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Maintaing A Work Family Balance Social Work Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 5465 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Achieving a balance between work and family is important to everyone. A balance between work and family responsibilities occurs when a person’s need to meet family commitments is accepted and respected in the workplace. Helping people achieve a balance between their family needs and their work commitments supports productive workers as well as committed family people.

Provisions to assist with the balance between work and family must be available to everyone in the workplace. However, not all people in the workplace will need to or wish to access these provisions.

These provisions reduce the barriers that may prevent people from entering and remaining in the workforce. They enable people with caring and family responsibilities to have equitable opportunities to progress in their career in the same way as those without these responsibilities.

Work and family balance provisions contribute to equality in the workplace by recognising that some workers have caring responsibilities. They enable those workers to have fair access to workplace opportunities.

Work-family facilitation, or the extent to which individuals’ participation in one life domain (e.g., work) is made easier by the skills, experiences, and opportunities gained by their participating in another. Frone (2003) suggested that work-family balance likely represents multiple dimensions composed of bidirectional (i.e., work-to­family and family-to-work) conflict and facilitation. Finally, Hammer (2003) called for an explicit expan­sion of the work-family paradigm to include work- family facilitation. Unfortunately, work-family facil­itation remains conceptually and empirically underdeveloped (Frone, 2003), and its distinction from conflict remains unclear.


Work-family conflict is “a form of interrole conflict in which role pres­sures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect” (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985, p. 77). The conflict does not operate in one direction. Family sometimes interferes with work (FIW), and work can interfere with family (WIF).

Further, some researchers suggest that conflicts between the work and family domains can occur when (a) time consumed by one role results in a lack of time for the other, (b) strain caused by the activities of one role makes it difficult to fulfill responsibilities in the other, or (c) in-role behavior in one domain is incompatible with the role behavior in the other domain. The time conflict is fairly obvious and probably most salient to us lay people (i.e., non­work family conflict experts). So is strain-if we’re totally stressed-out at work, we may not be able to deal with our family responsibilities and vice versa. However, the behavior component is less obvious. It has been sug­gested that we may sometimes behave in ways in one domain that is incom­patible with the other domain, such that the behavior in question does not facilitate fulfilling one’s roles in the other domain. For instance, being a per­fectionist may be useful at work, but the same behaviors may lead to less effective parenting or in other ways inhibit one from adequately fulfilling family responsibilities.

It should be noted that the conceptual grounding of time, strain, and behavior-based dimensions of work-family conflict have been debated. As Mike notes, they do not have strong empirical validation and may confound the work-family construct with its putative causes and outcomes.

What happens if work-family conflicts are not effectively managed? Work-family conflict can result in a number of dysfunctional outcomes, including burnout, decrease in mental well-being, deteriorating relationships, and job and life dissatisfaction. Presumably in the hopes that a better under­standing of the causes of work-family conflict will help people avoid it, con­siderable research has been directed toward trying to understand the antecedents of work-family conflict. Some of the things that lead to conflict are fairly intuitive. For example, working long hours, long commutes to and from work, workload, lack of management support, job involvement, and level of importance assigned to one’s work, all predict the extent to which WIF. Further, marital status, number of children, level of importance assigned to family roles, and lack of family support all contribute to FIW.

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Further, some people are more susceptible to work-family conflict than others. For instance, research suggests certain personality types are more inclined to experience work-family conflict. Neuroticism, Type A tenden­cies, and negative affectivity are all related to work-family conflict. As one might expect, age also relates to work-family conflict. There’s initial evi­dence that as we get older, we develop more effective strategies for dealing with these conflicts.

