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Study-Work / Work-Life balance

Developed by Western Balkans Institute Team


Findings suggest that the small sample of students investigated have few tools in place to manage their work-life balance. In order to manage the juggling act of work and study students focused on one factor at a time, either study or work. The few balancing tools may be attributed to the lack of work-life balance knowledge among students. More recently, authors (McPherson & Reed, 2007) have extended the definition of ‘life’ to reflect the contemporary society and extend the concept to address issues work-life balance discourse (Harris & Pringle, 2007). For example, the term ‘life’ can refer to non-paid activities such as recreation, travel, voluntary work, personal development people aspire to include in their daily life. This extension of the term ‘life’ has broadened the focus from typical activities outside of work such as family responsibilities to incorporating a wider range of people such as students combining study and paid work, young people wanting time away from work to travel (McPherson & Reed, 2007). 


Another important aspect is that a balance of work and life is also advantageous for the quality of teaching and research. ‘Life’ is the time we spend beyond the specialized, narrow field of work in the company of people who, in turn, are linked to other combinations of life and work. Civil societal, i.e. social engagement in daily activities at home, but also contacts in nongovernmental organizations or while practicing hobbies provide insights into the world that cannot be gained by only sitting at a desk or being in a laboratory. Such experiences are of great importance to any academic in order to develop socially relevant questions, to be able to assess technological impacts, to judge the social acceptance of procedures, and so on.


The generation referred to as Millennials or Generation Y, includes those born between 1980 and 1995. Members of this generation also place a high priority on work-life balance and flexibility in the workplace. Work-life balance has been described as one of the most important factors in the retention of faculty among this generation and a factor in choice of career track (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 2013). Although the commitment of Generation X and Generation Y to a more balanced work-life tension bodes well for efforts to improve work-life balance of faculty in the future, nursing faculty from earlier generations or approaching retirement age may have different views about what is acceptable work-life balance. The results of a 2011 study of a national sample of 3,120 full-time nursing faculty revealed that 76.2% of nursing faculty were satisfied or very satisfied with the flexibility in their academic position, enabling them to achieve acceptable work-life balance. However, the level of satisfaction dropped to 65.1% among those who taught in doctoral programs (National Survey of Nurse Faculty, 2011). Brady (2010) posited that with faculty shortages, frozen faculty lines, and increasing student enrollments to address the nursing shortage, faculty workloads may be increasing and flexibility within the faculty role declining. These changes conflict with the desire for flexibility in work roles and greater work-life balance, which is a reason that some people prefer academic roles over nonacademic roles. The American Council on Education (2013) has launched a national challenge for higher education to promote faculty work-life balance and has pointed out that upcoming generations of faculty members will expect greater career and personal flexibility in order to achieve greater work-life balance.


Many international students rely on part-time work to help finance their studies, which the COVID-19 pandemic severely affected due to large-scale job losses. Some countries reported that they adjusted the working time for international students to engage in paid employment to address the impacts of the pandemic (e.g. in Belgium, France, Ireland and the UK). Namely, according to the Students and Researchers Directive, there are limits on the number of hours per week that third country students are allowed to work during their studies. The countries above therefore increased the maximum working time to allow for third country students to better cope with the pandemic.


41.1 % of students who worked during their studies lost their jobs (28.9 % temporarily, 12.2 % permanently). These students are now significantly less capable of covering their study and living costs, compared to all other groups of students.


It can well be argued that work-life balance is important to all working individuals, but our joint experiences are that higher education institutions house a special tradition where teaching and in particular research is regarded as a ‘mission’ that allows for no or little outside life, be it family, political engagement or hobbies. The concept of academic work as a mission is double-edged: on the one hand it raises the status of the academic profession as it marks those in it as gifted and special, chosen by their career rather than the reverse. On the other, it is a hindrance for achieving work-life balance as it requires the individual to put work before every other demand on their time and on their mind. This concept is so internalized that few dare voice skepticism or indeed even perceive their own lives in this light. Our three organisations are, however, convinced that university teachers will do a better job as teachers and researchers if they lead a full life. We support any effort to demystify the academic workplace and generate a view of the profession that presents it as a normal field of work—a career to be chosen, or rejected, in the same way other careers are.


