Work-Family Enrichment: Benefits of Combining Work and Family

work family Work-life balance is an issue of paramount importance to individuals, organizations, families, government and society. Techno-economic changes have increased the pressures on organizations and employees alike. Moreover, the increasing number of women in the workforce, nuclear families and dual earner couples has made work-life balance a crucial concern for employees as well as organizations across industries and occupations. The need for a balance between work and personal life has become an integral element of employee expectations from employers. Career success today is defined not only in terms of promotions and lucrative assignments but also the ability to balance between work and non-work life. In this regard helping employees to have a healthy work-life balance has become a challenge for employers and human resource professionals.

Research findings suggest that level of work-life balance significantly influences various individual, family and organization relevant outcomes such as employee health, employee commitment, job satisfaction and family satisfaction. However, these findings are derived from studies mostly conducted in western countries. Moreover, most of the research studies have focused on the negative aspect of work-life balance typically referred as “work-family conflict” (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985; Frone, 2003). It highlights the inherent incompatibility between the role requirements of work and non-work life (e.g. family). The underlying arguments are: work and family constitute two different domains and they have different set of demands and investments in terms of time, energy and behavior. Time and energy being limited when invested in one domain is likely to reduce the time and energy available for other domains. Hence, participation in multiple roles leads to negative consequences such as stress and poor health. Stress, negative emotion and behavior arising from one domain (e.g. work) often transfers to the other domains (e.g. family) affecting the performance in the target domain resulting in to work-life imbalance or work-family conflict. Based on these assumptions, research in this area has nearly exclusively focused on negative aspect of work-life balance for quite sometime.

More recently, theoretical and empirical research on the other possibilities of interconnectedness between work and family particularly, the extent to which work and family can positively influence each other or benefit each other is gaining popularity among researchers. Participation in multiple roles (e.g. work and family) is found to be beneficial for employees, and tthese benefits are found to outweigh the difficulties (Greenhaus & Powell, 2006). For example, the conflict and stress inherent in managing work and family responsibilities found to be counterbalanced by the socio-psychological benefits that stem from participating in the work and family roles (Barnett and Hyde, 2001). Positive affective states, attitudes, values, skills generated in one role are found to positively influence the other role (Greenhaus & Powell, 2006). These understandings have recently drawn attention of researchers to the need to compliment the focus on work-family conflict by examining the positive dimension of work-life balance generally referred as “work-family enrichment”. The increasing emphasis on the positive interaction between work and family is consistent with the emerging trends in positive psychology (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) and positive organizational behavior (Luthans, 2002) that focus on the strengths and optimal functioning rather than on weaknesses and malfunctioning of individual as well as social systems.

Given this background, in my Ph.D. thesis, I examined how and to what extent an individual’s work and family life positively influence each other and examined the impact of this interaction on her/his attitude, behavior and work performance on a sample of 485 employees working across organizations in India through a survey questionnaire and structured interviews. Some of the specific objectives of my study were to:

  • Explore work-family conflict and work-family enrichment dimensions of work-life balance
  • Identify the determinants of work-family enrichment and its effect on attitudes and behaviors of employees
  • Identify organizational practices that deal with work-life balance issues
  • Advance recommendations that can be of practical aid to employees and human resources professionals in addressing issues of work-life balance.


Results based on qualitative and quantitative analyses of the responses suggest that the outcomes of combining work and family life are not always negative. Rather, working men and women in India do experience more work-family enrichment than work-family conflict although there was no significant gender difference in employee perceptions of work-family enrichment. Support from family members and supervisor, nature of job, work-life balance policies and family-friendly culture of the organizations emerged as the significant predictors of work-family enrichment. Work-family enrichment was found to positively influence employee job satisfaction, psychological well-being, organizational commitment and organizational citizenship behavior. Organizations do vary in their policies and practices with regard to work-life balance. Some of the common work-life balance policies and practices across organizations were found to be flexi-time and maternity leave and benefits.

Implications of this study are many. Understanding the level of work-family enrichment of employees will definitely help organizations developing strategies or initiatives to help employees effectively manage their work and non-work obligations. This, in turn, will ensure employee commitment and extra role performance.  Assessment of the perceived organizational family supportiveness will help employers evaluate the effectiveness of the existing culture and practices of their organization. The results from this research can be used to improve employee satisfaction, engagement, commitment and performance.

 

- Dr. Rupashree Baral (Ph.D., IIT Bombay). Assistant. Professor (HR & OB), NMIMS, Mumbai (views expressed in the article are that of the author)

References:

Barnett, R. C., & Hyde, J. S. (2001). Women, men, work, and family: An expansionist theory. American Psychologist, 56(10), 781-796.

Greenhaus, J. H. and Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles, Academy of Management Review, 10(1), 76-88.

Greenhaus, J.H. and Powell, G.N. (2006). When Work and Family are Allies: a Theory of Work-Family Enrichment, Academy of Management Review, 31(1), 72-92

Luthans, F. (2002). The need for and meaning of positive organizational behavior, Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23(6), 695-706.

Seligman, Martin E. P. and Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive Psychology: An Introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14.

 

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