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Work-Life Balance – A Study of BPO Workers in Delhi & NCR

Dr. Joydeep Goswami
Professor, Jagan Institute of Management Studies, Delhi

ABSTRACT

The mushroom growth of BPO in India has tremendously solved the purpose of employment among the educated youth. With the increasing use of digital marketing and surge in internet connectivity, the BPO cater to the need of global population. The consumer at the comfort of their home seek the solutions to diverse problems through the BPOs. On the other hand, the demand for the services led to increased employment and the employee were assigned the targets to complete within the definite time period. This led to increase in serious imbalance in work-life balance among the employees. The family commitments have suffered so as the health of the employee. Many of them suffers from various diseases like Obesity, hypertension, frequent headaches and diabetes. The trend of work in the night shift has again brought about disputes and questions of job-satisfaction among the young generation. The result of this lead to imbalance between work and family life. This study tries to cover many insights on work life balance especially covering major BPO employees working at Delhi and NCR.

1.1 Introduction

Work-life balance has been extensively argued in recent years. The demand for work-lifebalance clarifications by employees and managers is mounting at an exceptional rate. As a result, work-life balance is a progressively blistering subject in boardrooms and government halls today. During the 1960s and 1970s, employers considered work-life mainly an issue for working mothers who struggled with the demands of their jobs and raising children. During the 1980s, recognizing the value and needs of their women contributors, pioneering organizations such as Merck, Deloitte & Touche, and IBM began to change their internal workplace policies, procedures, and benefits. The changes included maternity leave, employee assistance programs (EAPs), flextime, home-based work, and child-care referral. During the 1980s men also began voicing work-life concerns. By the end of the decade, worklife balance was seen as more than just a women’s issue, affecting men, families, organizations and cultures. During the first years of the twenty-first century, the disappointing results made human resource and work-life professionals as well as executives at all levels to take stock. This aims at encouraging employers to adopt flexible working arrangements such as job sharing, flexitime, compressed hours and others, to help their employees to achieve a better balance between the demands of paid employment and those arising from their private life. The perception of work-life balance is based on the notion that paid work and personal life should be seen less as competing priorities than as complementary elements of a full life. The technique to achieve this is to embrace an approach that is “conceptualized as a two-way  process involving a consideration of the needs of employees as well as those of employers” (Lewis, 2000: p.105). In order to include employers in this practice, it is important to validate the benefits that can be derived from employment policies and practices that support work-life balance 

1.2 Objective of the Study

In India, the growing cases of stress-related problems among people give an alarming situation. Now, people in the age groups of 30s and 40s are suffering from health problems due to work pressure and other problems. In this study, the major issues concerning work-life balance are investigated with reference to BPO Employees. The objective of this study is to bring out the causes and impact of abrasion in the BPO industry and to summarize whether the work life balance of the employees should be or should not be catered to the organization. The following objectives are included in this study. These are as follows

1.3 Methodology

The study was an exploratory study for the purpose of looking into work-life balance concerns in case of BPO employees in Delhi and NCR. The study was conducted in October, 2019 to February, 2020 through a structured questionnaire. There were 150 respondents selected from different BPO in the entire NCR region. The random sampling was carried out keeping in view that the respondents selected are representative of sample and are distributed evenly. The purpose of this sample was that the number of BPO was not known and it was difficult to find them due to their locations. However, it was kept in mind that number of respondents should not be more than 5 (five) from a particular organization. Further, it was difficult to get the total strength of the employees in a particular organization and hence the total employees’ strength was not considered.
                  Null hypotheses were framed and tested for significance to prove the objectives in a systematic manner. The null hypotheses were as follows:

H01 –There is no significant impact of nature of job on work-life balance proposition
with respect to BPO employees.