Research findings  on Russian students ( in which prevalence of mature students can be explained by the fact that the Moscow Technological Institute provides primarily part-time educational programmes based on distance learning solutions) lead us to state that conscious decision-making requires identification, observation and understanding of individual relevance of particular material and non-material QoL (Quality of Life) determinants. On this basis individuals can decide to choose between alternative life patterns. Therefore the main research hypothesis has been confirmed as well. The research findings have implications for academic teaching. Firstly, academia should provide students with an understanding of what QoL means to each of them. This implies the necessity of introducing a module on material and non-material determinants of quality of life into the university programme. Secondly, decision-making workshops focused on assisting young people in conscious planning for their future careers, with a focus on sustainable worklife balance should become part of their academic formation. Thirdly, university professors would like to engage in such teaching should be selected carefully. Intercultural sensitivity, high communication skills and understanding of the particularities of socio-economic development should be key criteria of the selection process.


Research completed wit Norwegian students on QoL determinants has brought us to conclude that higher levels of motivation, entrepreneurship and responsibility at work can be achieved by providing young people with: (i) freedom in their decision-making; (ii) a working environment that allows the employees to develop their natural capabilities and abilities; (iii) safe-landing mechanisms for potential failures; (iv) fair salaries with reasonable discrepancies be- tween highest and lowest income levels; (v) fair treatment in working environment; (vi) support (or do not discouragement) of entrepreneurship. 


Obtained research results confirmed the hypothesis saying that an early elaboration of individual hierarchy of QoL determinants, including work-life balance, can enhance the ability of Youth to make conscious choices about their future professional careers and personal development and as such contribute to higher efficiency of their professional activities. Therefore HR managers should consider a more individualistic approach in their search for independent and effective personnel. Especially explanatory research responses pointed at the need of Norwegian Youth to be approached individually, leaving space for particular combinations of work-life balance determinants as a strong motivation mechanism at work. Conducted research has also shown that preferred levels of above factors are individual specific, therefore managers, including HR specialists, should adopt a more individual-focused approach to their actual employees, as well as to the candidates for work posts. It definitely is more resource consuming that a standardized approach to human resource management, but allows to expect a higher efficiency in solving unconventional tasks. Future research could determine to which extent this general remark stands for various working environments and for different positions.


Obtained rankings allowed to draw following implications for HRM practice: (i) a potential for growth of employees’ efficiency and motivation exists, but in Norwegian reality requires a more individualized, person- oriented managerial approach; (ii) it can be achieved by offering each employee a suitable, individual specific combination of work-life balance determinants, based on his/her preferences; (iii) better results can be achieved if internal HRM processes in companies find support in economic and social policies of the government.


As full-time doctoral students on assistantships, our participants’ experiences were shaped by (1) school, (2) work, and (3) life. As previously indicated, school entailed course work, research requirements, and socialization activities our participants engaged in. Work consisted of a variety of financially rewarded responsibilities associated with their assistantship(s) on campus. Lastly, life encompassed the non-academic, personal components of student lives. In efforts to attain a balance between these three dimensions, participants revealed that they (a) purposefully managed their time, priorities, and roles and responsibilities; (b) sought well-being by managing stress lev- els, maintaining their mental and physical health, and creating personal time; (c) found financial and emotional support from various individuals and student services; and (d) made tradeoffs.


The small scale study completed in New Zealend found students’ have few tools in place to manage the multiple demands and often resorted to sacrifices in order to compensate for lost time when assessments deadlines were due. However, the small number of students investigated reported that term-time employment was positively perceived in terms of gaining work experience, adding value to their CVs and employability upon graduation. In addition, students’ reported financial hardship as a reason for employment as government and parent allowances were insufficient to cover students’ weekly expenses. Finally, this study identified that students’ acknowledged they are primarily responsible for their term-time employment and indicated that good time management and reduced ‘procrastination’ were skills needed to maintain a healthy balance. Nevertheless, students’ suggested the use of questionnaires for lecturers to gain information on term-time employment, encouraging students’ to obtain employment in their field of study, and advertising jobs within the university itself may assist with balancing work and life. With tertiary enrolments beginning to fall in the last two years, universities may wish to consider work-life balance among students as a mechanism to counterbalance this falling trend and to assist in retaining tertiary enrolments.


