Supervisor support can tip work/family balance into equilibrium

Topic: Work-Life Balance

Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior (online pre-publication)

Article: A comparison of types of social support for lower-skill workers: Evidence for the importance of family supportive supervisors.

Authors: Muse, L. A., Pichler, S.

Reviewed by: Larry Martinez

Worklifebalance Most of what we know from organizational research is based off of samples of either convenience samples (mostly college students) or white-collar employees (e.g., nurses, accountants, managers).  Most research does not specifically target blue-collar or lower level employees, despite the fact that the majority of jobs are at lower levels.  This is especially true in work/family balance literature.  In addition, few studies examine simultaneously how work interferes with family AND how family interferes with work.  However, Muse and Pichler (in press) focused on these issues directly. 

Lower skilled workers may be especially prone to not being able to utilize public and/or organizational policies that could help relieve stress between work and family obligations because they often face lower job stability and less bargaining power than highly skilled workers.  However, the results of this study suggest that these types of support are also critical for lower skilled workers. 

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Work-Life Spillover has a Positive Side?

Topic: Work-Life Balance

Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (SEP 2010)

Article: Meta-Analytic Review of the Consequences Associated with Work-Family Enrichment

Authors: L. A. McNall, J. M. Nicklin, A. D. Masuda

Reviewed By: Lauren A. Wood

Index With the increasing number of dual-income earning couples, organizations are taking more of an interest in work-life balance practices. Much research on work-family conflict has linked high conflict to low job satisfaction, low life satisfaction, high stress levels, increased health complaints, and greater turnover intentions. However, a smaller body of research has taken a spin to work-life balance by examining the potential, positive effects of work-family spillover know as work-family enrichment (e.g., improving the quality of work or family experiences). As with work-family conflict, enrichment is thought to stem from two primary sources: work influencing family (WFE) attitudes and behaviors and family influencing work (FWE) attitudes and behaviors.

The current meta-analysis examines both work and family domains as sources of enrichment (WFE and FWE), by investigating both domains’ effects on work-related outcomes (i.e., job satisfaction, organizational commitment), non work-related outcomes (i.e., family satisfaction, life satisfaction) and health-related outcomes (i.e., physical / mental health). The results reveal that overall, both WFE and FWE are positively associated with positive work outcomes, non work-related outcomes, as well as health-related outcomes. This suggests that enrichment in one domain does indeed have a positive effect on other areas of life.

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Relax! Weekend Recovery Does a Career Good!

Topic: Work-Life Balance, Stress

Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (NOV 2010)

Article: The weekend matters: Relationships between stress recovery and affective experiences

Authors: Fritz, C., Sonnentag, S., Spector, P. E., & McInroe, J.

Reviewed by: Charleen Maher

Images Admit it. We all look forward to the weekend after a long week at work. Here’s another reason to look forward to it: Research finds that it’s important to emotionally recover from stressful work demands. A recent study by Binnewies et al. (click here for the IOATWORK review) found that mentally detaching oneself from work, relaxing, and engaging in non job-related tasks during the weekend helps employees feel recovered during the following work week.  This leads to better self-reported performance and citizenship behaviors as well as increased initiative to complete work tasks.  These are positive outcomes for organizations, but when it comes to employees, there are more specific emotional benefits to consider.

The current study by Fritz et al. examined the effect of several types of weekend recovery experiences on both positive and negative feelings. Relaxation during the weekend increased positive feelings (joviality, serenity, self-assurance) and decreased negative feelings (fear, hostility, sadness) by the end of the weekend. Engaging in mastery experiences (activities that promote challenge and provide opportunities to learn new skills) during the weekend was related to increased positive feelings (joviality, serenity, self-assurance).  Finally, psychological detachment (mentally distancing oneself from work) was also related to increased positive feelings (only joviality and serenity) by the end of the weekend. 

The weekend isn’t always full of positive recovery experiences, however. 

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Go Ahead, Take That Vacation – It’s Good For You…and Your Company!

Topic: Burnout, Wellness, Work-Life Balance

Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (JAN 2011)

Article: How long do you benefit from vacation? A closer look at the fade-out of vacation effects

Authors: J. Kuhnel and S. Sonnentag

Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Images We all look forward to vacations and other extended breaks from our hectic work schedules, and fortunately, the case is building for the importance of these hiatuses from work.  Research suggests that because normal work demands drain our limited physical and mental resources, employees need sufficient time to recharge their batteries if they are to operate at full capacity on the job. 

Research by Kuhnel and Sonnentag (2011) shows that vacation time can positively impact employees’ psychological well-being when they return to the job.  In their study of German teachers, vacation time was favorably related to work engagement and burnout after returning to work.  In other words, after returning from vacation, teachers tended to report high levels of work engagement and low levels of burnout.  The benefits of vacation time, however, dropped off after about one month back on the job.

But why exactly do the benefits of vacations wear off over time?  The authors found that job demands (e.g., student behavior problems, time pressures in this particular study) counteract the positive benefits of vacation time over time.  Said another way, while vacations help us recharge our batteries, job demands begin to take their toll and drain our limited resources after some time back on the job.  However, the authors found that experiencing leisure time following vacation helps preserve the positive effects of vacation on employee well-being.

