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Modelling a Research Interview
A: The content to be modelled
B: Our model of 'Work-Life Balance'

A: A managers description of Work-Life Balance

The following has been extracted and edited from a verbatim transcript of a 1-hour recorded interview with a manager on the topic of ‘work-life balance’ that formed part of a joint research project undertaken by the Clean Change Company and the University of Surrey in 2010.

When work-life balance is at it’s best that’s like what?

You‘re really happy and getting good balance but you could still be juggling lots, it's just that you're just doing a particularly good job at juggling at that time. You're just in harmony with the different things you're having to juggle - from work and from your outside life.

And then what happens?

You're trying to be a professional and yet you're juggling so many balls and you know you‘re not doing a very good job juggling them.

And how many balls are you juggling?

It can feel like lots and they probably feel heavier than they might be. As your stress levels go up the balls feel heavier, even though they might not be and you perhaps don't look at them. It feels like there are more of them and you're out of control and you haven't got time to weigh the balls even to work out which ball's more important than the other and which ones to drop because you're so pressured. You have to prioritise and focus so you may need to drop a few and concentrate on the really important ones and when you're stressed it’s difficult to do that.

And as stress levels go up, and balls are heavier then what happens?

You have to throw them faster don’t you?

And what kind of balls are those balls when they get heavier?

When they're heavy they're like boulders rather than like tennis balls. Sometimes life feels like going up a mountain and you're having to dodge boulders coming down. Sometimes you've got more boulders you need to dodge and sometimes they're bigger. And depending on where your balance is at, whether you're dodging them, depends how well you're getting up the mountain.

And then what happens?

You keep going up the mountain, you're managing to dodge the boulders, and you're making good progress and that must be the ultimate, the balance, but you're not at the top. You would think that when it's going well you're on top of the mountain and looking down. It's interesting though because you could in theory have a good work/life balance but arguably not be completely stressed out or not feeling time pressure and that for me would be dire. It's all such a fine balance to find isn't it because you want a good work/life balance but you also want to be stressed. The idea of not being stressed just sounds awful to me as well!

And is there anything else about that fine balance?

Yes, and so I am getting up the mountain and you've got a strong desire to just keep- keep going and not give up and the day when you say in your work, 'Oh I'm giving up now' – that's the time to leave the company and go somewhere else or do something else where you want to improve.

And is there a relationship between getting up the mountain, boulders coming down and stress levels?

Definitely yes. The more boulders that are coming down, the bigger they are, the more stressed you are trying to dodge them and you might not be able to  – you're probably going to get crushed at the bottom ultimately!

And then what happens?

You take yourself away from the mountain to a fresh environment. You take yourself away from all the daily sort of stresses and strains and you're in a new environment and you can relax and just switch off

B: Our model of the manager's WLB

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