Achieving work life balance is an increasingly important facet of modern life, especially for the growing cohort of millennials that are entering the workplace. Numerous studies have highlighted that for this generation of people, work is not something that stands alone from their life, but is instead a central part of it, and should therefore reflect the values and beliefs that are applied to the rest of our lives.
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This issue of work life balance becomes particularly tricky when we start to have a family, when the evaluation of the time we spend at work takes on an even starker tone. A recent study highlights a simple and straightforward intervention that can give us more time with our families without reducing the time we spend at work.
"These findings may encourage changes in the structure of jobs and culture of work organizations to support families," the researchers say.
The study was part of an evaluation undertaken by the Work, Family and Health Network into the effects of an intervention that was designed to reduce conflict between work and family. The intervention aimed to increase our control over our work schedule.
"The results show that we can change the way we work to improve family life," the authors say. "Our study shows that the workplace intervention had an effect on families by increasing parents’ time with their children."
The intervention, which is called the Support-Transform-Achieve-Results (STAR), provided training for managers to be supportive of the personal lives of their employees. Allowing them to alter the structure of work, thus giving employees more control over their schedules, while also encouraging employees to help and support one another.
The study analysed the time employees spent with their family having participated in the STAR program, with the results revealing a significant boost compared to employees in a random control group. Employees in the intervention reported nearly 40 minutes each day extra spent with their family, which is a stark contrast to the control group, who saw their home time slump by 24 minutes each day.
"Our study tested ideas from the work-home resource model, which holds that work demands can deplete parents’ resources, including their time and energy, with negative effects on their family functioning," the authors say. "By contrast, increasing work resources can increase the resources parents use in their family lives."
Interestingly, the intervention was shown to affect fathers and mothers very differently, with mums gaining far more family time from the project than fathers did, even though the amount of time spent at work did not really change for either sex. Mothers were still putting in around 46 hours a week, which was roughly the same as their male peers.
The authors suggest it might be that mothers were simply more inclined to utilise the opportunity presented by the STAR project to spend a greater amount of time with their family.
The study concludes by suggesting that efforts such as STAR are crucial to the creation of a satisfied and healthy workforce, which will in turn benefit the bottom line of employers.
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Does your own employer care about your work life balance? I’d love to hear your personal stories.