An analysis of work and non-work patterns in Malaysian public sector workplaces: a multi-level approach
This research examines the relationship between the work and non-work lives of Malaysian public sector employees. The study sought to analyse how the interface between work and non-work life is influenced by both organisational contexts as well as the broader social and cultural context of Malaysia. As the research in the context have been under-investigated and the research subject usually adopts a single-level of analysis, therefore, this study is based on a multi-level analysis examining the interaction between the macro level (role of the State), meso level (the role of the organisations), with micro level influences (such as the individual‟s religious and cultural values) and how, in turn, these factors affect the ways in which employees organise their work and non-work lives. The research is conducted in three organisations and includes 71 in-depth interviews. Each organisation chosen reflected different workforce compositions in terms of gender, ethnicity, age and religious backgrounds. A multi-level perspective demonstrates how structural factors are significant when examining how actors are either enabled or constrained in their ability to manage the relationship between work and non-work. The findings of this study demonstrate that the State, organisations (through their different working practices, working hours and organisational cultures), religious and cultural values as well as the range of familial, communal and institutional supports influence how employees organise their work and non-working lives. Within the Malaysian context, religious and cultural values emphasise the dual commitment of work and non-work lives for employees. Thus, the study highlights how this context affects management‟s decisions and employees‟ expectations and experiences. This study also found that work/non-work life approaches vary at the meso level because of different organisational contexts. Finally, the nature of the relationship between work and non-work varies according to the strategies which workers adopt. Variations of work/non-work integration identified among workers in the study demonstrates that some achieve partial to full integration, whereas others either experience conflictual relations between work and home, or develop strategies to segment work and non-work. Thus, the study identified different degrees of satisfaction and dis-satisfaction with the relationship between work and non-work. Hence, work/non-work integration can be best viewed as a continuum. A multi-level examination of macro-, meso- and micro levels can provide critical learning points for policy makers and employers aware of the need to find culturally appropriate ways to enhance work/non-work integration as well as to alleviate the harmful effects of work/non-work conflict.