Objective:-Both academic and corporate research are confirming the existence of work-to-family and family-to-work spillover and the importance of healthy work-family interface for families and businesses. This is to prove that there is a need of balancing work & family in everybody’s life irrespective of the work he/she is doing & to maintain a healthy time table for the commencement of day to day activities.Our day to day schedule is becoming hectic.In such situation peoples are losing their temper, & are into wrong doings of all sort.Schedule needs to made for maintaining a healthy Work-Family Balance.People are so busy in making money that they started neglecting their family.They start giving more importance to their work and no time for family.This should not be the case as all these make a man a mechanized robot.They began neglecting all social activities,as a result their family suffers or feel their absence and sadness fill their lives. Unhappiness creeps in such family and destroys their life.We should keep in mind that Money is not everything in Life.Yes,we can say money as the need fulfiller.we can fullfill are needs with the money earned.But we should not be always money making oriented.If we neglect our family for making more money, then all money earned goes worthless ! So,apart from work giving quality time to the family is very essential.

Work-Family Balance

“Work- family balance” is a term that refers to an individual’s perceptions of the degree to which s/he is experiencing positive relationships between work and family roles, where the relationships are viewed as compatible and at equilibrium with each other. Like a fulcrum measuring the daily shifting weights of time and energy allocation between work and family life, the term, “work-family balance,” provides a metaphor to countervail the historical notion that work and family relationships can often be competing, at odds, and conflicting.

Sociologist Rosabeth Moss Kanter was one of the first scholars to critique the prevailing assumption that workplaces and jobs must be designed to separate work from family demands. She challenged this approach as being socially necessary for employee effectiveness in carrying out the dual demands of being a worker and being a family member. She noted that as employing organizations shifted to be more demographically diverse, these stereotyped views on appropriate work and family relationships needed to be re-viewed in order to prevent negative processes affecting individuals and groups who were demographically different from the majority. Women as a growing minority group in employing organizations were having difficulty rising up the hierarchy and being accepted as managers as they juggled employment, and caregiving and domestic demands. These same issues are still relevant to organizational studies today. Most men and women are juggling competing life demands outside of workplaces that still are largely designed based on a culture that work is the central role in employees’ lives, and a belief that workers should sacrifice family personal roles in order to be successful on the job.

From Work-Family Conflict To Work-Family Enrichment: Competing Negative and Positive Views

Traditionally, researchers have assumed a “win-lose” relationship between work and family and focused on work-family conflict, based on the belief that individuals have limited time and resources to allocate to their many life roles. Most research relevant to the notion of work-family balance has been conducted on work-family conflict, which can be viewed as the opposite of work-family balance.

The construct “work-family balance” is a more positive way of viewing work-family relationships. It is consistent with the emergence of a new stream of research being promulgated by such writers as Greenhaus and Powell on work-family enrichment, the idea that work and family can also enrich and complement each other. Overall, research on work-family balance can be characterized as being organized along these competing positive and negative perspectives.

Work-Family Conflict

The negative perspective on balancing work-family relationships emanates out of role conflict theory, which Goode noted assumed that having multiple roles is distracting, depletes resources, and results in role strain and overload. With regard to work family roles, when employees try to carry these competing demands out while being embedded in traditional workplaces that are designed to support separation of work and family demands, they are likely to experience higher work-family role conflict.

Greenhaus and Beutell wrote one of the earliest theoretical articles on work-family conflict. They defined work-family conflict as a type of inter-role conflict where work and family roles are incompatible and seen as competing for an individual’s time, energy, and behaviours on and off the job. Their work built on earlier role theory by Ebaugh and others who defined a role as involving behavioural expectations associated with a position in a social structure.

Early research on work and family didn’t necessarily differentiate where the role conflict was occurring, such as whether it was due to an inflexible job (work to family conflict) or whether it was due to not having back up child care for when a child was sick (family to work conflict) Later Kossek and Ozeki conducted a meta-analysis reviewing decades of studies that show that life and job satisfaction for men and women is affected by the type and direction of these competing role dynamics. Given women’s traditional greater responsibility for caregiving, work to family conflict was found to affect life satisfaction to a greater degree for women than for men. Job satisfaction for men and women was equally affected by family to work conflict. Understanding the type, direction, and source of the conflict can help organizations and managers design appropriate workplace interventions to support work-family balance.