2. Review of Literature

Work-life balance is about building and sustaining compassionate and vigorous work environments, that enable employees to create poise between work and personal accountabilities strengthening loyalty and productivity. It has been ascertained that there is high positive correlation between work-life conflict and time spent at work. In other words, the higher levels of work-to-family conflict reported by managers or professionals often are a function of their longer working hours. Besides, job security, supervisor’s support, support from colleagues, work demands or overload, work-role conflict, work-role ambiguity, job dissatisfaction, and extensive use of communication technology blurs the boundaries concerning family and work. Today’s workers have many competing responsibilities such as work, children, housework, volunteering, spouse and elderly parent care which abide stress on individuals, families and the communities. Vijaya Mani (2013) has revealed the major factors influencing the Work Life Balance were role conflict, lack of recognition, organizational politics, gender discrimination, and elderly and children care issues, quality of health, problems in time management and lack of proper social support. According to Shalini and Bhawna (2012), Quality of work life is being used by the organizations as a strategic tool to attract and retain the employees and more importantly to help them to maintain work life balance with equal attention on performance and commitment at work. N. Krishna Reddy et al, (2010) concluded that the married women employees indeed experience Work Family Conflict (WFC) while attempting to balance their work and family lives. Niharika and Supriya (2010) have studied the work based factors and family related factors that are considered to contribute to work life balance. Masako SETO et al, (2004) have examined the effects of work related factors and Work Family Conflict on depressive symptoms among working women living with young children in a Japanese Metropolis. Delina, G. & Raya R. Prabhakara (2013) in their study was able to measure employees’ work–life balance and established weekly hours of work and the stress associated with work are major determinants of employees’ work–life balance, alongside their occupations, age and caring responsibilities. Naithani (2016), believes that WLB is an individual issue and this needs a customised solutions for achieving higher balance in work and other life segments. Shobhita Poulose & Sudarshan N. (2017) claimed that WLB could be endorsed to ever growing mandate for work along with increased family demand owing to the necessity of partners to be working and quest for personal achievements in personal life. Julka, T. and Mathur, U. (2017) stressed the need to realize WLB, every woman should set the goal and excel both in career and family. Some of the strategies and skills at work such as planning, organizing and setting limits can be used at home and work place for accomplishing a satisfying and fulfilling well balanced life both professionally and personally. Women employee should care the family both physically and financially to satisfy the family needs.

3.1 Work life Balance Strategies in BPOs

BPO companies have lined-up measures ranging from realignment of shift timings to peopleoriented initiatives such as Diwali fests complete with firework displays, to ensure that business continues during the festivities. In the words of Chairman of EMR Technology Ventures, “We have realigned our timings to allow employees to go back early. Also, advance planning for critical functions such as online interactions has been done. We will be finishing the shifts by late afternoon to allow employees to be with their families in the evening,” said Mr Rohit Arora, Exevo a Knowledge Process Outsourcing firm, has offered a deal to its employees — in case they come in on Tuesday, they would get two compensatory offs. UNDER fire from various sections on laborrelated issues, the woes of the BPO industry seem far from over.

3.2 Nature of Work at BPOs

In the service sector, “customers in particular are considered integral to the work organization, either due to simultaneous production and use of many personal services or due to a strong client-led definition and even co-production of the actual services. This customer-oriented  nature of work often challenges the traditional conceptions of control and coordination, especially those of manager-worker control relations. There are widely divergent views on what the nature of call-centre work is really like, but attention is drawn to a “wider consensus that the work in call centres characterises some deep-seated contradictions — contradictions of pleasures and pains in the experience of work, and conflicts arising out of the competing logics of customer orientation and rationalisation”. There is little doubt that work at Indian call centres is “unskilled, repetitive and monotonous”. The characterization of work in BPO outfits does not paint a rosy picture of the working conditions, which leads one to the second question, namely, whether employee-unionisation has not taken place as yet because of the absence of effective leadership. This may, in fact, be the case but it is also true that, if reports are to be believed, an attempt to unionise the 550,000 employees in the sector by the Union Network International (a global alliance of 900 unions) has till now not met with any success.

