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Tackling the work-life balance challenge in professional service firms: The impact of projects, organizing, and service characteristics

Abstract : Professional Service Firms (PSFs) are currently under considerable pressure for economic reasons (low growth, pressure on cost), but also from the emergence of individual demands for work-life balance (WLB) from professionals, which challenge traditional ways of organizing both projects and careers. While major difficulties in the implementation of WLB measures in PSFs and other project-based organizations have often been attributed to a lack of support from partners, this article investigates enablers of WLB arrangements beyond social support. Drawing on case studies of two consultancies, we first show that WLB is addressed through informal tailor-made arrangements rather than formal HR policies. We then identify the key determinants of the success of these arrangements on five levels: (1) individual characteristics (autonomy and generalist skills), (2) project characteristics (duration, location, and resource slack), (3) social support (from both partners and clients), (4) organizational characteristics, and managerial choices (the leverage structure of the firm, its market strategy, the heterogeneity of its practices, organizational resource slack, and fee billing practices) and finally (5) service characteristics (in terms of knowledge base, client interaction and customization). We then elaborate a model that accounts for the existence of a configuration favouring the success of individualized WLB arrangements based on these different factors. This paper contributes to the study of WLB in PSFs by highlighting the role played by micro-characteristics of the work and the organization in the success of individual WLB measures in practice, and advocates against universal solutions in the matter.
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https://hal-mines-paristech.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01503283
Contributor : Jean-Claude Sardas <>
Submitted on : Thursday, April 6, 2017 - 7:35:33 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 5:00:03 PM

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Lucie Noury, Sébastien Gand, Jean-Claude Sardas. Tackling the work-life balance challenge in professional service firms: The impact of projects, organizing, and service characteristics. Journal of Professions and Organization, Oxford Academic, 2016, ⟨10.1093/jpo/jow010⟩. ⟨hal-01503283⟩

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