For example, having to work overtime on a job and being forced to miss a child’s school event is an example of time-based work-to-family conflict. However, being absent from work because a babysitter did not show up is an example of time-based family- to- work conflict. For the overtime example, an organization might allow for just in time worker scheduling to allow those workers with the most interest in overtime to volunteer. In the other example, managing overtime wouldn’t solve the babysitter not showing up. Helping the employee find back-up care for emergencies or letting them work from home once in a while in emergencies would.

An example of energy-based family-to-work conflict is when an employee is too tired to work well in the morning because he or she was up all night with an ill spouse. An example of energy- based work to family conflict is when someone is too tired to cook dinner or clean the house, because of working too intensely on the job. In order to promote work- family balance to promote better energy allocation between roles, in the first example, the firm needs to provide dependent care support or leave from work. In the second example, the firm might need to increase staffing levels so the workload is dispersed among more workers, or provide stress management techniques that allow workers to take breaks.

An example of behaviour-based family-to-work conflict is when one is so stressed from a family demand, that the individual is unable to concentrate at work or exhibits private emotions such as crying at work that would be more associated with the private sphere. An example of behaviour- based work- to-family conflict is when someone comes home and yells at one’s spouse or kicks one’s pet because of anger related to work. In these cases, interventions to reduce the stress in the particular domain where it is occurring would result in better work-family balance.

Work-family enrichment.

The positive approach to studying work-family balance emanates from Seiber’s role accumulation theory which assumes that having multiple life roles can be psychologically enriching, as long as the roles are ones that the individual has high identity with, sees of good quality, and reap rewards and life privileges. Under a role accumulation perspective, a person can achieve balance by being able to regulate and have greater control over when where and how invest time and energy between work and family to ensure that they perceive they are accumulating positive outcomes from both roles. The more roles one has that provide positive rewards, the better off an individual is, unless s/he has too much too do from the sum of these roles (causing role overload) or has too many competing role demands. The assumption is that work and family balance have instrumental and affective paths. The instrumental path focuses on how positive skills and behaviours and rewards from one domain (such as income, learning how to manage people or solve problems) can help one perform better in the other domain. The affective path focused on the degree to which mood and emotions from one domain can seep in and positively impact how one feels, acts and behaves in the other domain. So if someone has a good day at work, s/he comes home and are able to have extra energy and emotions to allocate to the family. Or if one has a wonderful family life, s/he is able to bring these positive emotions to work.

A final set of studies focus on the processes of balancing relationships between work and family. Some writers focus on compensation- how having a better role quality and higher identity in one domain such as the work role may compensate for lower role quality and investment in another domain such as family. For example, an individual who highly identifies with work might invest more in work roles to compensate for a less fulfilling family life.

Other writers might focus on segmentation and integration processes, the degree to which individuals have preferences for keeping work and personal roles segmented or integrated. Job and organizational design can interact with preferences for the enactment of life roles and management of the work and family boundary. A study by Kossek, Lautsch, & Eaton on teleworking found that individuals who teleworked and adopted an integrative boundary management style were likely to experience higher work to family conflict but not family to work conflict than individuals who adopted a separation style. Their study showed that the more the workplace is brought into the home via job and organizational design, the more likely it increases work-to- family conflict, particularly for individuals who like to integrate work and family roles (say watching children while taking a work call).

Cross-over effects is another new area of study: how the work-family balance of one family member such as a wife or husband may transfer over positive and negative relationships to the other spouse. For example, if a spouse has a good or bad day at work the balance of the partner may be affected.

