).

Thank you for your participation.




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