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Anticipation of work–life conflict in higher education

Susana Pasamar (Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Sevilla, Spain)
Karen Johnston (University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth Business School, Portsmouth, UK)
Jagriti Tanwar (Centre for Time-Use Research, IOE-University College, Bloomsbury, London)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 4 March 2020

Issue publication date: 26 March 2020




This paper aims to further the understanding about the relationship between work–life conflict and possible barriers to career progression due to the perception of anticipated work–life conflict, considering the unbounded nature of academic work through features such as its intensity, flexibility and perception of organizational support.


The model was tested using survey data from academics in a public university in the south of Spain. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the hypotheses.


The results reveal that current work–life conflict, job intensity and perception of support have a direct effect on the anticipation of work–life conflict in the event of progression in academic careers. The flexibility that academics enjoy is not sufficient to prevent the expected conflict. Academics' age is relevant, but gender or having childcare responsibilities have no significant effect of the anticipation of conflict.

Research limitations/implications

This study addresses the gap in the literature on anticipated work–life conflict, expanding the focus to nonfamily commitments in unbounded jobs such as academic posts. The authors are not aware of any other study that focuses on the anticipation of work–life conflict in the case of career advancement among current employees with professional experience or accurate knowledge of what job they will be doing instead of students. Work–life balance should not be restricted to women with caring responsibilities, as conflict is no longer only related to gender roles.


This paper not only explores existing work–life conflict but also empirically analyzes anticipated work–life conflict in unbounded careers such as academia. It represents a significant contribution in an underresearched field and may lead to future research in other settings.



Pasamar, S., Johnston, K. and Tanwar, J. (2020), "Anticipation of work–life conflict in higher education", Employee Relations, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 777-797.



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