Work-life balance and stress levels: a case study of indaba agricultural policy research institute (IAPRI) employees.

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Lukama, Chinyama K.
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The University of Zambia
The Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) is a premier agricultural research and outreach think tank in Zambia. The performance of IAPRI as measured through its outputs in the period 2014 to 2017 was exemplary as on average, output performance exceeded 78 percent of the planned annual targets. Despite this impressive performance, the Institute had observed reported incidences of stress among its employees which is a possible threat to its recorded good performance. It is against this background that this study investigated the work-life balance and stress levels among employees of (IAPRI). The specific objectives of the study included assessing the level of stress among IAPRI employees, determining whether or not the employees were stressed, evaluating the factors influencing stress and exploring employee perceptions on how the level of work life balance affected their performance. In assessing the levels of stress, the study first used the self-assessment of stress. Furthermore, the study used the following stressors to analyze the level of stress: excessive workloads, insufficient workloads, lack of control over work activities, bullying or harassment, ineffective management, job insecurity and poor physical environment. These standards were adopted from Murphy (2007) and applied for this study. In determining whether or not IAPRI employees had adequate work-life balance, this study adopted the standards set by the Workplace Health Toolkit to Assist Small Businesses (Health and Safety Authority, 2018) which include employees working between 5 to 9 hours in a day, employees do not have to travel more than 1 hour to and from work, employees having and taking advantage of proper rest and eating periods within their working day/night, employees having interests/pursuits outside the workplace and employees having time left to engage in other activities that have no connection to work. The study considered the respondents who answered “Yes” to all these five (5) parameters to have a work-life balance while those who answered “No” to at least one (1) of the standards were considered to have a work-life imbalance. In looking at the factors influencing stress, this study asked the respondents to list in order of priority the top causes of stress among staff. Based on the information which was collected, the responses were ranked in order of priority and the factors influencing stress were identified based on that ranking. In terms of perceptions, thematic analysis was used to analyse the qualitative responses by grouping the responses. Other quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics. This study which was informed by the Herzeberg’s Two Factor Theory of Motivation targeted to collect data from all the 29 permanent employees of IAPRI and the response rate was 93 percent (27 out of the targeted 29 respondents). In terms of the levels of stress, the results from a self-assessment of stress revealed that 46.7 percent of the employees were stressed and there were no significant differences in stress between males and females as well as marital status (married and not married). Using stressors, most of the respondents revealed that they strongly agreed or agreed that they experienced the stressors. The main factors influencing stress were too much workload coupled with short deadlines, ad hoc responsibilities, role ambiguity and low job satisfaction. In addition, the study revealed that 22.2 percent of staff experienced work-life balance. In this regard, the study identified stress and work-life imbalance to be as key challenges the employees were facing. Some key recommendations from this study include implementation of policies that minimise workloads while achieving the desired results, implementation of a system of flex time and specific role related capacity building. The study further recommends that the Human Resources and Administration manual of 2012 be revised in order to align it with the Employment Act No. 9 of 2019. This in reality means that the provision of paternity leave which is only limited to married members of staff as contained in the manual will align with the Act which does not discriminate paternity leave by marital status. The central message that the results of this study is that IAPRI employees underwent stress and the most common factor influencing stress is huge workloads. These huge workloads may cause work life imbalance because of the reduced time they have to perform personal and family roles.
Thesis of Master of Business Administration – General.