Work-family interface:

a local and global challenge

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Scientific interpretation

Balancing work and personal life is easier said than done. It creates complex problems for managers, who often have to take cultural diversity and employees’ different lifestyles into consideration as well. How can managers navigate these challenges? In a context of globalization and international corporate expansion, managers need to address, and adapt to, these differences.

To shed light on this problem and provide possible courses of action, Rajadhyaksha et al. (2018) offer an overview – for employees, their families, corporate and governmental decision makers – of recommendations for intervention to reduce the burden of reconciling family life and work life. The goal of the study was to better understand the work-family interface in different cultural contexts and to offer recommendations tailored to each of them.

Expert adviser

Isabelle LÉTOURNEAU, Associate Professor, Université de Sherbrooke

Authors

Étienne FOUQUET, Research Assistant, Université de Sherbrooke
Marie-Élise LABRECQUE, Research Professional, Université de Sherbrooke

This initiative was made possible through a collaboration with the Université de Sherbrooke.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY:

Work-family interface

Work-family interface refers to the way the negative and positive aspects of work and family interact with one other. This can take the form of conflict, when work- or family-related roles interfere with one another, or enrichment, when positive work experiences are transferred to personal life and vice-versa.

 

Job control

Ability of an employee to influence what happens in their work environment. This includes having the freedom to determine how, when and where work should be done, as well as the power to make decisions affecting work.

 

Family control

Ability to control what happens in the family environment.

 

How to cite this article

Rajadhyaksha, U., Korabik, K., Lero, D. S., Zugec, L., Hammer, L. B., et Beham, B. (2019). The work-family interface around the world: Implications and recommendations for policy and practice. Organizational Dynamics, 48(1), 1-11.

 

 

Method

Countries: Australia, Canada, China, the United States, India, Indonesia, Israel, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey
Number of participants: 3,000
Sex of participants: 50% men, 50% women

Method used:
Questionnaire assessing several cultural aspects related to work-family interface precursors (workload, family load, etc.) and consequences (intention to resign, family satisfaction, etc.):

  1. Classification into various economic and human development indicators established by the United Nations, including gender equality;
  2. Value assigned to individualism or collectivism;
  3. Attitude towards gender roles (traditional or egalitarian);
  4. Institutionalized support (organizational or public) or non-institutionalized support (from relatives).

Conditions : employees who are married or living with a partner, employed, and with at least one dependent child under the age of 21 living in the household

WHAT DO THE RESULTS OF THE STUDY TELL US?

On the basis of the responses given, the countries were grouped into two categories:

Anglo-European countries (Australia, Canada, Spain, the United States and Israel)

Asian countries (China, India, Indonesia, Taiwan and Turkey)

Cultural aspects

The UN’s economic and human development indicators

Priority given to the individual or the group

Individualism

 

Collectivisme

Gender equality

Attitude towards gender roles

Egalitarian

Traditionnal

Support type

Institutionalized

Non-institutionalized

Anglo-European countries (Australia, Canada, Spain, the United States and Israel)

Asian countries (China, India, Indonesia, Taiwan and Turkey)

Differences

  • Work overload is related to a high level of work-family conflict
  • Prioritizing tasks at home is related to a low level of work-family conflict, while trying to do everything at work and at home is related to a high level of work-family conflict
  • Family overload is related to a high level of work-family conflict and intention to resign
  • Greater benefits are derived from job control and family control, because they offset collectivist measures by restoring people’s power to act

Similarities

  • Work-family conflict is detrimental (↓ well-being, ↓ satisfaction, ↑ intention to resign) and work-family enrichment is beneficial (↑ family satisfaction, ↓ intention to resign)
  • Job control promotes work-family enrichment and family control promotes work-family enrichment
  • Satisfaction with respect to corporate work-life balance measures has positive consequences (↓ intention to resign, ↓ work-family conflict, ↑ work-family enrichment)
  • The support provided by the employee’s spouse or life partner is related to a reduction in work-family conflict
  • Establishing priorities at work is related to a lower level of work-family conflict
  • Employees having to meet high demands at work or at home are more likely to experience work-family conflict

Takeaway

There is no “ideal” culture when it comes to balancing work life and personal life. Regardless of the country, interventions should be: 1) adapted to the existing culture, 2) implemented at individual/family, organizational and governmental levels.

