Work-life balance among self-initiated expatriates in Singapore: Definitions, challenges, and resources

  • Eunae ChoEmail author
  • Ice Asher Chew


With the globalization of the labor market, the number of self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) continues to increase. This study contributes to the emerging literature on SIEs by exploring issues of work-life balance (WLB). We conducted a qualitative study utilizing a grounded theory approach through semi-structured face-to-face interviews to explore the definition of, challenges to, and resources for WLB among SIEs. Based on the literature, individuals who initiated international relocation, possess professional qualifications, have the intention to stay in the host country temporarily, and have a regular employment status were interviewed (N = 14). The results revealed four themes in the definition of WLB: time management; psychological detachment; fulfillment at work and outside work; and diverse perspectives. Regarding factors that shape WLB, our findings suggest that SIEs’ WLB is shaped by a complex interplay of factors in the work domain, the nonwork domain, and individual attributes. The results also highlight the multi-faceted nature of SIEs – individuals who share commonalities with assigned expatriates (AEs) and domestic employees while possessing unique characteristics as those who initiate the expatriation on their own. Considering that WLB is a salient issue among SIEs, support that mitigates the challenges and builds the resources to foster WLB will aid global talent management.


Self-initiated expatriate Work-life balance Challenges Resources Qualitative research Singapore 



The authors would like to thank Foo Sing Mak and Panya Seow for their help in data collection.


This research was supported by a Start-up Grant from the Nanyang Technological University for the first author.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review board (NTU-IRB-2016-11-021) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology, School of Social SciencesNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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