on helping professionals such as firefighters. According to Kinman,
there are two ways in which work can prevent the achievement of
balance: time-based conflict and strain-based conflict.
“Time-based work-life conflict is where the time spent at work
takes time away from other activities such as hobbies, leisure, fit-
ness, and spending time with family and friends,” says Kinman.
“Strain-based conflict is where somebody may be away from work,
but rather than spending the time relaxing and recovering from
Both types of work-life conflict prevent a person from being able to
focus on other areas of life. “They are unable to relax and be mentally
as well as physically present,” and this lack of balance can lead to
“fatigue, poor sleep, and can confine the firefighter to a cycle of not
being able to recover from the demands of work,” explains Kinman.
It is important to have a properly rested and energetic body and
mind, ready to take on the challenges of being in the fire service.
To achieve this, you need to be able to thoroughly wind down after
work and enjoy what the rest of your life has to offer. Work-life
balance is important, as it will protect against time and strain
conflict while allowing for a more fulfilling lifestyle.
According to Kinman’s research, job role demands and ineffective
organizational change lead to work-life conflict and, at the same
time, reduced work-life enrichment (the extent to which positive
work and home experiences interact to improve quality of life and
performance). “A poor work-life balance can be particularly serious
for people working in stressful roles in safety critical jobs,” she says.
“Adequate rest is essential and people need to switch off from work
to restore their mental and physical energy for the next shift.”
JOB DEMAND AND RESOURCES
In her research, Kinman found that firefighters who spent more
of their personal time worrying about work tended to have a poorer
work-life balance, and this also exacerbated the negative impact of job
demands. Based on a study by Professor Evangelia Demerouti and
colleagues, every job brings with it certain risk factors.
1 These factors
may be split into two categories: job demands and job resources. Job
demands are the organizational, psychological, physical, and social
elements of the job, such as work pressure, which need skill and effort
to execute. Job resources are the functionalities like role autonomy
that help people deal with the demands. Job demands include workload, relationship difficulties with colleagues, and change management issues, while resources include support from colleagues and
managers, role clarity, and job control. As such, job resources can
often act as cushions that soften the impact of job demands.
In 2015, a leading career portal, CareerCast, named firefighting
as the most stressful job.
2 Firefighters witness more trauma than the
average person, and without work-life balance, such experiences can
adversely affect life both on and off the job, including relationships.
“Many firefighters work shifts, and this can impair the quality of
personal relationships,” says Kinman. “It is also common for work-
life conflict to manifest itself as conflict with family and friends or a
need to withdraw from them—emotional distancing and withdrawal
If work-life balance is not present then needs, such as being
able to wind down and process the events of a shift, can become
problematic. Work-life balance allows for time to unwind and
relate to others in a healthy way. In a job as intense as firefighting,
it is equally critical to achieve detachment for a healthy approach
to balancing work and personal space.
HOW TO ACHIEVE WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Professor Kinman highlights that if there is adequate support
from colleagues and senior members in the fire service, the strain
of work may be more easily dealt with. Indeed, if the workplace
is protected from unnecessary emotional distress, then that is one
step toward work-life balance, with firefighters not needing to
carry that emotional distress home.
“It is vital for firefighters to switch off mentally from work when
off duty, but they are likely to need a transition period that helps
them move from work mode into their personal life,” advises Kinman, explaining that many firefighters leave their shift with high
adrenaline levels, and this can hinder sleep. Therefore, there is a
need for relaxation. She recommends firefighters find activities that
Firefighters witness more trauma than
the average person, and without work-life
balance, such experiences can adversely
affect life both on and off the job, including
relationships. (Photo by Pixabay.)
Why is it so important? BY NICOLA DAVIES