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Work-life balance among solo-living managers and professionals: exploring dynamics of structure, culture and agency

Wilkinson, Krystal (2014) Work-life balance among solo-living managers and professionals: exploring dynamics of structure, culture and agency. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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One result of substantial demographic and social change in the UK in recent decades has been a marked increase in the proportion of the population that live alone – including amongst the working-age population. Whilst the trend has often been linked to arguments about increased freedom and choice in modern society, and a second demographic transition (Lesthaeghe & vande Kaa, 1986), the possible influence of structures and cultures should not be overlooked, nor the experiences of solo-living individuals assumed to be without problems or constraint. Of particular interest in this thesis is the influence of the modern labour market and organisations which can be ‘greedy’ (Coser, 1974) when it comes to employee time and energy. Whilst there is a considerable body of knowledge on the work-life interface, research has focused almost entirely on employees in family households (Casper et al, 2007a), meaning very little is known about the situation for those who live alone. This thesis is based on the work-life attitudes and experiences of 36 young managers and professionals who live alone, and adopts a critical realist approach to analysing the interplay of structure, culture and agency over time (Archer, 1996). Following the identification of a range of work-life balance issues experienced by participants, and variation in levels of work-life satisfaction on the basis of participant gender and age, two theoretical lenses are used to explore the data. Firstly, distributive justice theory is used to understand variations in participant perceptions of the fairness of work-life balance support allocation in their organisations, and personal sense of entitlement to support. Secondly, broader elements of participant work-life experience are explored via the lens of individualisation theory, as conceptualised by Beck (1992) and Beck & Beck-Gernsheim (2002). The overall thesis is that young solo-living managers and professionals are both enabled and constrained by their structural and cultural environment. Whilst these individuals are in a relatively privileged position when it comes to career progression, they experience a number of constraints to the achievement of work-life balance. Whether participants are satisfied with their work-life experience or dissatisfied, there is little evidence of challenge to the structural/cultural environment – which is explained via the inclusion in a temporally embedded conceptualisation of agency (Emirbayer and Mische, 1998) the issue of risk, an issue that is central to something here termed ‘gendered individualisation’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: work-life balance; managers; professionals; solo-living; structure; culture; agency; fairness; individualisation; critical realism
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Leeds University Business School > Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.643612
Depositing User: Dr Krystal Wilkinson
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2015 10:54
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:50
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8525

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