The discursive possibilities for social entrepreneurs within the discourse of ‘work life balance’

Whiting, Rebecca; Roby, Helen; Chamakiotis, Petros and Symon, Gillian (2014). The discursive possibilities for social entrepreneurs within the discourse of ‘work life balance’. In: International Conference on Organizational Discourse, 9-11 Jul 2014, Cardiff.


In this paper we examine current debates about work-life balance against a background of changing work practices and the advent of mobile technologies. We contrast the discursive construction of work-life balance in online media with the discursive possibilities available to men and women who construct their identities as ‘social entrepreneurs’ and encounter these issues in their daily lives. In doing so, we draw on data from Web 2.0 media as well as a video diary and narrative interview study.

Work-life balance (WLB) has been a ‘hot topic’ in research, organizational practice (Mescher, et al., 2010, p 21) and the wider media over several years. Print media representations depict WLB as an individual process, achievement and responsibility for those in professional or corporate jobs, where the ‘life’ component is predominantly represented by family commitments to children (Reece, et al., 2009).

Within the WLB academic literature, it is often assumed that we live our lives within different social domains (e.g. work, family, community) and that we are expected to play different roles within these domains (e.g. breadwinner, parent, volunteer). Much research in this area has focused on the individual worker and on factors and strategies that affect their (in)ability to manage WLB (Sturges, 2012). Because of the complexity of these role identities, it is argued that we create physical, temporal and psychological boundaries or borders between them (Clark, 2000). Changes in working practices, such as the advent of mobile technologies, affect both where and how we work. It is suggested that the boundaries between work roles and life roles have become increasingly blurred (Harrington and Ladge, 2009) with even a ‘collapse’ of the demarcation of the home/work environment suggested (Wapshott and Mallett, 2012, p 63).

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