Advertisement

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

  • Eunae ChoEmail author
  • Ice Asher Chew
Article
  • 26 Downloads

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Acknowledgements

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

Funding

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.

References

  1. Andresen, M., Bergdolt, F., Margenfeld, J., & Dickmann, M. (2014). Addressing international mobility confusion – Developing definitions and differentiations for self-initiated and assigned expatriates as well as migrants. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25, 2295–2318.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2013.877058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arthur, M. B. (1994). The boundaryless career: A new perspective for organizational inquiry. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 15, 295–306.  https://doi.org/10.1002/job.4030150402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baruch, Y., Dickmann, M., Altman, Y., & Bournois, F. (2013). Exploring international work: Types and dimensions of global careers. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24, 2369–2393.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2013.781435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Biemann, T., & Andresen, M. (2010). Self-initiated foreign expatriates versus assigned expatriates: Two distinct types of international careers? Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25, 430–448.  https://doi.org/10.1108/02683941011035313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caligiuri, P., & Lazarova, M. (2005). Work-life balance and the effective management of global assignees. In S. A. Y. Poelmans (Ed.), Work and family: An international research perspective (pp. 121–145). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Caligiuri, P. M., Hyland, M. M., Joshi, A., & Bross, A. S. (1998). Testing a theoretical model for examining the relationship between family adjustment and expatriates' work adjustment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 598–614.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.83.4.598.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Campbell, J. L., Quincy, C., Osserman, J., & Pedersen, O. K. (2013). Coding in-depth semistructured interviews: Problems of unitization and intercoder reliability and agreement. Sociological Methods & Research, 42(3), 294–320.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0049124113500475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carr, S. C., Inkson, K., & Thorn, K. (2005). From global careers to talent flow: Reinterpreting ‘brain drain. Journal of World Business, 40, 386–398.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2005.08.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Casper, W. J., Eby, L. T., Bordeaux, C., Lockwood, A., & Lambert, D. (2007). A review of research method in IO/OB work-family research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 28–43.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.92.1.28.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cerdin, J., & Selmer, J. (2014). Who is a self-initiated expatriate? Towards conceptual clarity of a common notion. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(9), 1281–1301.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2013.863793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Corbin, J. M., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons and evaluative criteria. Qualitative Sociology, 13, 3–21.  https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00988593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dimitrova, M. (2018). Expatriation and the work-family interface. In K. M. Shockley, W. Shen, & R. C. Johnson (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of the global work-family interface (pp. 479–493). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108235556.026.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Doherty, N. (2013). Understanding the self-initiated expatriate: A review and directions for future research. International Journal of Management Reviews, 15(4), 447–469.  https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fischlmayr, I. C., & Kollinger, I. (2010). Work-life balance–a neglected issue among Austrian female expatriates. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 21(4), 455–487.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09585191003611978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Forsyth, D. R. (1980). A taxonomy of ethical ideologies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(1), 175–184.  https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.39.1.175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Froese, F. J., & Peltokorpi, V. (2013). Organizational expatriates and self-initiated expatriates: Differences in cross-cultural adjustment and job satisfaction. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24, 1953–1967.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2012.725078.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Grant-Vallone, E. J., & Ensher, E. A. (2001). An examination of work and personal life conflict, organizational support, and employee health among international expatriates. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 25, 261–278.  https://doi.org/10.1016/s0147-1767(01)00003-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10, 76–88.  https://doi.org/10.2307/258214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hammer, L. B., Kossek, E. E., Anger, W. K., Bodner, T., & Zimmerman, K. L. (2011). Clarifying work–family intervention processes: The roles of work–family conflict and family-supportive supervisor behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 134–150.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020927.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Jokinen, T., Brewster, C., & Suutari, V. (2008). Career capital during international work experiences: Contrasting self-initiated expatriate experiences and assigned expatriation. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 19, 979–998.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09585190802051279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lauring, J., & Selmer, J. (2010). The supportive expatriate spouse: An ethnographic study of spouse involvement in expatriate careers. International Business Review, 19(1), 59–69.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2009.09.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mäkelä, L., & Suutari, V. (2013). The work-life interface of self-initiated expatriates: Conflicts and enrichment. In V. Vaiman & A. Haslberger (Eds.), Talent management of self-initiated expatriates: A neglected source of global talent (pp. 278–303). London: Palgrave Macmillan.  https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230392809_13.
  23. Mesmer-Magnus, J. R., & Viswesvaran, C. (2006). How family-friendly work environments affect work/family conflict: A meta-analytic examination. Journal of Labor Research, 27, 555–574.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s12122-006-1020-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park: Sage  https://doi.org/10.1002/nur.4770140111.Google Scholar
  25. Reiter, N. (2007). Work life balance: What DO you mean? The ethical ideology underpinning appropriate application. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 43(2), 273–294.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0021886306295639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Richardson, J. (2006). Self-directed expatriation: Family matters. Personnel Review, 35, 469–486.  https://doi.org/10.1108/00483480610670616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Richardson, J., & Mallon, M. (2005). Career interrupted? The case of the self-directed expatriate. Journal of World Business, 40(4), 409–420.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2005.08.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Shaffer, M. A., & Harrison, D. A. (1998). Expatriates’ psychological withdrawal from international assignments: Work, nonwork and family influences. Personnel Psychology, 51(1), 87–118.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.1998.tb00717.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Shaffer, M. A., & Harrison, D. A. (2001). Forgotten partners of international assignments: Development and test of a model of spouse adjustment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(2), 238–254.  https://doi.org/10.1037//0021-9010.86.2.238.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Singapore Ministry of Manpower (2019). Eligibility for employment pass. Retrieved from https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/employment-pass/eligibility. Accessed 20 May
  31. Sonnentag, S. (2012). Psychological detachment from work during leisure time: The benefits of mentally disengaging from work. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 114–118.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721411434979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Suutari, V., & Brewster, C. (2000). Making their own way: International experience through self-initiated foreign assignments. Journal of World Business, 35, 417–436.  https://doi.org/10.1016/s1090-9516(00)00046-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Takeuchi, R. (2010). A critical review of expatriate adjustment research through a multiple stakeholder view: Progress, emerging trends, and prospects. Journal of Management, 36, 1040–1064.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206309349308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tharenou, P., & Harvey, M. (2006). Examining the overseas staffing options utilized by Australian headquartered multinational corporations. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 17, 1095–1114.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09585190600697372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wu, P. C., & Ang, S. H. (2011). The impact of expatriate supporting practices and cultural intelligence on cross-cultural adjustment and performance of expatriates in Singapore. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 22(13), 2683–2702.  https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2011.599956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations