Work-Life Balance Research


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The Science of Work-Life Balance:

Key Work-Life Research

Does work-life balance help people be more productive? More engaged? More committed to the organization? Manage personal and home life? Researchers around the world who have been hard at work studying and surveying the issue for decades have found that the answer is Yes — from improved productivity through flexible schedules to increased organizational commitment and better perceived control over responsibilities outside work.

Work-life balance leader and trainer Joe Robinson, seen on CNN and Today, has brought together some of the key studies on work-life balance to give you insights to help in your planning for an initiative or workshop for your organization. The studies below are worth checking out.

Joe Robinson has appeared on and in:
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Increased Shareholder Returns with WLB

Share price reactions to work-family human resource decisions: An institutional perspective. Michelle Arthur. (2003). Academy of Management Journal, 46, 497-505.

Theme: This study of Fortune 500 firms found that announcements of work-life initiatives were associated with increased shareholder returns: some $60 million per initiative, per firm. The author argues that once a work-life practice becomes normalized, it signals the market that the company is more desirable.

Abstract: This study of 130 announcements in the Wall Street Journal illustrated a significant, positive relationship between work-family human resource initiatives and share price. Institutional theory provided the theoretical underpinning for such a relationship. Share price reactions occurring both before and after “legitimation” of a program were examined.


Effect of Telework on WLB

Influences of the Virtual Office on Aspects of Work and Work-Life Balance. E. Jeffrey Hill, Brent Miller, Sara Weiners, Joe Colihan, (2006).

Theme: This study looked at the impact of telework on IBM employees, measuring those working remotely vs. a group of traditional workers.

Abstract: Quantitative analysis revealed the perception of greater productivity, higher morale, increased flexibility and longer work hours due to telework, as well as an equivocal influence on work-life balance and a negative influence on teamwork. Using a quasi-experimental design, quantitative multivariate analyses supported the qualitative findings related to productivity, flexibility and work-life balance.


Flexible Work Hours and Productivity

Flexible work hours and productivity: Some evidence from the pharmaceutical industry, Edward Shepard, Thomas Clifton, Douglas Kruse. Industrial Relations, (1996). 35(1), January, 123-39.

Theme: This study of 36 pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. found that the use of flexible work hours can have a real effect on performance: an increase of some 10% in firm productivity.

Abstract: Flexible work hours potentially influence productivity through effects on absenteeism and turnover, organizational attachment, job attitudes, work-related stress, and other areas. We apply alternative fixed- and random-effects models to estimate production functions using panel data, with controls included for firm effects, time effects, capital quality, autocorrelation, and specification error. The results suggest that flexible work schedules contribute to improvements of about 10 percent in productivity.

Bicycle riders

How Work-Life Benefits Affect Commitment

Work-life benefits and organizational attachment: Self-interest utility and signaling theory models (2008). Wendy Casper & Christopher Harris. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72, 95-109.

Work-life practices increase attachment, loyalty, and commitment to the organization.

Abstract: This study examines two competing theoretical explanations for why work-life policies such as dependent care assistance and flexible schedules influence organizational attachment. The self-interest utility model posits that work-life policies influence organizational attachment because employee use of these policies facilitates attachment. The signaling model posits that these policies facilitate attachment indirectly through perceived organizational support. Regression analyses explored both models using a sample of 286 full-time employees. Results supported both the signaling model and the self-interest utility model.


Family-Supportive Policies Reduce Home Life Strain

Impact of family-supportive work variables on work-family conflict and strain: A control perspective. Thomas, L.T., & Ganster, D.C. (1995). Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 6–15.

Theme: Family-oriented policies create more perceived control that lowers stress and increases job satisfaction.

Abstract: The authors examined the direct and indirect effects of organizational policies and practices that are supportive of family responsibilities on work–family conflict and psychological, physical, and behavioral measures of strain. Survey data were gathered at 45 acute-care facilities from 398 health professionals who had children aged 16 years or younger at home. Supportive practices, especially flexible scheduling and supportive supervisors, had direct positive effects on employee perceptions of control over work and family matters. Control perceptions, in turn, were associated with lower levels of work–family conflict, job dissatisfaction, depression, somatic complaints, and blood cholesterol.

Family work life balance

Increased Productivity from Telework

A Coming of Age: Telework. Pitt-Catsouphes, Marchetta, (1991).

