It’s next to impossible to find a parent who believes that there are enough hours in the day.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 69.9 percent of American mothers with children under 18 work outside the home or telecommute, and according to the Pew Research Institute, 15 percent of adults in their 40s and 50s are financially supporting both an elderly parent and a child. These numbers indicate that many people are forced to juggle the inevitable tug-of-war between work and family demands.
A new study by researchers from several universities and institutions, “Changing Work and Work-Family Conflict,” sought to determine whether flexible work schedules can help ease this crunch.
The researchers randomly assigned information technology employees of an unnamed Fortune 500 company to two groups. The first group had a standard work schedule, whereas members of the second were allowed to set their own schedules — including the number of hours in a day in which they worked in an office and the number of hours that they worked from home. Researchers trained employee supervisors to demonstrate an understanding for the demands of the workers’ personal lives, and the supervisors led several meetings about the new, flexible schedules.
Those in the modified-schedule group reported modest but statistically significant decreases in work-family conflicts and improvements in having enough time for their life outside of work. The benefits were the strongest among workers who were members of “the sandwich generation,” those caring for both kids and elderly parents.
Researchers found that the employees in both groups worked a similar number of hours — no one was slacking at home or letting work completely overtake family life since the boundary between work and home had been erased. But the employees in the flexible-work group on average did increase the number of hours they spent working at home from 10.2 hours a week to 19.6 hours a week.
The authors conclude, “We provide the first experimental evidence that workplace interventions can reduce work-family conflict among employees and change work resources, specifically increasing employees’ control over the time and timing of their work and the support they receive from supervisors for their family and personal lives.”
Since there’s no way to add extra hours to the day, employers looking to keep their workers happy and less stressed should open their minds to flexible schedules.
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