Research led by Kent Business School (University of Kent) has found that social mobility i.e., the link between an individual’s occupation and income and their social strata in society, is likely to generate class-based work-life conflict.

The research published by Work, Employment and Society demonstrates that people who stay at the same social class as their childhood origins find the process of moving between work and home life reasonably effortless. However, those who are socially mobile find it far more challenging to move between home and work.

Led by Dr Samantha Evans (Kent Business School) alongside Dr Madeleine Wyatt (King’s College London), the study found that working-class participants spoke of being mocked for their social class, having complaints made about their accent and being introduced as ‘common’ at both work and home environments. This triggered behaviours such as trying to change their accent, withdrawing from friends and family, or resigning from a job when they felt that their social class did not fit with that of their colleagues.

This study challenges the common-held assumption that social mobility is inherently beneficial.

Dr Evans said: ‘Our research highlights the problem that inequality in the workplace based on social class is still very much felt. Participants of the study who felt affected by social mobility stressed that they felt like they were in different worlds and felt inadequate. Employers seeking to improve social mobility and diversity in the workplace need to consider the work-life interplay of all staff, the problems that individuals may face and the support they may need.’

The research paper ‘A Bridge over Troubled Borders: Social Class and the Interplay between Work and Life’ is published by Work, Employment and Society. doi: 10.1177/09500170211041304