Theme: The authors review telework studies and show from qualitative research from employees and their managers that productivity went up 10% to 30% with telework. The reason has been supported by other studies. People work more hours from home than at the office, but they enjoy it more because they have more control over their time.

Teleworker at home office

Greater Performance, Profit, and Sales Growth with Work-Life Balance

Work-life human resource bundles and perceived organizational performance. Jill Perry-Smith, & Terry Blum. Academy of Management Journal (2000) 43(6), 1107-1117.

Theme: This report analyzed performance at 527 U.S. companies and found that firms with a wider range of work-life practices had greater performance, profit-sales growth, and organizational performance.

Abstract: Results from a national sample of 527 U.S. firms suggest that organizations with more extensive work-family policies have higher perceived firm-level performance. In addition, there was partial support for the hypotheses that the relationship between work-family bundles and firm performance is stronger for older firms and firms employing larger proportions of women.

Work-life balance improves productivity

Flex Policies Reduce Stress, Improve Health

How time-flexible work policies can reduce stress, improve health, and save money. Diane Halpern, (2005).  Stress and Health, 21(3), 157-168. Available on Pdf. Paste title of study into your browser.

Theme: This report details the cost of stress, burnout, and absenteeism to organizations and how more fliexible time policies can help cut those issues and their price tags. 

Abstract: Data from the U.S. National Study of the Changing Workforce (a nationally representative sample of working adults) were used to test the hypothesis that employees with time-flexible work policies reported less stress, higher levels of commitment to their employer, and reduced costs to the organization because of fewer absences, fewer days late, and fewer missed deadlines.


The Connection Between Work-Family Conflict and Job Satisfaction

Work-family conflict, policies, and the job-life satisfaction relationship: A review and directions for organizational behavior. Ellen Ernst Kossek, Cynthia Ozeki (1998). Human Resources research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(2), 139-149.

Theme: This meta-analysis shows that people who report high levels of both work-to-life and life-to-work conflict are likely to report lower levels of job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

Abstract: The meta-analytic results show that regardless of the type of measure used (bidirectional w-f conflict, work to family, family to work), a consistent negative relationship exists among all forms of w-f conflict and job-life satisfaction.

Burnout 925349016

The Link Between High Stress and Health Costs

Psychosocial working conditions and the utilization of health care services. Sunday Azagba & Mesbah Sharaf (2011). BMC Public HealthBMC series – 201111:642 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-642.

Theme: This study looks at the connection between job stress and medical costs associated with it for organizations that employ people with stress. It found that medical costs for employees with high or medium stress cost 26% more than for other employees.

Abstract: Using data from the Canadian National Population Health Survey from 2000 to 2008, this paper examines the association between stressful working conditions, as measured by the job strain model, and the utilization of health care services. On average, the number of GP visits is 26% more for individuals with high strain jobs compared to those in the low job strain category. Similarly, SP visits increase 27% for the high strain category. Results are quantitatively similar for males and females, save for medium strain. In general, findings are robust to the inclusion of workplace social support, health status, provincial and occupational-fixed effects.

stressed out team small

Employee Loyalty and Work-Life Balance

The relationship between work-life policies and practices and employee loyalty: A life course perspective.  Patricia Roehling, Mark Roehling, & Phyllis Moen. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 22(2), 141-170.

Theme: The authors found that flexible time policies and childcare assistance was associated with employee loyalty for those with family responsibilities.

Abstract: Using a representative sample of 3,381 American workers, this study investigates relationships among work-life policies, informal support, and employee loyalty over the life course (defined by age and parental status and age of youngest child). The central thesis is that our understanding of the impact of work-life policies on employee loyalty will be enriched by consideration of the non-work and work contexts that influence employee attitudes and behavior. Flexible-time policies have a consistent, positive association with employee loyalty with some variation based on life stage. Informal support (via supervisors and co-workers) has the greatest positive relationship with employee loyalty.

Employees engaged at work

Work-Life Balance Improves Employee Retention

Family-Responsive Variables and Retention-Relevant Outcomes Among Employed Parents. Samuel Aryee, Vivienne Luk, & Raymond Stone, (1998). Human Relations, 51(1), 73-87.

Theme: Family-friendly policies are associated with higher commitment to the organization and reduced turnover and retention problems.