Results such as these highlight the importance of taking vacation time. 

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When Helping Hurts: The Dark Side of Organizational Citizenship Behaviors

Topic:  Citizenship Behavior, Work-Life Balance

Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (AUG 2010)

Article: Citizenship under pressure: What’s a good soldier to do?

Author: M. C. Bolino, W. H. Turnley, J. B. Gilstrap, & M. M. Sauzo

Reviewed by: Sarah Teague

Images Organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) are defined as voluntary behaviors that facilitate organizational functioning but are not formally rewarded by the organization. The presence of these behaviors has consistently been shown to benefit both individual and organizational outcomes. In recent years, however, the accuracy of this definition has come into question as the degree to which employees engage in OCBs (or don’t) may actually be impacting the way they are evaluated by the organization. In the midst of the field’s infatuation with the impact of good deeds, the potentially dark side of OCBs has been largely neglected – a state of affairs that Bolino and colleagues intended to correct.

The authors of the current study suggest that increased expectations for employee involvement with the organization outside of work, along with the impact it may have on performance evaluations, has led to what they call citizenship pressure.  Citizenship pressure refers to “a specific job demand in which an employee feels pressured to perform OCBs, and it is conceptualized as distinct from related topics such as role overload and OCB norms. The authors suggested that citizenship pressure would be positively related to OCBs but also to work-family conflict (i.e. work demands interfering with family), work-leisure conflict (i.e. work demands interfering with general personal time away from work), job stress, and intentions to quit.

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When Mental Detachment from Work is a Must

Topic: Stress, Wellness, Work-Life Balance

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (AUG 2010)

Article: Staying well and engaged when demands are high: The role of psychological detachment

Authors: S. Sonnentag, C. Binnewies, and E.J. Mojza

Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger


Index When we’re faced with high job demands at work, stress and emotional burnout often lurk right around the corner.  Regardless of the potentially harmful effects of high job demands, they’re a reality for many of us.  But before we  throw up our  hands in surrender when work piles up,  there are buffers against the dreaded consequences of excessive job demands.  One such buffer is known as psychological detachment, which is a fancy term for “leaving work at work” and devoting mental resources to non-work-related things while not on the clock. 

In a recent study, Sonnentag et al. (2010) explored how psychological detachment helps employees stay healthy and engaged over time when job demands are high.  The findings suggest that employees who do not detach themselves from work during non-work times experience increased emotional burnout over time (one year later in the study).  High job demands also have detrimental effects on employees’ physical health and work engagement, but only for those who do not psychologically detach themselves from work.  For employees who do “leave work at work”, high job demands do NOT appear to lead to lower work engagement, increased physical health issues or increased burnout.  

Sonnentag et al.’s study reminds us that preoccupying ourselves with work during our off time (e.g., evenings, weekends, vacations) can lead to health issues and lower work engagement. 

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Play Hard, Rest Hard and Maximize Your Performance

Topic: Work-Life Balance

Publication: Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (JUN 2010)

Article: Recovery during the weekend and fluctuations in weekly job performance: A week-level study examining intra-individual relationships

Authors: C. Binnewies, S. Sonnentag, and E.J. Mojza

Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

42-18707952 We all know that working hard during the work week is important. But a recent study by Binnewies et al. (2010) suggests that playing and resting hard over the weekend also plays an important part in determining employees’ performance at work.  Finally, research in support of my Friday afternoon naps and Saturday golf game!

In their study of white collar employees in Germany, Binnewies et al. explored factors that contribute to employees feeling mentally and physically refreshed after the weekend and how feeling refreshed affects subsequent job performance during the week.  The authors suggest that the opportunity to recover over the weekend is vital for restoring employees’ valuable mental and physical resources that get depleted over the course of the work week.

Binnewies et al. identified three contributors to recovery over the weekend: (1) mentally detaching oneself from work (not thinking about work issues/projects), relaxing, and engaging in non job-related tasks/projects that allow for personal achievement (e.g., competitive leisure activity, hobby).  Engaging in these kinds of activities over the weekend helps employees feel refreshed and recovered at the beginning of the following work week which in turns leads to better self-reported performance at work, more self-reported organizational citizenship behaviors and increased personal initiative to complete work tasks.   

One potential implication of these findings is that employees who continue to mentally focus on work during the weekend in lieu of relaxing and participating in leisure activities may actually be sabotaging themselves for the following work week.  However, Binnewies et al. do mention that it is possible that recovery during the work week (e.g., in the evenings) may potentially compensate for lack of recovery over the weekend.  Nevertheless, their results support what many of us probably agree with; that it is vital for employees to replenish their mental and physical resources in order to perform at a high level.  

Finally, while many organizations already place a heavy focus on work-life balance, it is important for organizations to promote employees’ recovery while not at work.  Studies like this remind us that overburdening employees with work during non-work times can backfire in terms of reduced productivity as well as a host of other negative individual (e.g., increased stress, mental and physical health problems) and organizational outcomes (e.g., increased health care costs, increased absenteeism and turnover).

