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The employee perspective of formation, fulfilment and outcomes of the work-life balance (WLB) psychological contract

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posted on 17.02.2017, 02:27 by Grigg, Kerry Merle
Employees' concern for striking a better balance between their work and non-working life has become a feature of the modern workplace in recent times because of significant shifts in both demographic and socio-cultural norms, and this has driven significant changes in the structure and requirements of the labour market. As a result organisations are developing work-life balance (WLB) strategies to enhance the autonomy of employees in the process of co-ordinating and integrating the work and non-work aspects of their lives. More specifically, organisations are increasingly using a co-ordinated communications strategy, referred to as a WLB employer branding strategy in this thesis, to promote the organisations' WLB credentials to prospective and existing employees. The aim of this research study was to examine the impact WLB policies and employer branding activities have on employee perceptions of expectations for WLB organisational support. Furthermore the study sought to identify and understand the factors that lead to employees perceiving that the organisation has fulfilled those expectations for support around their WLB needs and how employees respond in terms of trust, job satisfaction, affective commitment, intention to leave the organisation, in-role and contextual job performance. The study used the concept of a WLB psychological contract to examine these relationships. The WLB psychological contract in this study is defined as those expectations and beliefs an employee has of an organisation to provide a supportive work environment that enhances the employee's sense of balance between their work and non-working life. A cross-sectional research design was used to study the perceptions of employees in the Stage 1 survey and supervisor perceptions of their reports performance in the Stage 2 survey. The sample size for the Stage 1 survey was 627 and 167 supervisors responded to the Stage 2 survey. The sample was drawn from seven Australian organisations from the health, local government and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sectors. The study demonstrates that employee perceptions of effective communication of WLB policies and programs and awareness of WLB policies form WLB psychological contracts. Furthermore, WLB supervisor support performed a role in forming WLB psychological contracts due to its moderating influence on WLB policy awareness. Consistent with previous literature demonstrating the positive role of WLB supervisor support and organisational culture, both variables performed an important antecedent role in fulfilling employees' WLB psychological contracts. As expected, a positive relationship between WLB psychological contract fulfilment and enhanced levels of employee trust, job satisfaction, affective commitment and contextual performance directed at both the organisation and colleagues were uncovered. The study also demonstrated that WLB psychological contract fulfilment reduces the employee's intention to leave the organisation. In addition to the main effects relationship trust had with WLB psychological contract fulfilment, trust also mediated the relationship between WLB psychological contract fulfilment and job satisfaction, affective commitment, intention to leave the organisation and contextual performance directed at colleagues (i.e., interpersonal facilitation) in the study. Finally, and counter to expectations, based on sensemaking theory, organisational justice dimensions failed to moderate the relationship between WLB psychological contract fulfilment and trust. The use of signalling theory to examine WLB psychological contract formation presents the most significant contribution of the study. The study also makes a valuable contribution to both the WLB and psychological contract literature by extending the work of other researchers that have focused on the more narrowly defined concept of a work-family psychological contract and employee responses to work-family psychological contract breach. By contrast, this study tests relationships that explain both the formation of the more expansive work-life balance psychological contract and responses to WLB psychological contract fulfilment from the employees' perspective. The study also makes several contributions to practice because the HR function and its managers tend to play an important role in shaping and implementing an organisation's WLB strategy. The study's findings demonstrate the importance for HR practitioners to take a considered approach to the development of WLB policies and communication of WLB programs because of the role they play in creating employee expectations around WLB support. Furthermore, HR practitioners have a key role to play in enhancing supervisor support and facilitating the organisational culture required to fulfill employees' WLB psychological contracts. Finally, influencing employee-related outcomes included in this study (e.g., trust, job satisfaction, affective commitment, intention to leave, performance) are an important part of the HR practitioner's role and the results provide important insights into how these outcomes can be enhanced.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Elizabeth Anne Bardoel

Additional supervisor 1

Susan Mayson

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics