An examination of working hours, work-life conflict and psychological well-being in Irish academics.
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Research from numerous countries across the world indicates that academics are experiencing high levels of occupational stress and trends indicate that stress levels are increasing over time. Two stressors which have been implicated in this context include long work hours and work-life conflict. The current project examined patterns in working hours and behaviours and associated levels of work-life conflict and psychological strain in Irish academics. The project also examined the non-work behaviours and activities of Irish academics in order to comprehensively analyse challenges and experiences at the work-home interface. A series of three studies were conducted: a quantitative multi-variate survey examining predictors of work hours, work-life conflict and psychological strain (N=410); a seven day diary study examining post-work activities and levels of recovery and detachment from work (N=44); and a qualitative interview study examining challenges associated with maintaining work-life balance in academia (N=14). Gender effects were examined across all three studies, and workaholism effects were examined in both the quantitative survey study and the diary study. Results from Study 1 indicated a long work hours culture amongst Irish academics, with males working longer hours than females. A number of organisational, personal and individual variables including work intensity, workaholism, job involvement, organisational support and having children were found to directly and indirectly influence work hours, work-life conflict and psychological strain. Gender was found to moderate some of these effects. Study 2 revealed gender differences in post-work activities engaged in by academics, with females engaged in more household/caring activities after work, while males engaged in more work activities and passive activities. The results from Study 2 also highlighted difficulties experienced by workaholics in recovering and detaching from work and managing work-life conflict. The results from the interviews conducted in Study 3 revealed four major themes; pleasure and pain of academic work, struggle to recover, boundary management, and health and stress. The interview data highlighted a number of stressors experienced by Irish academics and the reported health effects associated with high levels of occupational stress. The strategies used by academics to recover and detach from work and the boundary work between work and home were also revealed. The findings from all three studies are discussed with reference to the extant literature and a number of practical implications and areas for future research are discussed.