Work life balance of early childhood teachers: an investigation of the work early childhood teachers do outside of contracted hours
Research shows high quality programs, through strengthening children’s learning and developmental outcomes and fostering social participation, lead to long term positive effects on their later productivity. The last decade has seen national reform implemented to professionalise the ECEC workforce and improve children’s outcomes. There is emerging evidence, however, that the rising complexity and demands of educators’ work, including growing pressure of standardisation and accountability requirements, is increasing educators’ workload and impacting their private lives.
Based on prior research using time-use diaries to understand Australian educators’ work, this study examines early childhood teachers’ work life balance, for the first time, measuring the hours and work that Australian early childhood teachers do outside of their contracted hours and exploring the factors influencing their provision of the unpaid work. The study consists of two parts: Part one: using the time-use diary to record 18 teachers’ work outside of contracted hours over a week of seven days; Part two: conducting five semi-structured interviews.
The findings show that WOCH happened across the participants regardless of their age, location of their service (regional or metro), years of experience, or whether they are employed full time or part time. Their accounts demonstrate that teachers’ work life balance sits in the complex context of segmented yet highly integrated work life domains. Professional and personal lives of educators are indeed intertwined in principle and practice. The findings contribute to debunking social misconceptions perceiving early childhood work as ‘easy and all fun’, revealing the complex and challenging work of Australian ECEC teachers and urging more research to be done to understand the magnitude of WOCH which lies beneath the visible paid ECEC system, as unaccounted, unpaid and invisible labour costs.