Blurring boundaries: work-life balance and unbounded work in academia. The role of flexibility, organisational support and gender

Karen Johnston, Jagriti Tanwar, Susana Pasamar*, Darren Van Laar, Annali Bamber Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper explores whether work-life balance (WLB) is affected by the unbounded work context and how organisational support, work flexibility and gender affect this relationship. It is a quantitative study, involving a survey of academics based in three UK institutions, using OLS regressions. There is a significant negative relationship between the perception of the unbounded nature of work and WLB among academics, irrespective of their gender. While flexible work and organisational support are positively associated with WLB, they have limited effect in an unbounded work context. This study makes original contributions for practitioners and academics. First, it provides empirical evidence of the relationship between the unboundedness of work and WLB, and finds no significant gender differences in WLB within an unbounded work context. Second, it helps to understand how flexible work and an organisational support culture are insufficient to eliminate the negative effect of unbounded work. Although the research involves a relatively small sample of UK academics provides insights into WLB in an unbounded work context. As became evident during the coronavirus pandemic, the boundaries between work and non-work domains in contemporary work settings are more and more blurred. Work will therefore become increasingly unbounded, potentially undermining WLB and causing tension between growing work demands and the necessities of family and personal lives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-155
Number of pages17
JournalLabour & Industry
Issue number2
Early online date7 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2022


  • border theory
  • flexibility
  • gender
  • organisational support
  • unbounded work
  • work-life balance

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