International technology companies struggling to balance productivity with worker quality of life


New study suggests how employers can offer a better work life and increase efficiency

BACKGROUND: Researchers have completed an intensive four year study (funded by National Science Foundation) that addresses the conundrum between worker productivity and the need for work life balance. Although they studies the crucial global Information Technology (IT) workforce, the key findings apply to all workers.

Research by University of Louisville IT professor Manju Ahuja, Ph.D. learned that when workers must constantly collaborate with their co-workers across national, time zone, and cultural boundaries – as they commonly do in the global IT and many other industries – it often results in serious work-life conflict (WLC). Their research shows that this practice – if not addressed – can lead to lower productivity and higher turnover.

“Because this coordination is happening in different time zones, cultures and languages, it’s very taxing because it’s not happening during normal business hours and someone is on a conference call at 5 a.m.,” Ahuja said. “You can do this for a week or month, but anytime longer than that hurts overall productivity. This can result in the workers looking for a new job or a new line of work, meaning the employer now has to hire and retrain – which costs a lot of money.”


  • It is commonly thought that flexibility of schedules is good for lowering WLC. In fact, it can actually increase WLC of employees.
  • The higher the number of locations and time zones that must be coordinated, the higher level of WLC workers are likely to experience.
  • We found that gender does not matter, but the dependent care needs do matter. 


  • Different IT workers have different work-life balance needs, so organizations should provide a menu of policy options employees can choose from.
  • WLC levels can be different for different IT projects.
  • Flexibility of schedules can actually increase WLC.
  • WLC levels seem to affect turnover, but not performance in the short term.

The report produced by Ahuja, and University of Virginia professors Saonee and Suprateek Sarker can be viewed online. Ahuja is available for further comment at 812–322-3454 or mailto:[email protected].