Briefing paper

Fluctuating demands and unexpected events: An action research approach to improving work-family interaction in project-based work

6 Mar 2013

This research into work-family balance in project-based construction work aims to:

  • determine the effect of a consultative approach to the identification and evaluation of work- family balance strategies on the work-family experiences of project-based construction workers;
  • examine the relationship between workload fluctuations and work-family experiences (both positive and negative) on project-based construction workers; and
  • inform the development of industry policy and organisational support for positive work-family interaction in the construction industry.

The issue of work-family balance is of great importance to Australia. Driven by demographic changes, the aging workforce, low birth rates, dramatic increases in dual earner couples and the changing expectations of younger generations of Australian workers, there is an urgent need to find practical solutions to the work-family balance problem.

In Australia, the longest average work hours are observed in blue-collar, traditionally male industries, including construction. Construction workers are expected to work non-standard work schedules, including regular weekend work.

Project-based construction work is subject to varying levels of intensity. In projects, there are critical points at which components must be completed. Immediately prior to these critical points, the intensity of work is very high. During these periods work hours can be very long, impacting negatively upon work-family experiences. The impact of peaks and troughs in work intensity on the work-family experiences of construction workers is not well understood.

The research evaluates the effect of a employer-worker consultation concerning work-family interaction and the implementation of selected project-specific work-family balance strategies in a series of case study construction projects. The research will inform the Victorian Government’s policy development and build a strong partnership between government and the construction industry, for the purpose of promoting positive work-family interaction among the construction workforce.

Research team
RMIT University, School of Property, Construction and Project Management:
Professor Helen Lingard
Tel. +61 3 9925 3449
The University of Melbourne, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning:
Valerie Francis
Tel. +61 3 8344 8762
Michelle Turner
Tel. +61 3 8344 7256

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