Study that was completed in Malaysia established compelling evidence that students are likewise experiencing interference of work and life conflict alike the working population while engaging and spending time in academic-related activities such as online learning, assignment, and other related activities are perceived as a greater source of conflict during the MCO period.

Practices that work


Canada Emergency Student Benefit and national student grant increases: This programme provides financial support to post-secondary students and recent high school graduates who are unable to find work due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the summer of 2020. The government has also announced plans to double student grants and broaden the eligibility for financial assistance, as well as additional support in the form of scholarship funding extensions for students and postdoctoral researchers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Offering additional opportunities in order to establish students reflection on work/life balance


Institutions like John Hopkins and Imperial college of London university offers supporting tools on conflicting demands of school,work and family so students can reflect through managing time,  emphasizing importance of relaxation and healthy study practice, demythologizing perceived standards  of excellence  university supporting system and also offering part-time with flexible working hours so students can fit paid work in around studies


Introducing credit-based higher school curriculum


Colleges in Scotland already have a unitised and credit-based higher education curriculum that is available to students in a variety of modes of study, from a defined full-time or part-time course to a personalised programme of individual units


The Division of psychology and language science of Universiry college London (UCL) runs a buddy system pairing first year students with a second or third year student who acts as an advisor


Strategies on the college campus from St. Cloud State University brings insights about inconsistency of work-life policies and practices on campuses across the nation and in reality, these policies and practices are virtually ineffective in creating equity for female advancement and promotion (WolfWendel & Ward, 2006). Furthermore, those practices adopted at colleges to address issues of inequity are “almost exclusively from a structural perspective…when structural diversity is increased without consideration of other psychological and social dimensions of the campus climate, misunderstandings and interpersonal conflicts are likely to result” (Cress & Hart, 2009, p. 474). In addition, Kettle (1996) argues that equal gender opportunities in higher education have not been realized because the focus remains on improving the current campus structure, rather than affecting significant and radical structural change. 


Consequently, they recommend the following strategies: 

  • A flexible part-time option…that can be used for limited periods (up to 5 years) as life-course needs arise. 
  • A guarantee to make high-quality childcare slots available, particularly for new hires. 
  • Discounting of family-related resume gaps in the hiring process. 
  • Establishment of school-break childcare and summer camps. 
  • Emergency backup childcare programs. 
  • Adoption benefits. 
  • Marketing of the family-friendly package as a major recruitment tool.