Binnewies, C., Sonnentag, S., & Mojza, E.J. (2010). Recovery during the weekend and fluctuations in weekly job performance: A week-level study examining intra-individual relationships.  Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83, 419-441.

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The Overwhelming Effect of Job Demands on Spillover

Topic: Stress, Work-Life Balance

Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior (JUN 2010)

Article: The costs of today’s jobs: Job characteristics and organizational supports as antecedents of negative spillover

Authors: A.R. Grotto and K.S. Lyness

Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Images Negative work-to-nonwork spillover occurs when employees’ negative moods, behaviors, etc. from work spill over into other parts of their lives (e.g., family life).  Grotto and Lyness (2010) recently investigated several factors that lead employees to experience negative spillover, including job demands and the availability of organizational support. 

Based on a representative sample of 1178 working adults in the U.S. (from “the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce”), Grotto and Lyness found that high degrees of autonomy on the job and opportunities to develop one’s skills were associated with a reduction in negative spillover – that’s the good news.  The bad news, however, is that job demands such as the degree to which employees are required to take work home, time demands, (e.g., excessive work hours) and strain-based work demands (e.g., heavy workload, difficulty of the work) were associated with an increase in negative spillover.

Interestingly, Grotto and Lyness note that while much of the research on spillover has focused on the possible buffering effects of various organizational supports, their results suggest that job demands were by far the biggest contributor to spillover. 

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The Organizational Benefits of Work Life Balance

Topic: Work-Life Balance
Publication: Business Horizons
Article: Embracing the whole individual: Advantages of a dual-centric perspective of work and life
Authors: Bourne, K.A., Wilson, F., Lester, S.W., & Kickul, J.
Reviewed By: Samantha Paustian-Underdahl 

Balance  Researchers have found that 95% of employees rate their lives outside of work as equally or more important than their jobs (Bourne, Wilson, Lester, & Kickul, 2009). More than half of these survey respondents admitted to having a dual-centric perspective—equally prioritizing their non-work and work roles. 

Bourne and colleagues (2009) compared 2,013 employees throughout the Unites States who identified themselves as either dual-centric, non-work centric, or work-centric. They identified three major advantages for dual-centric employees: (1) greater overall satisfaction, (2) higher work-life balance satisfaction, and (3) less emotional exhaustion. This dual-centric perspective is not only beneficial to employees – research shows that when organizations embrace the needs of dual-centric employees, they can benefit through increased profits and growth.  These dual-centric employees, who made up 55% of the sample, were more likely to desire more time devoted to family, health and wellness, and time away from work. They also desired more time to volunteer and to further their education than both non-work and work-centric individuals.

Companies that consistently offer these types of employee benefits are featured on Fortune’s ‘‘100 Best Companies to Work For’’ list. These companies outperform the S&P 500, with a 3-year total annualized stock market return of 37% versus 25%, a 5-year return of 34% versus 25%, and a 10-year return of 21% versus 17% (Levering, Moskowitz, Garcia, & Vell-Zarb, 2000). Simon and DeVaro (2006) also found that companies on Fortune’s list earn significantly higher customer satisfaction ratings than firms not on the list. Perhaps the greatest impact of these best work-life balance practices arises from the ability of ‘‘100 Best’’ companies to more effectively recruit and retain top talent, with turnover rates that are on average 10%-15% lower than their industry averages.

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Part Time Workers

Topic: Work-Life Balance
Publication: British Journal of Management (JUN 2009)
Article: ‘Full time is a given here’: Part-time versus full-time job quality

Authors: McDonald, P., Bradley, L., & Brown, K.
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Clock More and more, employees are utilizing alternative work arrangements (flextime, flexplace) and part-time employment is increasing.  And surprise, surprise -  part-time employment is predominantly utilized by women.  It has been suggested that this is due to the increased flexibility that part-time work grants (to balance work and family demands).  But, what else should you know about part-time work?

McDonald, Bradley, and Brown (2009) interviewed 40 employees from an Australian government agency about their perceptions of the quality of part-time work.  Despite the advantage of providing flexibility to employees, McDonald and colleagues uncovered several intriguing disadvantages of part-time work:


·   Part-time employees are often relegated on lower status projects than full-time employees.

·   In some cases, part-time workers are devalued as team members and contributors to the organization.

·   Some supervisors feel that part-time employees are less committed to the organization than full-time employees (less time at work apparently = less commitment to some managers).

·   Some think that it is unnecessary to provide mentoring or developmental opportunities to part-time employees (they must be more concerned with family life, so why develop them as employees?).

All in all, before accepting a part-time job, applicants/employees should consider these potential disadvantages.  It seems that part-time workers are perceived very differently than their full-time peers (at least in this study).  An additional issue to consider is that part-time employment is overwhelmingly utilized by women (hmm, does gender inequality in the workplace ring a bell to anyone?).  Perhaps this trend contributes to many of the gender inequalities that are currently witnessed in the workplace.

McDonald, P., Bradley, L., & Brown, K. (2009). ‘Full time is a given here’: Part-time versus full-time job quality. British Journal of Management, 20, 143-157.

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