In our present days, the worker is faced with several demands that constitute a complex area to negotiate as regarding how to perfectly handle family responsibilities and official assignments. Over a half of people working in one office or the other, self employed or hired, are under obligations to offer top quality services at the workplace and at the same time these individuals have to give reasonably acceptable attention to at least a dependent family member; a spouse, an aged parent, or a child. In an attempt to drive the love for the family on, and also remain explicit to demanding official responsibilities, the worker is therefore caught in a work-family imbalance.
But the family-person worker is not just faced with challenges of how best to offer quality time and attention to both work and family; he/she lacks the times to attend to vital personal demands such as health-checks. For the employer or the manager, this is leaving businesses in hurtling states and has necessitated reasons to restructure better ways to relate with the worker. The ability to manage the worker (who has personal and official responsibilities to attend to) effectively has therefore become a necessity. The manager may have to begin to consider his/her oversight responsibilities to the worker as more than official but also helping the worker to excel in family life. This study, therefore, aims at diagnosing antecedents of work-family conflict through the formulation of the problem from an illustrated work-family conflict scenario using theoretical models and concepts as well as empirical evidence from the research literature. This is necessitated by the need to foster work-family balances strategically in order to facilitate worker performances on official obligations and responsibilities.
The family-work relationship in present human society is undermined by several demands that constitute a complex area to negotiate. This a because nearly over a half of people working in one office or the other, one company or the other, self employed or hired, are under obligations to offer top quality services at the workplace and at the same time these individuals have to give reasonably acceptable attention to at least a dependent family member; a spouse, an aged parent, or a child. In an attempt to drive the love for the family on, and also remain explicit to demanding official responsibilities, the worker is therefore caught in a work-family imbalance; a situation that is described by Bollen as pathetic (Bollen, 1989). Bollen who noted that this ‘pathetic’ situation is a leading issue with employees and employers in present day also stressed that it is worsen by the fact that, ‘employees at all levels are no longer willing to trade their quality of life in order to get a decent standard of living’ (Bollen, 1989, p.89).
Contrary to the claim by Bollen, our considered scenario presents an interesting case of a youth, energetic and highly enthusiastic, Chris, who does not just love his job as a driver with ODACO, but had also consistently kept a reputable name with the food retailing company as one of their best until presently when things are at the verge of falling apart; as his carrier trembles against the love for a 5-year-old schooling son, Rob. Like the single parent Chris, most workers in the UK, the US, Canada, China and so on are faced which this huge challenge to be ‘responsible’ to a family (member) and be responsive and productive at the workplace.
A survey was carried out by Kopelman et. al., (1983) to ascertain issues that confront the family-person worker- and the quest to have a work-family balance led the chart. According to the study, ‘as many as 32% of the survey participants saw work-life balance as an important issue employers and wellness professionals should tackle in the workplace’ (Parker and Allen, 2001, p.459). To further investigate if these imbalances have any effect on the family-person worker, the study was intensified and, ‘68% of employees said lack of work-life balance is a stress producer, but only 38% said they were taking action to combat it’ (Parker and Allen, 2001, p.460). What this means is that the family-person worker is not just faced with challenges of how best to offer quality time and attention to both work and family, but also he/she lacks the time to attend to vital personal demands such as health checks. On the whole, ‘risk factors like stress in the workplace lead to higher healthcare costs (heart disease, stroke) and decreased productivity (Cooley, 1902, p.47). This is why maxims such as ‘work to live, not live to work’ (Gutek, et. al., 1991, p.568) are getting quickly adopted by the self-respecting worker (Higgins, et. al., 1992), and ‘employees at all levels are no longer willing to trade their quality of life in order to get a decent standard of living’ (Bollen, 1989, p.89)!
For the employer or the manager, such as Chuck in our study scenario, the stars are going off and leaving businesses in hurtling states. Of course, the 21st century is the age of computers and machines- for an online retailing outfit like ODACO, the benefits are enormous, but computers and machines cannot perform every function in official settings. Sophisticated programs can only send emails to customers; they cannot drive a delivery van to a customer’s door and knock on the door to serve lunch. Perhaps, a robot can – but at very high costs and risks. The ability to manage the worker (who has personal and official responsibilities to attend to) effectively has therefore become a necessity, not a mere need. The manager may have to begin to consider his/her oversight responsibilities to the worker as more than official but also helping the worker to excel in family life. The manager or boss at work must realize that for most workers, the welfare of their families is a preferred priority, and the workplace is only a platform to make ends meet. Without an articulated framework to put the work-family conflict in shape for the interest of the worker, the worker would possibly result in resigning; thus subjecting the office to high chances of failing.
