EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Work-life balance in Bulgaria

About

Country: 
Bulgaria
Author: 
Rumiana Gladicheva

Work-life balance correlates strongly with job satisfaction, survey results show. Only 23% of women, compared with 30% of men, do not feel tired after work. Nonetheless, women are more satisfied with their job.

The June 2005 Bulgarian National Working Conditions Survey (BG0509SR01) explored the issue of work-life balance in some detail, by adding four questions to the 2001 questionnaire devised by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The issue was further developed in three focus groups.

Long working hours

The proportion of people working long hours has not changed since 2001. One in three still work more than 45 hours, and 50% work at least two Saturdays each month. Consequently, the rate of satisfaction with work-life balance has not changed either (except for a decrease in the proportion of those who are not at all satisfied).

Do your working hours fit in with your family or social commitments outside work?

Impact of overall fatigue on private life

Overall fatigue remains the most common work-related outcome, ranking first in 2005 (22%) and in 2001 (51%), although the proportion has more than halved. Overall fatigue is reported by twice as many men as women, which does not contradict the fact that women feel more tired after everyday work and need a longer time to recover after work, as shown below. These are two interrelated but essentially different indicators. Overall fatigue is understood as a more long-term experience, while tiredness after a single working day is considered a short-term experience.

Table 1: Impact of job-related fatigue on family communications (%, by sex)
When you come home from work, are you able to converse properly with your family, or do you need some time to yourself first? Men Women
I don't need time to myself first; I don't feel tired 30 23
I need about half an hour 30 39
I need at least one hour 28 28
I need at least two hours 7 5.5
I need more than two hours 3 2.5
Even the whole evening is not enough 2 2
Total 100 100

On the whole, men switch more easily from job to family activities and need less time to start communicating fully with family members. The gender differences are more apparent on the first two degrees of the scale. The most common desired rest period for women is about half an hour, while an even proportion of men report being able to give family their full attention after a period of between 0-60 minutes.

However, overall, work-life balance correlates more with age than with sex.

Table 2: Impact of job-related fatigue on family communications (%, by age)
When you come home from work, are you able to converse properly with your family, or do you need some time to yourself first? 18-25 years 26-35 years 36-45 years 46-55 years 56 years Total
I don't need time to myself first; I don't feel tired 11.5 31.7 19.1 27.1 10.5 100
I need about half an hour 12.9 25.6 28.5 23.8 9.1 100
I need at least one hour 4.7 20.9 28.8 33.5 12.2 100
I need at least two hours 3.2 19.0 34.9 33.3 9.5 100
I need more than two hours 6.9 31.0 24.1 17.0 20.7 100
Even the whole evening is not enough 0 9.5 47.6 38.1 4.8 100

The most tired employees are 36-45 and 46-55 years of age; in all, people aged 36-55 years comprise 86% of those reporting that even the whole evening is not enough to recover after work. The youngest group does not need any, or only a short, time (30 minutes) to recover. Interestingly, about one in three in the 26-35 and 46-55 year age groups do not feel tired at all. Taken together, these two age groups account for almost 60% of employees who do not feel tired. Nonetheless, the two groups are not exactly aligned:

  • among the 26-35 year age group, one in three does not feel tired but another third needs more than two hours’ rest;
  • among the 46-55 year age group, one in four does not feel tired but another 38% find that even the whole evening is not enough to recover.

The price of reconciling work and non-work life

The 2005 survey reveals how people compensate for their over-occupation. In general, reconciling working and non-working life requires additional personal effort (reported by 43.5% of respondents) and thus leads to greater stress and fatigue. There is no difference by sex but a difference emerges by age, and most affected (37%) are those aged 36-45 years.

Table 3: Does your job allow you to give sufficient time to your close friends/relatives?
  %
Yes, it does; my job is not overly demanding 44.4
No, it doesn't, but I manage - though it requires an extra effort 43.5
No, it doesn't; I can't manage and my relationships suffer as a result 12.1
Total 100

Examples from focus groups

The problems of work-life balance came to the fore spontaneously during group discussions. Workers in industry and healthcare employees appeared particularly vulnerable.

  • 'I come back home [from work] and sleep. I daren’t even ask [family] whether it has a negative effect…’ (man, smelter worker);
  • 'I have no energy to make conversation, I am so tired physically’ (man, turner);
  • 'When I come back from my night shift, I just say “I’m home” and go to bed’ (woman, nurse);
  • 'When I feel stressed [about work], I usually don’t want to communicate with anyone for hours’ (man, doctor).

Overall assessment of work-life balance

Table 4: Do you think your family/friends feel discommoded because of your job?
  %
Yes, all the time 6.4
Yes, sometimes 30.9
No, never 62.7
Total 100

In the group reporting constant difficulties with working and non-working life, there are twice as many men as women; and the 36-45 year age group is, again, particularly affected (10.5% state that their jobs cause inconveniences for the family all the time).

Work-life balance correlates strongly with job satisfaction, ranking second after wages. When satisfaction with the work-life fit decreases, the rate of satisfaction with working conditions also declines dramatically.

Author: Rumiana Gladicheva