at Work Increases
Happiness at Home
A little flexibility
at work can stretch a long way when it comes to keeping employees
happy and productive, a new report shows.
to a study published in Family Relations, individuals who believed
that their manager was flexible with their work hours and work
location were able to work more before reaching their breaking
point--where competing demands felt overwhelming.
In an interview
with Reuters Health, Dr. E. Jeffrey Hill from the School of Family
Life at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, likened flexibility
in the workplace to ``a shock absorber for the stress of long
having flexibility at work provides employees with more options
for where to live and allows them to spend more time with children
and on household chores--at little or no expense to the company,
Hill and colleagues explain.
In this era
of increasing workload, ``flexibility in when and where work is
done offers exciting possibilities for helping families to thrive,''
average US employee spends about six additional 40-hour weeks
on the job each year compared with an employee in the 1960s, Hill
and colleagues write. Even the daily commute is not without hassles,
averaging 45 minutes a day in jam-packed buses and trains and
sometimes in bad weather.
couples with children, trying to juggle work and family responsibilities
can be a precarious balancing act. What's more, people who feel
inundated with work and family demands tend to fight more with
their spouse, have less knowledge of their children's experiences,
are more likely to abuse alcohol and have a poorer quality of
All of this
can spill over into an employee's performance at work.
balancing work and family was previously considered a woman's
issue, it now affects men who have begun to take on more responsibilities
for childcare and household chores, the researchers note.
of the study are based on data from a survey of more than 6,400
people working at International Business Machines (IBM) in 1996.
of employees said they had trouble balancing their work and home
lives. Men reported slightly longer hours at work while women
reported spending more time on chores at home.
Only 28% of
individuals working 40 hours to 50 hours a week with both flextime
and flexplace said they had a hard time balancing work and home,
compared with 46% who did not believe that either policy was available
And 29% of
people with flextime expressed difficulty, compared with 44% of
those without flextime. Those with flextime could work 60 hours
a week before they felt overwhelmed, compared with 44 hours for
people without flextime.
some control over when and where they work can help them to manage
the competing demands, the researchers conclude.
people may become unable to separate work and home.
must show restraint and not use the ability to work wherever and
whenever to the extreme of working all the time and everywhere,''
Hill said. ``Giving a workaholic complete flexibility may be akin
to giving an alcoholic a bottle of gin.''
Family Relations 2001;50:49-58.
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