  • Jogaratnaum and Buchanan (2004) proposed to programme directors was to offer classes in one-per-week session (one three-hour class instead of three one-hour class per week) thus, reducing time related stressors students face such as travelling time to class (Manthei & Gilmore, 2005b).
    1. Authors, based on Doolan et al., 2020 and Wonkhe, 2020 proposing ensuring accessible and user-friendly counselling and guidance for students and staff to find appropriate solutions for academic, health, and career challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
    2. World Bank in policy recommendations from 2020 proposed development and implementation of programmes to keep at-risk students engaged, including dedicated tutors, point persons, and customised work programmes or schedules and provision of appropriate training to all students and to teaching and administrative staff to build digital competencies which allow them to study and work in an online environment and to better understand social dimension principles
    3. fund institutions within the European Research Framework Programme and other research programmes providing that these sign and accept the Charter and Code without any reservation and improve good practice in gender equality and work-life balance of their staff
    4. employers and funders should of course also consider the Gender-Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation.
    5. set up a dedicated ‘work life balance for all’ website with links to full texts of policies and other useful information; this could be done at either national level in partnership or at institutional level
    6. Programs utilizing psychologically positive methods can also be implemented for those affected by this COVID-19 pandemic to enhance aspects of happiness, gratitude, and emotional regulation. For students with diagnosis of mental illness or even with early signs of disorders, serious attention should be given so that the consequence will not worsen.
  • Faculty development and mentoring are critical for successful adaptation to the academic role as well as important to faculty satisfaction. New faculty may be ill prepared for classroom or online instruction and are likely to be unfamiliar with instructional or pedagogical methods (Clinefelter, 2012). Faculty development should include an orientation to the institution with clear delineation of expectations for teaching, service, and scholarship. Additionally, the organization should provide a variety of training opportunities to promote teaching-self efficacy and skill development (Stupnisky, Weaver-Hightower, & Kartoshkina, 2015). Role development and mentorship is utilized to promote faculty retention and satisfaction (National League for Nursing, 2018). These methods are used to foster a positive work environment
  1. Higher education institutions should adopt the recommendations by the European Commission published in the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers when designing the terms and conditions of employment and opening up career opportunities.
  2. Employment, including social security, should be offered to all doctoral candidates and post doctoral positions; if junior researchers are given a grant or stipend, the funding must include social security arrangements. 
  3. Ways to lighten academic workload should be looked into, eg by improving the student/ teacher ratio and appointing non-academic staff to undertake administrative tasks.
  4. Each higher education institution should have an Equality officer or office to promote and implement various policies to improve work-life balance. 
  5. All universities should be encouraged for cooperation rather than competition to ensure both parties (i.e., universities and ministries; students and family) can benefit behind this pandemic. Replace competition with collaboration between colleges, private universities, and governments that have had to postpone operations or even shut down due to declining enrolment and student income. Universities that have the potential to be financially viable can offer intellectual or material collation so that the impact of the virus is not to cease the operation of educational institutions but to revitalize and strengthen the education system forward. In terms of offering psychosocial services and support such as assessment and intervention (counseling, psychology, and psychiatry), professionals in these fields need to not only double their efforts in the traditional practice locations but also facilitate the use of virtual technology beyond logistics restrictions to provide appropriate services to students irrespective of their physical locations.
  6. In parallel, at societal level the policy-making should focus on: (i) assuring an optimal balance between activities assured by private and public sectors; (ii) improving the socie- tal standards by educating on democracy and freedom, exacting transparency in state institutions and private companies, fighting corruption, building confidence in citizens since early childhood through positive cognitive education, supporting independent and reliable media; (iii) creating development opportunities for entrepreneurs; (iv) preserving equality in access to public services, but at the same time guard the system from misusers; (v) assuring the sustainability and quality of public services by grading the priorities in distribution of public goods and amounts to be distributed to each individual (re-defining the equality rule); (vi) creating service-specific efficiency measurement models, including both material and non-material determinants of service quality; (vii) providing space for all forms of development (in business and public sphere, oriented on material and non-material added value).
  7. In light of our participants’ experiences, the following recommendations are offered for pro- grams, departments, and institutions committed to supporting school-work-life balance efforts of students, which may ultimately contribute to successful degree completion: 1. More courses offered during the day. Participants discussed the importance of and sacrifices they made to go back to school full-time; however, some expressed that limited departmental course offerings countered their motivations and did not support their efforts to balance their school, work, and life roles and responsibilities. Some participants felt that their position was not taken into consideration when courses were planned. Specifically, they believed that courses ca- tered more to the schedules of part-time students. 2. More financial support. Several participants praised the financial support provided by the insti- tutions, nevertheless, noted the importance of increased financial support both in terms of their assistantships and travel grants. Participants stressed that assuming another job to gain additional income would be counterproductive in their efforts to achieve school-work-life balance. Some of our participants noted that in order to make ends meet, they had taken on a second assistantship, which was currently impacting how they balanced their multiple and often conflicting roles and responsibilities. 3. Provide flexibility. Several participants discussed how the flexibility of their faculty members and their assistantships afforded them with the opportunity to find a balance between school, work, and life. More efforts should be made to build in flexibility in the work and school sched- ules of students, even allowing them to work from home if the assigned tasks and responsibilities can be completed in those confines.
  8. At the departmental level, faculty must invest in the academic success of all graduate students, including nontraditional students, by helping students present their work. This can be done by strictly monitoring internal funds for travel to support all graduate students’ attendance and presentations at professional meetings. Without a reasonable expectation that travel funds will be available, nontraditional students might not pursue opportunities to present posters or papers of their work at professional meetings, thereby enabling nontraditional students to remain academically competitive. In addition, advisors can provide entrée into a professional network and should consider attending at least one professional meeting with each of their advisees. Student affairs professionals can be instrumental in furthering graduate students’ professional development by offering programs that provide instruction in the preparation of a scientific poster or the development of a computer-based presentation. Career services staff, for instance, could partner with informational technology service providers to offer workshops on developing professional presentations. Academic departments and student affairs divisions could also partner to provide opportunities for graduate students to present their work to on-campus audiences. A positive experience giving a formal presentation to a campus-based group can decrease the fear of presenting at an academic conference.


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