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Positive Steps for Creating Work-Life Fit

by Beth on November 4th, 2011

I’m attending the International Academy of Management and Business Conference in San Francisco next week. There I will present the results of a study I did about ways to reduce work-life conflict. Unfortunately, this is a topic that affects too many of us and it has negative consequences both personally and professionally.

I became interested in studying work-life conflict when I was doing research on women’s careers and realized what a huge impact it has on women’s decisions to walk away from their careers. Companies are losing valuable talent because they aren’t helping employees in their struggle to fulfill both work and life demands. And for many the challenge of making work work is escalating as companies reduce their workforce in order to survive lean economic times, which often increases the job demands placed upon employees.

For my study I surveyed 662 women who were members of an internet staffing service for women interested in flexible job opportunities. As expected, the findings showed that higher job demands lead to higher work-life conflict and that work-life conflict reduces job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and intentions to stay with one’s company.

But the good news is there are ways to reduce work-life conflict even if job demands can’t be reduced. My study showed that job control and supervisor support directly reduce work-life conflict. The most stressful situation employees face is when they have high job demands and little or no control over their work. Employees experience less conflict, despite high job demands, if they are able to choose how, when, and where to work. Also, meeting job demands is less stressful when employees have supportive supervisors who understand the difficulties of managing conflicting demands and are willing to help employees find solutions.

By focusing on positive interventions, like offering more job control and support, companies can help their employees create work-life fit.

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