Abstract: This study examined the influence of family-responsive variables and the moderating influence of gender on the retention-relevant outcomes of organizations, commitment and turnover intentions. Results of regresssion analysis revealed that satisfaction with work schedule flexibility and supervisor work-family support were related to both retention-relevant outcomes.

Engagement payoff

Lack of Managerial Support and Work-Family Conflict

Formal organizational initiatives and informal workplace practices: Links to work-life conflict and job-related outcomes, initiatives and informal workplace practices. Stella Anderson, Betty Coffey, & Robin Byerly (2002). Journal of Management, 28(6), 787-810.

Theme: Work-life conflict contributes to reduced work effort and performance and increased absenteeism and turnover. 

Abstract: This study investigates the impact of formal and informal work-family practices on both work-to-family and family-to-work conflict (WFC, FWC) and a broad set of job-related outcomes. We utilized structural equation modeling to analyze data from the 1997 National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW). Results showed that negative career consequences and lack of managerial support were significantly related to work-to-family conflict. These were significant predictors of conflict even when accounting for the effects of work schedule flexibility. Work-to-family conflict was linked to job dissatisfaction, turnover intentions and stress, while family-to-work conflict was linked to stress and absenteeism.

Phone in bed

Access to Work-Life Practices and Turnover Intentions

The role of human resource systems in job applicant decision processes. and applicant decision processes. Robert Bretz, R. D., & Timothy Judge, (1994). Journal of Management, 20(3), 531-551.

Theme: In this study the lack of access to work-life practices predicted turnover intentions among managers.

Abstract: A policy-capturing design was used to assess the effects of human resource systems within the context of other variables that past research has shown to significantly influence job choice. Results suggested support for the importance of human resource systems in job choice decisions, and further suggested that the fit between individual characteristics and organizational settings described by these systems may be particularly important determinants of job acceptance.

Stress guy

The Work Smarter, Live Better Training Program

In a crazy-busy world, it's very easy to get caught up in a work style that makes us act before we think, reacting to devices and others all day. It's a pattern that leads to doing more than we can do well, mistakes, stress, burnout, and reduced productivity.

There's a more productive way to work: managing demands, instead of having them manage us. This inspirational and interactive training shows your team how to do that, by using the latest research and best practices to make key adjustments to how they do their tasks and respond to stress, time frenzy, and other reflex behaviors.

We equip your team with an array of self-management tools to manage interruptions and email overload, improve time management and prioritization, increase focus, reframe stress, refuel energy, and upgrade work-life flexibility and perceived control. 

They also get strategies to navigate the work-life divide and activate a fulfilling life outside the office, shown to increase attention and success on the job.

The research shows that work-life balance is an essential engagement tool, building proactive, committed employees. The Corporate Executive Board found that people who have good work-life balance are 21% more productive. 

Give your team the best tools science has to offer, and the dividends — performance, retention, engagement, and improved work-life survey scores — will follow. 

Click the button below for rates and a summary of the program.

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Work-Life Balance Programs Pay

Work-life balance programs:

• Drive productivity. A Federal Reserve Bank study found that effective work-life balance resulted in a 10.6% increase in productivity. Productivity increased up to 30% in a study on telework (Pitt-Catsouphes, Marchetta).

• Increase profitability. After work-life initiatives, shareholder returns increased $60 million per firm in one study (Arthur). Firms with the highest employee engagement have triple the shareholder return (Hewitt Assoc.).

• Cut medical costs. High-stress employees visit general practitioners 26% more than low-stress workers and specialists 27% more (Azagba, Sharof).

• Create the best retention. At firms with low engagement 40% of employees want to leave. At high-engagement firms, only 10% think of leaving (Towers Watson).

• Build commitment. Work-life policies result in increased commitment and reduced turnover intentions (Aryee, Luk, Stone). Flex programs promote near universal loyalty (Reichheld).

• Boost job satisfaction. Employees who are satisfied with their WL benefits are three times more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs (MetLife). 


Success Stories

• An ambitious work-life balance program at Deloitte tailored to younger workers saved the company $100 million in turnover costs.

• Work-life and flex policies cut retention from 140% to 35% at 1-800 CONTACTS, one-third of industry rates, and from 22% to 13% for tax services firm Ryan LLC, well below the 21% average. 

• Ernst and Young saved $15 million with one flexibility initiative.