This paper, therefore, presents facts on what must be done administratively to bring the family-person worker out of the hole of work-family conflict to a more pleasant working platform. Though the discussion would focus on the presented Chris scenario, it will also identify with other factual instances and theoretical views that are necessary to arrive at a work-family friendly framework in the interest of both the worker, the family, and the work.
Aim of the Study
The aim of this study is to diagnose antecedents of the work-family conflict through the formulation of the problem from an illustrated work-family conflict scenario using theoretical models and concepts as well as empirical evidence from the research literature. This is necessitated by the need to foster work-family balances strategically in order to facilitate worker performances on official obligations and responsibilities.
Facts and Antecedents of Work-Family Imbalances
In a study conducted by Glass and Fujimoto (1995) it was noted that ‘a balance between work and family responsibilities occurs when a person’s need to meet family commitments is accepted and respected in the workplace’ (Glass and Fujimoto, 1995, p.385). An imbalance, on the other hand, entails a limitation of the worker’s freedom to meet both commitments in a proportionate way. One glaring relevance of having a work-family balance has been noted as, ‘helping people to achieve a balance between their family needs and their work commitments, supports productive workers, as well as committed family people’ (Deci, et. al., 1989, p.585). It is a fact that both the employer and the employee require to have work-family balances for a more productive and responsible living. Bolger et. al., in a related study, noted that ‘one of the most common starting points towards ensuring the balance between work and family is by documenting family friendly provisions in an agreement or a policy’ (Bolger, et. al., 1989, p.182). Bolger et. al., further stressed that ‘family friendly provisions could include paid parental leave, flexible working hours or telecommuting’ (Bolger, et. al., 1989, p.183).
Organizing the working-time constitutes a key issue that defines work-life/family balances. Young noted that:
Not only is it important for individual workers who wish to spend more quality time with their families and friends, but it is also increasingly becoming a management preoccupation, particularly considering the impact work time can have on productivity, quality, customer satisfaction and employee job satisfaction, and hence on recruitment and turnover (Young, 1999, p.36).
Studies have identified that among numerous effects that are associated with work-family imbalances, stress at the workplace is a direct reflection of the actual hourly time committed to work; this infers that having longer working commitment is capable of degenerating to adverse health failures as, as well as reduce family intimacies, or even contribute negatively to the disintegration of family unity. Incidentally, the time for which the worker is scheduled to work has its impacts as well so that, ‘even a relatively short work week can cause work-family conflicts, if an employee is scheduled to work during “asocial” hours or days [for example; night shifts, Sunday work]’ (Polachek, 1979, p.759). This could equally occur in such instances where there are sudden constant shifts with least notices, or when the inflexibility of the working hours has direct interference with obligations of the family, as is the instance with Chris in our study scenario.
The Chris scenario presents a clear instance of work-time and family-time self-management dispute. Time competitive work-family demands on employees could be exceptionally challenging to reconcile. Notwithstanding, ‘appropriate workplace policies and practices, including those negotiated by unions and employers in the context of collective bargaining, can help alleviate some of these burdens’ (Williams et. al., 1998, p.1646).
Presently, individuals and organisations are becoming more aware of the essence of having a good work-family balance as against what use to be 2 or 3 decades ago when, ‘the term flexibility was used and abused to mean working longer hours, with larger benefits, but fewer employee rights’ (Young, 1999, p.54). Times have changed – the work administrator must be able to intellectually manage workers in limited times for more focused, and more result-oriented performances. It is necessary for both the employer and the employee to realize that ‘the best working environments are those that identify and meet the needs of their employees- with a golden rule of flexibility’ (Mead, 1934, p.78). This is also becoming clearer to governments- for example, ‘the Victorian Government believes that balancing work and family responsibilities makes good commercial sense for business’ (Jussim et. al., 1992, p.418). As a result it has instituted the implementation of family friendly provisions to realize:
- a cost-effective means of retaining skilled staff and attracting new employees – thus reducing turnover costs for the organization;
- assists in gaining recognition as an employer of choice within an organization’s industry;
- increase the number of people returning to work after parental leave;
- demonstrate to staff that they are valued, which is a positive influence on staff morale and productivity;
- increase staff loyalty and support;
- maintain and improve service delivery by ensuring that highly skilled employees are recruited and retained; and
- improve overall efficiency through the benefit of retaining staff who have had an opportunity to obtain an institutional memory, industry knowledge, networks and contacts (Frone, et. al., 1991, p.231).
It is necessary therefore to resolve to more acceptable work-family organized practices.
What Mr Chuck Should Do; What a Boss at the Office Can Do to Enable a More Work-Family Friendly Environment
Now, as Mr Chuck has his hand on the door handle, he know what a dedicated staff he would lose in Chris, and what negative impact this would have on ODACO, yet he knows that he has the responsibility and capability to regenerate Chris’ confidence in the company, motivationally.