3.3 Work Life Balance Matter to Employers - Why?

The government’s promotion of the work-life balance campaign is based on the evidence that there is a strong “business case” for adopting flexible working arrangements through their contribution to improved recruitment and retention of staff, employee satisfaction and work productivity. A major study funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by researchers at the University of Cambridge (Dex and Smith, 2002), concluded that there are positive effects on employee commitment from having family-friendly policies. Approximately nine out of every ten establishments with some experience of these policies found them cost effective. Increase in performance was associated with having one or other family-friendly policy in the case of five out of six performance indicators. There is a wealth of information that outlines the advantages of offering flexible and special leave arrangements to employees in terms of improving staff recruitment, reducing turn-over, absenteeism and the costs associated with all this as well as increasing employee satisfaction and productivity. There is also evidence which suggests that employers who support a work-life balance ethos and offer flexible working arrangements are likely to have a competitive advantage in the labour market in particular in relation to the new generation of employees.

4. Results and Discussion

Companies have begun to realize how important the work-life balance is to the productivity and creativity of their employees. Research by Kenexa Research Institute in 2007 shows that those employees who were more favorable toward their organization’s efforts to support worklife balance also indicated a much lower intent to leave the organization, greater pride in their organization, a willingness to recommend it as a place to work and higher overall job satisfaction. Employers offer a range of different programs and initiatives, such as flexible working arrangements in the form of part time, casual and telecommuting work. More proactive employers can provide compulsory leave, strict maximum hours and foster an environment that encourages employees not to continue working after hours. It is generally only highly skilled workers that can enjoy such benefits, although many professional fields would not go so far as to discourage workaholic behaviour. Unskilled workers will almost always have to rely on bare minimum legal requirements. This part of the paper provides an in-depth analysis of the questionnaire results. The survey result tries to capture the perception of the employees regarding the worklife balance while working for BPO. From Table 1, it was found that about one fourth of them are female and one third of them are below the age of 25 years and about 16 per cent are above 33 years, which signifies BPO to support employing young and energetic workers 

Table 1: Profile of Respondents by Gender
Male Female Total

AGE

less than 25
25.58
40.00
29.31
25-27
20.93
33.33
24.14
28-30
25.58
13.33
22.41
31-33
11.63
0.00
8.62
More than 33
16.28
13.33
15.52

Marital status

Single
69.77
73.33
70.69
Married
30.23
26.67
29.31

Income (INR)

Less than 2 lacs
20.93
26.67
22.4
2-3 lacs
32.56
33.33
32.76
3-4 lacs
11.63
13.33
12.07
4-5 lacs
6.98
6.67
6.90
More than 5 Lacs
27.91
20.00
25.86
Source: Calculated by the author from survey results

About two-third of the respondents are single and the respondents below 25 years are not married. One-third of the respondents (33%) earn Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 lakhs per annum though a little more than one-fourth of the respondents are earning more than Rs. 5 lakhs per annum. Table 2, shows the percentage of workers work in shifts. Since most of the BPOs work in the night shift to support the population from the west, majority of the employees work in the night shift. However, about 85% of the employees working in the night shifts are employees below 30 years of age. Among the employees work in day shift, a little more than one-fourth of them are more than 33 years of age.

Table 2: Percentage of Workers work by shift
Male Female Total

AGE

DAY

NIGHT

TOTAL

<25
21.74
34.29
29.31
25-27
13.04
31.43
24.14
28-30
30.43
17.14
22.41
31-33
8.70
8.57
8.62
>33
26.09
8.57
15.52

Total

100.00
100.00
100.00

Working in BPO offers very little scope for the employees to be engaged in other activities. Working in night shift heavily disturb the day-to-day activities of an employee. 

The respondents were asked about the factors that balance their work and family commitments where majority of them says that working from home definitely balance the work and family commitments. However, many of them says that the support from colleagues and family member matters most to them (Table 3).

Table 3: Which one of the following will help you balance your work and family commitments?
Response Percentage (%)
Working from home
52
34.6
Technology like cell phones/laptops
17
11.3
Being able to bring Children to work on occasions
10
6.6
Support from colleagues at work
32
21.3
Support from family members
39
26.0
Total
150
100.00

In contrast, the employees were also asked about the factors responsible hindering in balance of work and family commitments, a little over 0ne-fourth of the total respondents says that frequent travelling away from home hinders balancing of work and family commitment. Onefifth of the employee also feels that technology and another same number feels that negative attitude of supervisors hinder work life balance and family commitments (Table 4).