Direction Of Work- Family Interactions, Disciplinary Foci, and Levels of Analysis

It is also important to note that research on work-family balance is grounded in distinct disciplines that are not well integrated, which influences the direction and content of studies focus. Besides generally designing research studies as measuring generally positive or negative outcomes from balancing work and family, writers in the field have tended to focus on either how work affects family OR how family affects work. This tendency to assume a particular direction of relationship has ramifications for the measures and outcomes studies. In several handbooks such as Work and Life Integration and The Work and Family Handbook, the editors noted that researchers who study how family demands are affected by work demands often use different measures and focus on different levels of analysis in assessing work-family relationships then management scholars who might study how work responsibilities are affected by being a parent or a spouse.

One large cluster of studies focuses on how family demands affect work. Historically, much of the writing in the management and organizational literature followed this approach. A general assumption is that the more family and other nonwork demands and interests an individual has, the more likely work is going to be negative impacted. For example, researchers in this stream might measure the number of children an employee has, his or her marital status. They would then link these personal demographics to the degree to which a person experiences positive work attitudes (e.g., commitment, job satisfaction) and work behaviors (e.g., turnover, performance). The level of analysis tended to be largely individual and focused on the employees’ personal, family and work characteristics.

The other directional group of studies examines the different ways work impacts the family. Writers coming from this approach tend to emanate out of psychology and sociology and belief that the structure, stresses, and demands of work can make it more difficult for individuals to fulfill their family responsibilities as well as experiencing job stress at home. Some people refer to this negative seepage as negative spillover from work to home.

Writers from this perspective might measure the degree to which inflexible work hours, lack of supervisor support, job demands and the structure of the workplace, negatively impact family and personal outcomes (e.g., job satisfaction, equal participation in family and domestic roles, life satisfaction, work-life balance). Here the level of analysis tended to focus more on workplace, job and organizational level. Researchers also might typically study of the availability of policies to support work and family, and the degree to which organizational culture and managers provided a supportive culture and norms to facilitate use of policies as well as positive relationships between work and home. For example, an individual would not have to sacrifice their family life in order to get ahead at work.

Moving From Study of Work and Family To Study of Work and Life Integration

The future directions of the work and family field are moving from the notion of work and family balance and conflict to terms of growing acceptance of work and nonwork life balance or work and life balance. Such terms suggest that many employees, even those without dependents or visible forms of family related to caregiving can experience the need to seek work and family balance. It also suggests as men become more involved in caregiving and domestic roles and women more involved in work and breadwinning roles, conflict and enrichment may more strongly relate to the role an individual is enacting (e.g., caregiver or breadwinner) than gender.


Managing Work and Family

Surprisingly, our literature has more to say about the antecedents and con­sequences of work-family conflict and less on strategies to effectively man­age it. However, there are some studies that have explored this issue and just knowing what causes work-family conflict can lead to an understanding of how to effectively manage conflict.

Carefully consider work-family issues when choosing a job. The prede­cessors of this column once interviewed Kevin Murphy and asked him how he manages work-family conflict. One thing he did was to choose a job that would offer him flexibility to deal with his family life. For example, if a potential employer seemed less than favorable about bringing children to meetings, that wasn’t a job he wanted. Admittedly, not all of us have so many options to choose from that we can afford to be this selective, but it’s cer­tainly worth considering the type of environment that would be ideal and aiming for such positions. Be sure to find out how the organization you’re considering feels about bringing kids into work or if there is a strict culture of coming in early and working late. If the organization frowns upon anyone leaving before 5:00 and you have kids that need to picked up from school, that’s got to factor into your job decision or you could be facing years of con­flict. Some firms are “family friendly” while others have a reputation of not being so family friendly.

Further, don’t feel guilty or feel like you are settling by considering these issues. As Lillian points out, finding a job that allows you to meet your fam­ily’s needs is an issue of fit. We consider a host of fit issues when we make a job choice; why shouldn’t we also consider how the decision is going to fit other aspects of our life? In other words, it’s important to take a holistic approach when you’re searching for a job. Don’t just jump on the most pres­tigious offer or the one that offers the most money. Work-family issues must also be considered.