The first step towards retraction of the confronting situation would be the identification of issues that have resulted in Chris’ declining performance at the workplace- this was well done, as Chris and the boss had a meeting to discuss prevailing issues. With the identification of the problem, Mr. Chuck is placed between alternatives on how to possibly address the situation – of course, Chris needs a more tolerant working environment and he could be motivated.
Several motivational theories have presented varying views on how to keep the worker active on the job against all odds, including F. W. Taylor (1856-1917) who emphasized that the worker would remain on the work-sit, so long as he/she getting a satisfying pay (following adequate supervision and sub-tasking the worker’s delegations); Elton Mayo (1880-1949) who otherwise thought that more than mere financial remunerations, the worker needs to have his/her social demands respected and met in the workplace (this he believed could be achieved through better communications, greater management involvements, and team-working); Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) and F. Herberg, both of whom felt the worker was better driven psychologically, and several of such theories have pointed towards similar suggestions.
Recent interventions from governments, such as the effort from the Victorian government, are assurances that there is still an active commitment to positively motivating the worker.
To further encourage the worker to be active at the workplace and remain committed to the family, it is necessary to promote practices that can enhance workers’ healthy living such as by, ‘providing them with newsletters or online resources that offer actionable tips on how to manage stress, improve diet, and make healthier choices at home and in the office’ (Frone and Rice, 1987, p.48). Or there could be the organizing of free and optional medical seminars for staff periodically. Bohen and Viveros-Long have suggested the following tips to administrators:
- Encourage staff to keep a log of when they feel stressed, where they are, and what activity they are doing- this will help target the more prominent stress triggers and help find solutions to avoid, or cut down, on the incidence;
- Encourage flexibility by reminding employees of their choices (working from home, working for an extra afternoon off, etc.); this can help workers feel less pressured to be in the office all the time, but still get the job done;
- Enforce time management of what needs to be done at work, and leisure time at home;
- Provide Guidance – it’s no surprise that in this economy 67% of employers said employees’ fear of job loss leads to an increase in stress; the manager must let employees know that they have the time—and resources—to help them manage stress and any concerns they may be having about their position; and
- Create communication as stress in the workplace is commonly caused by lack of communication which can lead to misunderstanding, frustration, isolation, etc (Bohen and Viveros-Long, 1981, p.57).
As for the worker who stands in a conflicting work-family situation, it is suggested that:
- Everything is perfect, and there is room for improvement and regaining work life balance – it takes time and energy to resist reality; the foundation managing overwhelm is to accept what is and take it from there;
- Puttering orients the worker in time and space of life while making mental room to notice what really they want to be top priority;
- Take the attitude that you will, of course, do what is most important, even if you do not yet know what it is or how you will do it – be curious about what you don’t know how to do rather than worrying about it;
- When your insides are churning with anxiety over multiple commitments, create order outside (this seems to work best if you clean with a light heart and walk through some pretty gnarly problems while fiercely scrubbing the kitchen floor);
- Use every means available – make plans and act spontaneously; make lists and do what needs to be done whether or not it is on the list and managing overwhelm means mingling both direct and indirect ways of moving forward;
- Be real: however linear or spontaneous, ground your choices in your real life and work experience;
- Revise your commitments and act promptly to revise commitments that you cannot or will not keep;
- First things first – take time for exercise, pray, meditate, and simply “defrag” no matter how busy you are- doing these things first each day enlivens you and gives you the resilience and resourcefulness to do your best;
- Be specific pertaining to overtime, more specifically, the right to refuse overtime and the right to be compensated through time-off arrangements; and
- Connect to the issue of shift scheduling flexible-work-time provisions, including flextime, compressed workweeks and annualized hours (Parker and Allen, 2001, p.462).
Conclusively, as Chuck, Chris’ line manager walks to the bookshelves and picks a copy of the ‘ODACO’ staff handbook, he must resolve that he must not lose Chris – that there are several ways to bring the van driver back to active service. He must consider that Chris is human, not a machine, and must be given the necessary social support to enable his maximal performance. Chuck can even consider offering Chris residence in the company’s staff quarters to enable him to stay closer to work and at the same time stay in touch with his five-year-old son, Rob. Additionally, Mr. Chuck can negotiate with another driver in the company who could cover Chris for one hour while he picks Rob up from school. As a manager, Chuck must remember that making available conducive working environments for staff is an enormous investment of confidence in such a staff that can surely bring about high performance.
This study discussed work-family conflict through a scenario concerning Chris, a certain driver to an online food retailing company, ‘ODACO’. The paper does this through diagnoses of antecedents of the work-family conflict through the formulation of the problem from the illustrated work-family conflict scenario. The study assumes a literal position of supporting the fostering of work-family balances strategically in order to facilitate worker performances on official obligations and responsibilities.
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