Challenges to work-life balance in the recession

This seminar series focuses on the impacts of the recession on work-life balance and associated policies and practice.

Start date

February 2013

End date

September 2016


Prior to the current widespread economic recession there had been growing attention to the importance of work-life balance (WLB). Relevant legislation and normative pressures led to developments in employer WLB policies, albeit unevenly between sectors and often with an implementation gap between policies and practice.

There are two arguments about how this progress will be affected by the economic crisis. On the one hand, it is argued that financial problems may eclipse social and individual concerns and that WLB and associated policies will be side lined, as other priorities take centre stage. On the other hand, there is an argument that employers may use flexible working arrangements as a means to manage the impact of the crisis, leading to increased availability of quality flexible or part-time jobs and the evolution of flexible efficiency-driven ways of working that could challenge assumptions about ideal, constantly visible workers.

Emerging research suggests a complex picture with both being true to some extent and in some contexts. This has implications for policy makers, employers, employees, their families and wider society.


This seminar series focuses on the impacts of the recession on WLB and associated policies and practices, and on potential strategies for supporting a triple agenda, which we define as enhancing employee WLB, sustaining or enhancing organisational effectiveness, and contributing to social justice. The overall aims are

  1. To understand the WLB challenges for employees, employers and policy-makers posed by the current recession and austerity measures
  2. To provide a forum for researchers from the UK and internationally and a range of research users to exchange information and ideas for meeting these challenges in the recession and beyond.

The seminars made a timely contribution to current policy debates on WLB, quality of work across Europe, social justice, equalities, care, and to developments in evidence-based workplace practices.

Seminars were hosted at Middlesex, Warwick, Reading, Manchester and Surrey.