Productivity improves when employees feel they can effectively balance work and family

1.20.2016 Careers, Faculty News, News Release, Work-family balance

First study to link job performance reviews and work-life balance

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (January 20, 2015) — Many employees, including male and single employees as well as women and parents, desire work-life balance. Business publications tout work-life balance as a strategy for firms to recruit top talent. That may lead to assumptions that employees seeking to achieve work-life balance will work less and not as effectively, potentially harming business. Recent research at the Wake Forest University School of Business finds that this assumption may be far from the truth. In fact, work-life balance is good for business.

“It’s time to change the conversation,” says Julie Holliday Wayne, associate professor in the Wake Forest University School of Business. “Our research shows that when employees perceive better work-family balance, they are more satisfied with their jobs, more committed to their organizations, less likely to intend to quit, and most importantly, their bosses report that they perform their jobs better, all of which are likely to generate greater revenue and minimize costs for firms.”

Although work-life balance is a common topic of water cooler and media conversation, scientific study of the topic has lagged. Wayne and co-researchers from the University of Texas-Arlington and the University of South Florida surveyed 954 employees, 492 supervisors, and 453 spouses affiliated with a U.S. engineering consulting firm and their study was the first to link employee reports of work-family balance with supervisor and spouse ratings of job and family performance. Findings show that employees who experience greater work-family balance are happier in their jobs and families and they perform better at work and in their families. “This is good news in that work-family balance is beneficial for employees, their families, and the organizations in which they work”, Wayne adds.

To request a pdf of the full study, please click here.

Wayne says that businesses need to think about work-family balance differently and not just in terms of minimizing the extent to which work interferes with employees’ family lives. “In our study, how much employees perceived balance between work and family was much more important to their work attitudes and performance than was their perception of how much work interfered with family.”

She adds that studying balance is important to management practice and thinks that firms need to do more to foster employee perceptions of work-family balance. Managers can help ensure that employees align their time and attention across roles in ways consistent with their values and priorities. Also, as managers clarify expectations, provide regular feedback and play an active role in negotiating expectations at work, they may be better able to promote employees’ work-family balance.

The paper, “In Search of Balance: A Conceptual and Empirical Integration of Multiple Meanings of Work-Family Balance” is in-press at Personnel Psychology. The authors, in addition to Wake Forest’s Julie Wayne, are Marcus M. Butts and Wendy J. Casper of the University of Texas at Arlington and Tammy D. Allen of the University of South Florida.

Media contact: Stephanie Skordas at 336.758.4098 or skordas@wfu.edu.