Academic journal article Management Revue

Conflict between Work and Life: The Case of Contract Workers in the German IT and Media Sectors

Academic journal article Management Revue

Conflict between Work and Life: The Case of Contract Workers in the German IT and Media Sectors

Article excerpt

Many studies examine issues of work-life conflict of employees. However, in research on work-life conflict little attention has been given to contract workers to date. This is rather surprising as there are indications that the specific working conditions of contract workers can have consequences for their work-life conflict. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to reduce the existing research gap by presenting a study which analyzes the antecedents of the work-life conflict of contract workers in the IT and media sectors. Results show that the work-life conflict of contract workers is significantly influenced by working hours and income. Furthermore, the number of younger children has a significant impact on their work-life conflict when regarded in interaction with gender. All in all, this study contributes to a differentiated understanding of work-life conflict in the specific case of contract workers.

Key words: contract worker, quantitative study, work-life balance, work-life conflict (JEL: J24, M12, Ml 3)

1. Introduction

Similar to other industrialized countries, the German labor market has been undergoing significant changes in recent years, with atypical employment becoming increasingly relevant while permanent full-time employment has decreased (Storey et al., 2002; Ashford et al., 2007; Broschak et al., 2008). There is a particularly sharp rise in the number of self-employed, especially solo self-employed persons (self-employed people without employees) (Kelleter, 2009, p. 1204; Süß & Kleiner, 2010). Contract workers are included in this group of solo self-employed persons whose working conditions are highly flexible (Barley & Kunda, 2006; Bidwell & Briscoe, 2009).

Current discussions by academics and in the media highlight that the flexibilization of employment forms has effects not only at the company level, but also at the individual level due to the fact that flexible employees are confronted more quickly and more often with new workplaces, conditions and locations (e.g. Davis & Kalleberg, 2006; Kossek et al., 2006; Beuteil, 2007; Henninger & Gottschall, 2007; Süß & Kleiner, 2007). This applies particularly to contract workers due to the specifics of their employment form. Linked to this is evidence that the specific working conditions of contract workers can have consequences for their perceived work-life balance, and in particular their work-life conflict (Henninger & Gottschall, 2007; Siebecke, 2010; Süß & Sayah, 2011). Self-employment, the project-based work and the discontinuous employment can lead to other and additional factors being the cause of conflicts compared to permanent employees. For instance, a study comparing the health condition of contract workers and permanent employees in the IT and media sectors revealed that the contract workers suffered comparatively more often from mental health problems and symptoms of burnout. Causes were seen in the specific working conditions, in particular the temporal intertwining of work and private life, leaving little time for regeneration and thus causing additional burdens (Siebecke, 2010, p. 2224). In addition, the project-nature of work involves time pressure, stress and long working hours. However, despite some studies, which consider the health consequences of contract working (Ertel et al., 2005; Siebecke, 2010), questions concerning the work-life conflict of contract workers have not yet been tackled.

This research gap is surprising, because the discussion of work-life conflict is particularly relevant for contract workers due to its consequences for mental and physical health. Medical condition or illness can be particularly serious for contract workers who have a one-person business because they result in a direct loss in income, which can in turn endanger their livelihood. This research gap is particularly crucial due to the significance of work-life conflicts for contract workers both in personal and economic terms. …

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