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Selection, Optimization, and Compensation (SOC). SOC is a life-man­agement coping style for work-family situations. Although related, SOC is different from time management. This coping style consists of being more selective in focusing on a few goals, persistence in order to achieve those goals, and seeking additional resources (e.g., child care) to compensate for lack of time. Basically, it is suggested that those experiencing work-family conflict should take the time to evaluate which goals are most important to them and focus on achieving those goals. Take the time to evaluate your goals and if the activities you engage in on a daily basis help you to meet those goals. Does reviewing a textbook help you meet your goals, or is it a task that takes considerable time but does not help you make progress toward one of your goals? If a task does not help you make progress toward a goal and you have the ability to avoid it (i.e., it’s not a requirement of your job), don’t hesitate to say no.

Further, it’s important to recognize that you don’t need to go it alone. You should find ways to compensate for lack of time. This may involve child care, paying to have your house cleaned, having groceries delivered to your home, or getting someone to walk your dog. Lillian points out that it may be easier for folks with money to compensate for lack of time because they can pay to outsource many of these things.

Research shows that application of SOC in both the work and family domains leads to lower job and family stressors which lowers work-family conflict (in both directions). For a more detailed account of this strategy see Baltes and Heydens-Gahir (2003).

Communicate your responsibilities to those at work and at home. As Lou points out, a very important part of managing work-family conflict is simply making those around you aware of your responsibilities. For instance, if you only have daycare certain times of the week and need to watch the kids when they’re not in daycare, tell your employer this schedule so you can be sure your home responsibilities are considered when meetings are arranged. You should have similar discussions with your significant other as well. There may be days he or she will need to make dinner or pick the kids up from school. It’s also a good idea to talk often. Responsibilities at both work and home may change so it’s important to inform everyone when that occurs. Also, you may find some things are not working out and you need to devise a new strategy to accommodate all of your responsibilities.

Time management. To minimize work-family conflict, it’s important to manage your time well. I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know, but let me add to this. Macan, Shahani, Dipboye, and Phillips (1990) suggest that time management can be broken down into three dimen­sions. First, goal setting and prioritization involve daily decisions about what is most important to be accomplished. Second, the mechanics of time man­agement include such activities as making “to do” lists. Finally, a preference for organization involves maintaining a methodical, organized approach to work. Just like the SOC model, the time-management model first stresses the importance of deciding on what goals are most important for you to achieve and making sure you focus on those goals

Increase your social network. I know some of you are balking at this sug­gestion. After all, if you’re struggling to make time for work and family, how on earth are you going to fit a social life into the equation? Who has time for friends? Well, believe it or not, there’s evidence that increased social support can help decrease work-family conflict. Further, Leslie’s own research sug­gests that decreasing social involvement in nonwork activities actually leads to higher levels of work-family conflict (Neal & Hammer, forthcoming). So, don’t quit spending time with friends because you feel like you have too much to do at home and at work. Doing so could make you less effective in both domains.

Future Research Trends

Research on work-family balance is only likely to increase among organizational scholars. One reason for heightened interest around the globe in work-family balance today is changing workforce demographics. A general trend around the world is a gradual but constant growth in the labor market participation of women. Using the U.S. as an example, which has some of the highest rates, research by the Families and Work Institute shows that 83% of all two-parent families with children under 18 have both parents working at least part of this time. Another study by Cohen reports that half of all children under 18 will live in a single parent home for at least part of their childhood in the U.S.

Besides individuals with children, work-family balance concerns affect employees in general. For example, research by the Families and Work Institute reports that one

third of employees say they have to choose between advancing in their jobs or devoting attention to their family or personal lives and one third will have managed elder care- care for a parent over the past year.

