The rise in popularity of work-life balance (WLB) as an essential determinant of one’s health, wellbeing and effectiveness in modern society has included research on the WLB of those caring for children with special needs. Most previous studies have however focused on investigating the WLB of parents of children with special needs and consequently, very few studies have looked into the WLB of the professionals who work with these children. The purpose of my study was therefore to close this gap in the literature by gaining some insight into the work-life experiences of professionals who work with special children.
The study sought to unearth how work-life balance plays out in these professionals’ lives and also to discover the factors that influence their work-life balance. Another objective was to ascertain the challenges that they face in integrating their work and life domains and to bring to light the strategies that they use to cope with their various work-life demands.
An inductive qualitative inquiry carried out through combined phenomenological and autoethnography research design was used to investigate the work-life experiences of a sample of professionals who work with special needs children in therapy, pre-primary and primary schools, in the Gauteng Province in South Africa. Purposive and snowball sampling methods were used to select participants for inclusion in the study. Data was collected through a series of unstructured in-depth interviews, unstructured observations, personal memory and photographs.
Seven themes emerged from the findings of the study. The results also indicated that the majority of the sampled professionals who work with special children were experiencing work-life conflict due to the time-based and strain-based conflict that emanated from their work domains. These professionals’ WLB was also found to be mostly influenced by work-related factors as the work domain appeared to be their major source of conflict. The study also unearthed some very interesting and unconventional micro-level WLB strategies used by these professionals in their attempt to achieve greater WLB. An example of such strategies include the use of prayer and faith in God to reduce perceptions of conflict and enhance capacity to deal with life’s adversities.
The findings from this study may therefore be used to develop and focus meso and macro level interventions to assist professionals who work with special needs children to better manage the various demands from their life domains. This will in turn ensure a healthier lifestyle for these professionals, which also has positive implications for the developmental outcomes of the children under their care. Moreover, enhancing these professionals’ ability to achieve WLB is anticipated to improve their motivation, satisfaction and retention.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2019.