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An article by Elisa Castoro

Work-Life Balance

Work-Life Balance, an expression born in the 1970s in the United Kingdom, is today the focus of initiatives to improve the quality of life and well-being of the worker, reflecting the motivational and performance aspect, generating that necessary balance between the private and working spheres.

In achieving a positive Work-Life Balance, technology and corporate welfare prove to be an essential pair. The resulting benefits reflect not only on the individual worker but also on the company itself, as well as on society and the country.


Since the 19th century, training and renewing the workforce has been part of the corporate welfare process aimed at making the productive level profitable. Encouraging employee loyalty and cooperation is the foundation of that phenomenon in Italy called ‘paternalism’ or ‘advanced paternalism’, where one provides one’s employee with services ranging from training to housing to primary schooling. In Europe, it is the birth of factory regulations.

In the 20th century, difficulties have been faced, but important milestones were achieved.

In Italy, Adriano Olivetti, a far-sighted entrepreneur, pushes the concept of corporate welfare as far as the creation of crèches, summer camps, company canteens, infirmaries and clinics, and the expansion of health services.

The feminist movement aims to reignite old debates and battles on the rights of working mothers. The discussion expands on the work-life balance.


  • 1833 – Factory Act, United Kingdom: regulation of maximum hours of work for women and children in the manufacturing industry.
  • 1938 – Fair Labor Standard Act, USA: sets the maximum working hours per week at 44.
  • 1977 – The Quality of Employment Survey, USA
  • 1978 – The Pregnancy discrimination Act, USA

The 2000s, enhancement of human resources with increasing investment and programs in corporate welfare. The concept of ‘advanced paternalism’ is finally left behind.

Today, new corporate welfare measures contribute to the well-being of employees, increasing the work-life Balance. Increasing competitiveness and facilitating work-life balance” (Law No. 81 of 22 May 2017)

Agile work

Agile work, not only aimed at employee benefit but also at increasing competitiveness and improving the company’s own work, inaugurates the ”mode of execution of the employment relationship established by agreement between the parties without precise time or place of work constraints, with the possible use of technological tools for the performance of the work activity” (art. 18, l. 81/2017)

The pandemic brings with it the need to use technological tools remotely and the use of ”simplified” remote working (art. 90, paragraphs 3 and 4, of DL n.347220), which no longer emphasizes physical spaces and a fixed number of working hours, but shifts the focus to quality, flexibility and objectives, putting people at the centre.

According to research conducted by Randstad Employer Brand in 2021, Work-Life Balance is confirmed as a priority aspect in the choice of a company by Italian workers. The figures speak for 66% of the sample surveyed.

“In 2016 the company won the Randstad Award, i.e. it was the first company in which Italians would like to work. In particular, Ferrero was the favorite in four of the ten factors surveyed: job security, pleasant working atmosphere, good work-life balance, corporate social responsibility.”

[Ferrero: a tradition of corporate welfare and humanist capitalism, Francesco Sani]

Elisa Castoro

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