Czechs take pains to balance their private lives and careers

Balancing one's private life and career is a problem faced by people in many parts of the world today. Lifestyles here in the Czech Republic have changed hugely in the last two decades - with work-life balance a new concept to many. So how are Czechs doing when it comes to balancing the two?

Work-life balance is a problem which particularly affects Czech women, who often stay in the office for long hours before coming home to do most of the housework, and look after the children. But Nina Bosnicova from the Gender Studies Institute says if employers were more flexible towards female employees, both parties would benefit.

"The argument that is frequently used and I think valid is that when you enable your employees to balance their professional and private lives they'll become more loyal, the fluctuation of employees will be lower, and you'll get the label of a 'family-friendly employer', which is very good for the company's prestige."

Ms Bosnicova was speaking there at a major seminar in Prague this week on equal opportunities and work-life balance. One issue that came up was the scarcity of part-time jobs in the Czech Republic. In fact only 2% of Czech men work part-time, and 8% of Czech women. And while part-time employment is favoured by women in many countries, it is not without its difficulties.

"Working part-time often brings with it a number of disadvantages. For instance, women who start working part-time are later not able to switch onto the full-time regime again. And although they should work just part-time, the amount of work to be done is such, and it is so demanding, that they spent five, six, or even more hours at work, instead of four, for half of the salary, of course."

The Institute of Sociology also conducted research into the lives of five and a half thousand Czechs which looked at the ways marital status influences the amount of time that people spend at work. According to this research, the intensity of work is not connected with the family background of Czech women. They spend the same amount of time at work, no matter if they are married, single, or divorced. In men, the situation is very different. The intensity and amount of time that Czech men devote to their work to a large extent depends on their marital status. The most industrious employees are divorced men. Meanwhile, married men work in a moderate manner, and, rather surprisingly, the study found that those who do not spend much time working or do not work at all, are single men who have never been married.

And getting back to the issue of work-life balance, about 16% of Czechs think they manage their jobs and family life only half well, and 66% think they manage to live both their private and professional lives with no problems.