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  How Work and Family Can Enrich Each Other 

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Over the past four decades, work/family research has attracted considerable attention.

Initially it was the growing participation of women in the workforce that spurred interest, with much early research focusing on the conflicts experienced by women in trying to meet the competing demands of their work and family roles.

Increasingly, however, research on work and family has shown that positive aspects can emerge from the interaction of these spheres for both women and men.

For instance, resources acquired in one role can be reinvested in the other. Participation in one domain can create energy that can be used to enhance experiences in the other.

Work/family enrichment refers to this new line of research, exploring the way that resources gained at work can improve the quality of family life, and vice versa.

In their working paper, "A Qualitative Analysis of Facilitating Conditions for Work/Family Enrichment," Sowon Kim and Mireia Las Heras discover factors that contribute to the sharing of vital resources across both domains.

Work/Family Enrichment
Higher marital satisfaction has been found to be significantly correlated with higher job satisfaction, just as higher marital discord has been associated with lower job satisfaction.

The authors researched dual-career couples, interviewing them on a range of home dynamics, including married life, children and household management, as well as work-related experiences.

Of particular importance were the conditions under which work/family enrichment occurred.

Women in the study found that their personal lives provided them with emotional support that enhanced their effectiveness as managers.

Consider this quote: "If I feel good at home, that improves my mood, and this indirectly improves my work. When I must confront people (at work), what mood I am in is important. If I feel good at home, I feel good here."

Likewise, positive work experiences had a positive knock-on effect on family life, as one man who recently started his own advertising business discovered.

"When you get an interesting project, it makes you happy, so you want to share it with your wife at home. This generates better dynamics, good spirits and conversation."

Cutting Across the Work/Family Divide
Some resources, such as skills, perspectives, material goods and social capital, often transcended both family and work domains.

The home factors that contributed to family resources included couple congruence, positive parenting experiences and shared responsibilities.

One man underscored the importance of his wife's understanding: "We have complementary qualities, complementary tastes, so I do not have to justify every single thing I want to do, or every single decision I make regarding home or family. We generally agree on the important areas of life."

Parenting experiences were no less important. Men who became fathers tended to be more satisfied and committed to their careers than childless men were.

As one man put it, the family became "a life project." Greater commitment to the family translated into greater commitment to other areas of life, including work.

Individuals also applied what they learned from work to educate their children. As one interviewee said, "With the new knowledge that I have, the more I can help and teach (my children)."

Partners were also able to draw upon their spouse's work-based expertise and knowledge.

A teacher who participated in the study highlighted the importance of her husband's accounting expertise when she accepted a new role with management responsibilities.

"Now I am responsible for budgeting, for which my husband's knowledge of accounting is a great help."

The study concluded that organizations interested in promoting work/family balance should include training on work/family enrichment and the importance of sharing resources between work and family.

Also, managers should be aware of how their subordinates´home resources enhanced their performance at work.

Most crucially, managers should lead by example. This means being aware of the resources available and intentionally making use of them across work and family domains.

In this way, they might encourage others to improve their performance at work and live more balanced, healthier lives.
This article is based on:  A qualitative analysis of facilitating conditions for work-family enrichment
Publisher:  IESE
Year:  2012
Language:  English