Another reason for growing interest relates technological transformations that have resulted in some workplaces operating 24-7 as well as the ability to telework and be constantly accessible to work and jobs by email and cell phone and pagers even when not formally at the workplace. With 24-7 operations, the definition of the typical workday and what work hours are “normal” to support work family balance are also likely to redefined. For example, a U.S. based view of a 9-5 Eastern time zone of normal working hours, may not provide balance for workers where it is the middle of the night in India or China.

Future research on work family balance will focus on differences in cross-cultural perceptions, how needs for balance shift over the life course, and how different jobs, family structures, and demographic groups may vary in their access to, perceptions of and outcomes from the level of work family balance they are afforded on and off the job. Multi-level research integrating individual and organizational perspectives and measures, and positive and negative measures is also likely to increase in future studies.

Job design and work and family rewards and resources are likely to become of particularly increasingly importance in studying work family balance and conflict with highest stresses at either end of the economic spectrum. Individuals in higher paid managerial jobs are likely to experience higher work conflict and a lower balance due to overwork. There will be too many work hours competing for individual time and energy and too high workloads.

Individuals at the lower end of the economic spectrum will experience work and family conflict more likely due to a lack of flexibility and ability to control when one works and a lack of economic resources to buy high quality child care and dependent care. Thus, employees throughout the organization’s hierarchy will experience lower work-family balance but for different reasons. This trend makes it critical for future research to not only measure conflict, but to assess the processes and reasons for conflict and the role of organizational and job structures, as well as family and social and cultural structures (such as how family responsibilities are shared or viewed as ought to be shared) in enhancing or mitigating conflict and balance. The more that workers have access to jobs enabling higher control how when and where they do their jobs and the amount of workload, and the more that communities are design to provider greater public and private supports to enable dual enactment in work and family roles, the more likely that members of society will have greater work-life balance.

Further Readings and References

Bond, J., Thompson, C., Galinsky, E., & Prottas, D. (2003). Highlights of the 2002 national study of the changing workforce. NY Families and Work Institute.

Cohen, S. (2002). Cohabitation and the declining marriage premium for men. Work and Occupations, 29,343-383..

Ebaugh, H. (1988). Becoming an ex: The process of role exit. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goode, W. (1960). A theory of role strain. American Sociological Review, 25, 483-496.

Greenhaus, G. & Powell. G. 2006. When work and family are allies: A theory of work-family enrichment. Academy of Management Review, 31, 72-92.

Greenhaus, J. & Beutell, N. 1985. Sources of conflict between work and fmaly roles. Academy of Management Review, 10: 76-88.

Hammer L.,Bauer T. Grandey A. (2003). Work-family conflict and work-related withdrawal behaviors. Journal of Business and Psychology.17, 419-436.

Kanter, R. (1977). Work and family in the United States: A critical review for research and policy. NY, NY: Russell Sage.

Kanter, R. M. (1977). Men and Women of the Corporation. New York: Basic Books.

Kossek, E., Lautsch, B., Eaton, S. 2006. Telecommuting, control, and boundary management: Correlates of policy use and practice, job control, and work-family effectiveness. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68, 347-367.

Kossek, E. E. & Lambert, S. (2005). Work And Life Integration: Organizational, Cultural and Psychological Perspectives. Mahwah, N.J.: LEA Press.

Kossek E. & Ozeki, C. (1998). Work-family conflict, policies and the job-life satisfaction relationship: A review and directions for work-family research. Journal of Applied Psychology.83: 139-149.fol

Pitt-Catsouphes, M., Kossek, E. & Sweet, S. (2006). The Work-Family Handbook: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives, Methods, and Approaches. Mahwah, N.J.: LEA Press.

Seiber, S. (1974). Toward a theory of role accumulation. American Sociological Review, 39, 567-578

Sources of Data(References):

1.Finding an Extra Day a Week: The Positive Influence of perceived Job Flexibility on Work and Family Life Balance. Published by: National Council on Family Relations

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/585774

2. The Impact of Job Characteristics on Work-to-Family Facilitation:

Testing a Theory and Distinguishing a


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