Table 4: Which one of the following hinder you in balancing your work and family commitments?
Response Percentage (%)
Technology such as laptops/cell phones
32
21.3
Frequently travelling away from home
38
25.3
Negative attitude of peers and colleagues at work place
27
18.0
Negative attitude of supervisors
30
20.0
Negative attitude of family members
23
15.3
Total
150
100.00

The employees also think that in addition to regular work, if the organization provide additional services or gadgets, it helps to maintain work life balance. About 24.7% of the employees feels that health programmes may increase work-life balance. One-third of the employees feels that transportation may help in maintaining work-life balance (Table 5).

Table 5: Perception that your organization provide you in additional to work provisions to maintain work-life balance
Response Percentage (%)
Telephone for personal use
19
12.7
Counselling services for employees
12
8.0
Health programs
37
24.7
Parenting or family support programs
5
3.3
Exercise facilities
12
8.0
Relocation facilities and choices
18
12.0
Transportation
47
31.3
Total
150
100.00

Table 6 shows that about one-fourth of the employee says that they have given up activities that they enjoy doing while about three-fourth says that they do not get enough sleep or get chance to exercise and healthy food. About 82% respondent says that they do not get the chance to spend time with the loved ones and 76% says that don’t spend time doing what is most important in life other than office work.

Table 6: Perception of Employees about Work-Life Balance
Activities YES NO Total
Given up activities that give enjoyment
36 (24.0%)
114 (76.0%)
150
Get enough sleep, exercise and healthy food
41 (27.2%)
109 (72.8%)
150
Spends time as like with loved ones
26 (17.3%)
124 (82.7%)
150
Spend time doing what is most important
24 (16.0%)
126 (76.0%)
150

Table 7, interprets the kind of diseases the employee has been suffering due to work pressure and other factors that disturb the work-life balance greatly. The type of disease captured according to age of the employee.

Table 7: Type of Diseases the Employee Suffer by Age
Disease AGE
less than 25
25-27
28-30
31-33
More than 33
Total
Hypertension
0.00
12.50
37.50
12.50
37.50
100.00
Obesity
25.00
25.00
50.00
0.00
0.00
100.00
Diabetes
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.00
100.00
100.00
Frequent Headaches
21.43
35.71
7.14
0.00
35.71
100.00

The Table 7 suggest that all the employees more than 33 years of age suffers from Diabetes, 37.5% suffers from Hypertension and another 35.7% suffers from frequent headaches along with diabetes. Among the younger employees, below the age of 25 years, close to one-fourth suffers from Obesity along with frequent headaches. Hypertension, Obesity and frequent headaches are common problem across age groups. Figure 1, shows the preference of food by gender of the employees working in BPOs. Majority of the employee prefers home-made food across gender. More female than male employee prefers vegetable and fruits while about one-fifth of the employee prefer to take food from the cafeteria. Very few of them about 12% even prefer spicy and junk foods.

Figure 1: Preference of food by the employees working in BPOs





P
e
r
e
c
e
n
t
a
g
e

o
f

E
m
p
l
o
y
e
e
s

Preference for Food

The perception of employee working for BPOs matters the most. About 38% employees says that they are just satisfies with the working conditions and in sync with work-life balance Close to one-fourth of the respondent thinks that work life balance has been excellent or good. Majority of the respondents were not sure and considers their work life balance to be average (Table 8)

Table 8: Respondents Perception Rating on their Work Life Balance
Perception Rating Number of Respondents Percentage (%)
Excellent
16
10.6
Good
21
14.0
Average
48
32.0
Satisfactory
57
38.0
Not satisfactory
8
5.33
Total
150
100.00

The employees were also enquired about the satisfaction level at their work-life balance. About 39% of the respondents are not satisfied with the work-life balance but another 32% says that they are satisfied with their work-life balance when working with the BPOs. Close to 10% of the respondents says that they are highly not satisfied with the work-life balance.

Table 9: Respondents Satisfaction Level at their Work Life Balance
Perception Rating Number of Respondents Percentage (%)
Highly Satisfied
28
18.67
Satisfied
49
32.66
Not Satisfied
58
38.67
Highly not Satisfied
15
10.00
Total
150
100.00

The respondents were asked about the happiness and living an ideal life to bring about the relative impact on the work-life balance of the employees working in BPOs. From the survey result, it has been found that about 39% of the employees are not happy with the work while about 61% says that they do not live an ideal life for working with BPOs, indicating a serious problem to maintain a decent work-life balance.

