Working Papers

The Balancing Act

Corporate Norms and Practices that Affect Work-Life Balance


Balancing work and life outside of work is a challenge for many employees. Lack of work-life balance hampers employee performance and health, and prompts exit. It has especially negative effects on female employees because women do more domestic labor than men. We focus on firms in the tech sector and capture norms and practices concerning work-life balance by analyzing employees’ descriptions of their firms using natural-language-processing techniques. We develop and test arguments about who discusses work-life balance. One-quarter of employees discuss work-life balance. Supporting our arguments, these are mostly women in their 30s, and women in privately owned and smaller firms. Second, we develop and test arguments about opinions about work-life balance. Most tech employees express positive opinions about work-life balance. But, contrary to expectations, there are no gender differences. Analyzing a random sample of reviews for other themes revealed a common concern that firms did not have uniform work-life balance policies; instead, managers had considerable discretion to approve or deny employee requests to deal with life outside work. Because this is an important issue for many employees, male and female alike, all firms would gain from standard policies that offer cafeteria-style work-life-balance benefits that fit employees’ personal circumstances.