In search of perfect boundaries? Entrepreneurs’ work-life balance

Date02 September 2019
Publication Date02 September 2019
AuthorToyin Ajibade Adisa,Gbolahan Gbadamosi,Tonbara Mordi,Chima Mordi
SubjectHr & organizational behaviour,Global hrm
In search of perfect boundaries?
Entrepreneurswork-life balance
Toyin Ajibade Adisa
Department of Business and Law, University of East London, London, UK
Gbolahan Gbadamosi
Leadership, Strategy and Organisation Department,
Bournemouth University, Poole, UK
Tonbara Mordi
Department of Business and Law, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK, and
Chima Mordi
College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences, Brunel Univeristy, London, UK
Purpose Does the self-employed nature of entrepreneursbusiness ventures mean that they have perfect
boundaries between their work and nonwork lives? Drawing on border theory, the purpose of this paper is to
examine entrepreneursworklife balance (WLB) in terms of how they construct and manage the borders
between their work and nonwork lives.
Design/methodology/approach The authors adopt a qualitative research approach to enhance their
insight into entrepreneursWLB using border theory. The study benefits from its empirical focus on Nigerian
migrants in London who represent a distinct minority group living in urban areas in the developed world.
Data for the study was collected over a three-month period, utilising semi-structured interviews as the
primary method of data collection.
Findings The studys findings indicate that entrepreneurs prioritise workover lifeand reveal that
entrepreneurs have little desire for boundaries as they work everywhere, which makes long working hours
prevalent among them. Furthermore, the findings bring to the fore the prevalent social anomaly of
entrepreneurs preferring to be unmarried, single and even divorced as a result of or associated with the
entrepreneursboundaries creation and management.
Research limitations/implications The extent to which the findings of this research can be generalised
is constrained by the limited and selected sample of the research.
Practical implications Research on human resource management (HRM) in small- and medium-sized
enterprises(SMEs) or businesses in which entrepreneurs operate is stillunder developed. The issue of the size
and the nature of an organisation (i.e. labour or product market influences, ownership structures, etc.) have
profoundimplications for humanresources (HR) structures,policies and practicesand the quality of the WLB of
entrepreneurs. Research on HRM and entrepreneurship is still evolving. Consequently, HRM in several
entrepreneurial business ventures is sometimes (if not often) organisationally fluid and ad hoc. The main
implicationfor this work environmentis that there may be little structurein HRM policies and processesto help
self-employedentrepreneurs in their ability to comprehensively manage bordercrossing and to achieve WLB.
Originality/value This paper provides valuable insights into entrepreneurswork/nonwork boundaries,
which is hugely influenced by the commodification of time and money. It also enriches worklife border
theory and its social constructionist perspective.
Keywords Mixed methodologies, Entrepreneurship, Qualitative, Flexibility, Work-life balance (WLB),
Small to medium size enterprises (SME)
Paper type Research paper
In todays world of extreme jobs (Hewlett and Luce, 2006), extreme parenting (Jong, 2010),
and a fervent search for balance(Trunk, 2007), understanding how individuals construct
and manage the boundaries between their work and nonwork lives is critical (Annink et al.,
2016; Gordon et al., 2017; Trefalt, 2013). This is perhaps the reason boundary management,
in the context of the interrelationship between a persons work and personal life continues to
receive increased attention within organisational studies (Clark, 2000; Kreiner et al., 2009;
Personnel Review
Vol. 48 No. 6, 2019
pp. 1634-1651
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/PR-06-2018-0197
Received 4 June 2018
Revised 18 November 2018
3 January 2019
Accepted 4 April 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Shumate and Fulk, 2004; Munkejord, 2017). Most of these studies, however, exclusively
focused on intersects and the relationships between employees and their organisations with
respect to the boundaries between work and home/family domains.
An entrepreneurs jobs can be very stressful, balancing work and nonwork obligations is
often difficult for them (Forson, 2013). Entrepreneurs are unique in that they take on the
riskbetween buyers and sellers (Barringer and Ireland, 2016). Entrepreneurs are employers
of labour; they are not employed (Fayolle and Gailly, 2008). There are more than 582m
entrepreneurs in the world (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2018).
Furthermore, an increasing number of people around the world continue to launch
entrepreneurial ventures to establish themselves as entrepreneurs (Nair and Pandey, 2006).
The success of entrepreneurs depends largely on their imagination, their vision, their
innovativeness, their ability to takerisks, and sometimes their ability tochallenge traditional
cultural and societal etiquettes (Mathew and Panchanatham, 2011). For entrepreneurs,
financial success, personal satisfaction and the ability to balance work and nonwork
responsibilities are crucial success factors (Kirkwood, 2016).
Helping employees to achieve a satisfactory balance between their work and personal
lives has been one of the dominant issues in human resource management (HRM) in recent
years (Adisa et al., 2017; Parris et al., 2008). Indeed, research has investigated employees
worklife balance (WLB) within the organisational setting (Adisa et al., 2017; Carlson et al.,
2009; Eby et al., 2005). Hundreds of academic articles have been published on employees
workfamily conflict, workfamily enrichment and workfamily interface using diverse
samples from diverse countries (Adisa et al., 2016; Parasuraman and Greenhaus, 2002;
ODriscoll et al., 2006).
A dominant percentage of these studies concentrate on the work and family lives of
employees who work for traditional organisations. Over four decades ago, Kanter (1977)
explained the myth of separate worldsand the inexorable nexus between work and home
lives. She argued that organisations are structured in such a way that their leaders are
inconsiderate of or ignore employeeslives outside of work. What then are the approaches
and attitudes of self-employed entrepreneurs, who constitute the leadership of their various
businesses, towards WLB? According to Clark (2000), people shape their environments and
they are also shaped by their environments. This dual status of determining and being
determined by ones work and nonwork environments necessitates a study of how
self-employed entrepreneurs construct the boundaries between their work and nonwork
lives to achieve WLB. This is a gap in the literature that has not been sufficiently explored
on an empirical basis. Self-employment through some form of entrepreneurship has become
dominant in most societies, sometimes often associated with the high incidence of
unemployment. Consequently, research on how entrepreneurs create, maintain, or change
boundaries (between their work and personal lives) in order to simplify, classify, and make
sense of the world around them is timely and valuable.
In a European survey, Hatfield (2015) reported that 45 per cent of citizens expressed
preference for self-employment over being in paid employment. The desire to find a balance
between ones work and personal lives has also been reported as a reason for
self-employment (Hilbrecht and Lero, 2014). Some researchers have pointed to the attendant
high job demands evidenced through long working hours and job insecurity among others
(Annink et al., 2015; Ebbers and Piper, 2017). Annink et al. (2015) also argued that job
demands and resources operate differently for employed persons compared with those who
are self-employed.
This paper posits that the WLB of people who are employed by organisations
(employees) is not the same as the WLB of self-employed entrepreneurs. This is because
self-employed entrepreneurs may enjoy some level of freedom and independence, more than
is enjoyed by employees of regular organisations (Sullivan, 2018). This is especially the case

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