How different countries approach work-life balance

How you define career success depends largely on where you come from

How different countries approach work-life balance

Money remains one of the top motivations for workers to succeed in their career.

But when it comes to achieving work-life balance, not all cultures share the same enthusiasm, new insights from BI Norwegian Business School suggest.

In a study of the modern workforce, researchers analysed two subjective measures of career success – financial success and work-life balance.

While workers across 22 countries consistently strive to achieve financial payoffs at work, not everybody puts in the same amount of effort to achieve balance between their professional and personal lives.

The study, published in The Journal of Organizational Behavior, used a sample of nearly 12,000 employees worldwide to explore the link between career proactivity and career success.

READ MORE: The real reasons your employees quit

Proactive behaviour includes career planning, continuous learning and development, and receiving mentorship and guidance from senior colleagues.

These strategies continue to form the bedrock of a successful career, the researchers found.

In other words, the hustle is the same in different parts of the world – yet workers still define career success relative to their national culture.

The role of culture in career success

“The relationship between proactivity and individual perception of career success depends on cultural context,” said Anders Dysvik, professor of organisational behaviour and co-author of the study.

“Career proactivity was important for financial success across cultures, but highest in cultures with strong hierarchies that lack communication between different levels, such as Japan and China.”

“For work life balance, career proactivity was important in cultures that prioritise common group goals over personal goals and reward those who are altruistic and caring towards others, such as the UK and US,” Dysvik said.

Career success is thus a ‘multidimensional construct’ considering the complex role national culture plays in motivating proactive behaviour.

“Understanding what contributes to individuals’ subjective career success is important for at least two reasons,” the researchers noted.

“First, it is important for individuals themselves because it is associated with greater life satisfaction and psychological well‐being; and second, it is important for organizations because subjective career success can lead to lower turnover intentions and more support for organizational change.”  

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