What can organizations do?

This section presents actions on the organizational level that will guide managers in their thinking.

Offer work-family balance measures

Actions

Workload flexibility

  • Part-time: normal work weeks consisting of 3 days or a total of 20 hours per week.
  • Job-sharing: two employees can share the responsibilities of one full-time job, each working part-time.

Work time flexibility

  • Flexible schedule: workdays begin and end at different times but the weekly number of hours worked is always the same.
  • Compressed schedule: a full-time job compressed into fewer days by lengthening workdays.
  • Variable schedule: work shifts starting at different times of the day, with the possibility of night work.
  • Seasonal flexibility or different schedules at different times during the year, in accordance with annual calendars.

Workplace flexibility

  • Telecommuting from home.
  • Satellite offices or neighbourhood work centres: several employees work out of a single location, away from the main work location, but closer to their homes.
  • Temporary offices: designating an office for use when needed by employees who often work off-site.

Career-stage flexibility

 

  • Alternate job requirements, by, for example, allowing an employee to work on the road for a period of time, then to work at the main office for another period.

Tailor employment conditions to employee needs

  • Extended leaves, such as vacation and sabbatical leave.
  • Parental leave policies for men and women.
  • Family leave policies to take care of older relatives or raise children.

Ensure that managers receive support

  • Train managers in behaviours conducive to work-family balance and in how to implement flexible work options.

Establish a family-friendly corporate culture

  • Change the mentality that sees work-family balance as a women’s issue only.
  • Question expectations about workload, and about working evenings, weekends and during vacations.
  • Adjust commuting times to give employees more time at home.

Move from an in-person work culture to a results-oriented culture

  • Consider having compensation and performance appraisals depend on results achieved rather than on time spent at work. This doesn’t mean establishing a “results at any cost” culture, but rather questioning physical work presence as the basis for efficiency.

Sound out employees regularly on their work-family balance needs and on their satisfaction with existing interventions

  • Ask employees for their ideas concerning strategies for balancing work and family and try to get a measure of consensus to implement them. Assess their level of satisfaction with respect to changes.

Provide optimal working conditions, in addition to training and coaching

  • Provide training on skills in establishing limits and priorities.
  • Help employees set realistic goals.
  • Encourage employees to have regular discussions with their manager about their priorities at work.
  • Make good use of technological tools to improve communication and planning.
  • Coach employees in defining their career goals and priorities.

Facilitate support for family control

  • Offer resource and guidance programs to help employees find child care and senior in-home care services, in addition to providing information and support related to parenting, childcare or senior care.

Encourage family-friendly practices, especially in Asian cultures

  • Offer employees advantages, such as the networking of resources to facilitate family planning. For example, in China, there are mobile apps that allow people to take advantage of short-term child care services.
  • Offer partial or full tuition refunds for employees or dependents.

COMMENTS FROM OUR EXPERT

Organizational measures that promote family-work balance should be complementary to family and governmental measures that already exist in a particular country. An organizational measure may be effective in one country but not in another due to the latter’s predominant culture. Organizational measures can also bring about changes in a country’s culture. For example, by being made available to men and women, organizational measures can foster a more egalitarian attitude towards gender and gender roles. These measures can also help people reconsider cultural aspects such as individualism or collectivism by offering them either a support network that they can be part of or greater independence in their actions related to work and personal life.

TO CITE THIS GLOBAL-WATCH SCIENTIFIC INTERPRETATION

Létourneau, I., Fouquet, E., Labrecque, M.-E. (2019). Work-family interface: a local and global challenge. Global-Watch Scientific Interpretation available at www.global-watch.com

TO CITE THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE BY THE AUTHORS OF THE STUDY

Rajadhyaksha, U., Korabik, K., Lero, D. S., Zugec, L., Hammer, L. B., et Beham, B. (2019). The work-family interface around the world: Implications and recommendations for policy and practice. Organizational Dynamics, 48(1), 1-11.

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