Flexible working isn’t always a good idea, says this sociologist

Researching Work-Life Balance is the life work of Kent Professor of Sociology Hyung Chung. She came to the conclusion that flexible working leads to self-exploitation, she writes in her book The flexibility paradox. “I give you freedom, but I expect excellence in return.”

When she moved from the United States to South Korea with her Korean parents at the age of 11, Heejung Chung’s entire life changed. She was used to a close-knit family life. Her mother and father spent a lot of time with their children, participating in sports and outdoor activities, which were not very common in the work ethic prevailing in the United States. But when the family left for Korea, none of the family members could escape the new strict work regime there. So are the children, who in Korea are expected to be busy with homework from 7:30 in the morning until 10 at night. “There were weeks when we didn’t see each other at all because our schedules were so different,” Chung recalls.

Her time in Korea planted the seed for what would become her life’s work: academic research on work-life balance. Chung studied in Seoul and Edinburgh, and completed her PhD in the Netherlands, at…

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