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The Multi-Dimensional Work-Life Boundary in Hairstyling: Why Work Relations Matter

Cohen, RL (2007) The Multi-Dimensional Work-Life Boundary in Hairstyling: Why Work Relations Matter University of Warwick, CCLS.

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This article proposes a multidimensional approach to analysis of the work-life boundary and examines the affects of particular social and organizational relations on the preservation or porous-ness of different dimensions. Classic sociological theory understood the emergence of the boundary between work and home as coterminous with, or caused by, the rise of capitalism or modernity, but the boundary itself was variously conceived in terms of social relations, temporality and spatiality (Marx), rationality (Weber), or task and personnel (Parsons). Recent empirical research has shown that the construction of this boundary may be less linear than had been assumed, but investigation has most often focused on the single dimension of temporality (in particular the temporal encroachments of work into family life (c.f. Hochschild 1997; Jacobs and Gerson 2004; Presser 2003)). This article employs a multidimensional conception of the division, focusing on the core dimensions of temporality, spatiality, personnel (or social relations), tasks, and rationalities. In line with Nippert-Eng (1996), it is suggested that different dimensions of the boundary are reinforced or weakened by different social and organizational pressures. Analysis describes a specific type of multidimensional breaching – instances when work is taken outside of the worksite (spatial breaching) and is carried out outside of work-time (temporal breaching). Empirical research was conducted among hairstylists working in salons and barbershops in a city in the North of England. Because of the nature of the tasks involved in hairstyling – that the skills involved are widely exchangeable and so may be employed in extra-work environments and temporalities – hairstylists provide a nice site for investigating the circumstances when this does (or does not) occur. Data collection involved a comprehensive self-completion survey of salons and barbershops in the city (response rate: 40%; N=132) and semi-structured interviews with 70 stylists working in 52 salons or barbershops. Findings demonstrate that work relations (hairstylists’ structural relations of production – whether a worker is an owner-proprietor, chair-renter, on-commission stylist, basic-only stylist, or trainee) are critical in determining both workers’ ability and desire to resist the seepage of work into their social lives as well as the particular dimensions of the boundary that are breached. This is because work relations affect the relative importance of four identified motivations for taking work out of the salon (income production; training; inter-personal reciprocity rooted in social relations; and interpersonal reciprocity rooted in the workplace). The article concludes by examining the extent to which the multidimensionality of the work-life boundary enables workers’ ideological reconstruction of boundaries where breaching has occurred, and focuses on differences in the malleability, stability and alignment of work-life boundar(ies) for workers in different work relations.

Item Type: Other
Divisions : Surrey research (other units)
Authors :
Date : 1 May 2007
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 16 May 2017 15:10
Last Modified : 23 Jan 2020 10:20

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