Table 10: Perception of the respondents with regard to Work-Life Balance
Work Life Balance Responses Perception (%)
Not Happy with the work
58
38.7
Do not Live an Ideal Life
92
61.3
Total
150
100.00

4.1 Hypothesis Testing

Supporting our findings and fit with the hypothesis testing, it is necessary to validate the result. In determining the independence of two attributes, we have used the Chi-Square Test which has been non-parametric test. A chi-squared test, also written as χ 2 test, is a statistical hypothesis test that is valid to perform when the test statistic is chi-squared distributed under the null hypothesis, specifically Pearson’s chi-squared test and variants thereof. The basic format of reporting a χ 2 test result χ 2 (degrees of freedom, N= sample size) = χ 2 statistic value p = p value After expected frequency is calculated the difference between observed and expected frequencies are made which is then squared and then divided by expected frequency. This will give the value of calculated chi square. Tabulated value of chi square is taken from chi square table. This is done by taking selected confidence interval limit and calculating degrees of freedom using (r-1) (c-1) where, r is the number of rows and c is for number of columns. If chi square calculated is greater than chi square tabulated null hypothesis is rejected and vice versa.

1) H0: There is a close degree of association between respondent’s average number of hours of work and factors influencing work life balance
Factors influencing work-life balance 1-4 Hours 5-9 Hours 10+ Hours Total
Performance Appraisal
10
12
7
29
Flexible timing
11
9
6
26
Training Programme
15
8
11
34
Holidays
9
10
9
28
Colleague Support
14
12
7
33
Total
59
51
40
150

Calculated value of chi square is 0.873792 and table value at degree of freedom (r-1) (c-1) i.e. (5 -1) (3 – 1) = 8 is 3.8106. Table value is higher than calculated value. Hence null hypothesis is accepted.

2) H0: Employees expectations from their job and their satisfaction level on their work life balance are independent to each other
Income (INR) Highly satisfied Satisfied Not Satisfied Total
Performance Appraisal
7
12
14
33
Flexible timing
14
15
9
38
Training Programme
8
14
10
32
Holidays
7
10
5
22
Colleague Support
12
9
4
25
Total
48
60
42
150

Calculated value of chi square is .360632 and table value at degree of freedom (r – 1) (c – 1) i.e. (5 -1) (3 – 1) = 8 is 8.764. Table value is lesser than calculated value. Hence null hypothesis is accepted. The result is not significant at p < .05.

3) H0: There is a close degree of association between type of shift worked by respondents and opinion on overtime work on in their personal lives
Employees perception on Working in shift Shifts of Working Total
DAY
NIGHT
TOTAL
Loss of productivity
17
32
49
Loss of Sleep
14
29
43
Strained Family relationship
28
30
58
Total
59
91
150

Calculated value of chi square is .200597 and table value at degree of freedom (r-1) (c-1) i.e. (2 -1) (3 – 1) = 2 is 3.2129. Table value is lesser than calculated value. Hence null hypothesis is accepted. The result is not significant at p < .05.

5. Conclusion

The employees in the BPOs has been highly burned out and equally stressed. The employees always find it tough to achieve the targets and thereby loses out on attaining basic necessities of life. There is long duration of work to meet the designated targets which directly influence family commitments thereby creates strained relations. The intake of food has not been on time and regular in most of the cases which leads to various diseases. Flexibility to work, stress less environment, providing basic facilities like health and food may do wonder to the employees and reduce attrition rate. Work-life balance requires cooperation and coordination at national, governmental, organizational, as well as the individual level. These results were also supported by the findings of (Abbas and Nadeem, 2009) that job satisfaction is significantly negatively correlated with work to family interference and family to work interference. Respondents felt more dissatisfied when their work hinders with their family life. Employees are considered to be the assets to any organization they work for. The employer needs to give proper attention to make the employees happy at work and employee feels they are living an ideal life by working in the respective organization.

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