The Work-Life Revolution: How Line Managers Can Drive Change - American Society of Employers - Heather Nezich

The Work-Life Revolution: How Line Managers Can Drive Change

Organizations can improve the work-life balance of their employees by training line managers in work-life support. This training reduces burnout in employees who have little control of when or where they work and increases family engagement of employees who have high work-life flexibility. 

Work-life flexibility is valuable for helping employees meet simultaneous work and home demands - their work-life balance. However, according to a study published recently in Human Resource Management (HRM), the successful implementation of a work-life balance policy in organizations has been affected by two key issues.

  1. Most organizations tend to believe that they can do little on the work-life flexibility front for employees whose jobs are designed with limited work life flexibility - the so-called work-life flexibility “have nots”, for example, frontline workers. Yet these individuals are susceptible to burnout due to the low control they have over boundaries and schedules.
  2. Employees with greater access to work-life flexibility - the so-called work-life flexibility “haves” - often do not take advantage of their flexibility to engage more fully in their work and family roles. This could be due to a lack of employee awareness about the work-life flexibility support provided by the organization and concerns by career-oriented employees about its possible negative consequences for their career advancement.

Organizations often assume that it is sufficient to merely offer work-life flexibility to facilitate better work engagement. However, what often gets overlooked is that people have different demands from their jobs but also in their family life.

“Looking at what we can do to improve people’s lives depending on their job is so important. Today many organizations offer lip service to work-life issues. They put in work-life policies, don’t train people, and forget about job design matters. But people have different needs depending on what they have to do in their job. Once you offer a work-life balance policy or think about how to create a work-life supportive organization, it is important to also look at people’s different job demands and constraints,” said Ellen Ernst Kossek, the lead author of the study and the Basil S. Turner Distinguished Professor of Management at Purdue University, USA.

Using a year-long randomized field experiment at a large public research university, the study found that for individuals with little control over boundaries and schedules, having a line manager who is trained in work-life support reduces emotional exhaustion - a key component of burnout. So, contrary to the widespread belief, the study shows that even for employees occupying jobs designed with less work-life flexibility, organizations can take action to create a more supportive work-life context, which helps to mitigate employee burnout.

In addition, the study found that having a line manager trained in work-life support encourages those with greater work-life flexibility to take advantage of work-life balance policies and increases family engagement of these employees: “If they were in a work group where their leader received training, people that did have control over boundaries were able to give more time to their family.

Organizations can benefit from training line managers in how to provide work-life support. This training promotes a work-life supportive context that is likely to positively impact employees, but in different ways, depending on the degree of their work-life flexibility.

Read the full report here.



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