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Study: Cutting work-family conflict helps workers, companies

According to a new study by University of Minnesota sociologists, companies that help employees ease work-family conflict will have happier and healthier workers. It's nice to have a study back up what has always felt true.
Greg Kratz, Deseret News Modified: May 12, 2014 at 3:24 pm •  Published: May 13, 2014

Work-life balance has been a topic of discussion for many people and companies during the last few years, and that's a good thing.

The more we talk about balance and make sure it's part of the conversation in the workplace, the more likely we are to see positive changes.

However, as useful as sharing anecdotes is, I've found that quoting scientific research is even better when you're pushing for alterations to the status quo. As such, I've been happy to see a bunch of work-life balance studies hit my inbox during the last few weeks.

One came to me by way of a press release about a new study titled "Changing Work and Work-Family Conflict: Evidence from the Work, Family, and Health Network." This study was completed by University of Minnesota sociologists Erin L. Kelly, Phyllis Moen, Wen Fan and other U.S. collaborators.

"Work-family conflict is increasingly common among U.S. workers, with about 70 percent reporting struggles balancing work and non-work obligations," the press release said, adding that the study "shows that workplaces can change to increase flexibility, provide more support from supervisors and reduce work-family conflict."

The study, which has been published online by the American Sociological Review and should appear in the June print edition of the journal, was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In it, the researchers used a sample of about 700 workers from the information technology department of a large corporation. They gave half of that group more control over when and where they worked, "as well as increased supervisor support for their personal lives and family," the release said. "The other group worked under normal conditions."

One thing I liked about this study right off the bat was the inclusion of supervisor support as a variable. While telling people they can have more control over their schedules is great, they'll be hesitant to follow through if they don't think their supervisors are part of the program.

The results of the study were pretty much what I thought — and hoped — they would be.

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