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The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 2014

Vol. 25, No. 5, 653–672, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2013.796314

Supportive work – family environments: implications


for work –family conflict and well-being
Lisa Michelle Fiksenbaum*

Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada


Work– family conflict (WFC) remains a growing type of stress and concern for many
employees. Recognizing these difficulties, organizations are offering various formal
programs (e.g. on-site childcare, flextime, compressed work week, telecommuting and
so on.) to help their employees in balancing both work and family life. However, many
employees are hesitant to use them due to ‘stigmas’ attached to them. A work
environment that is supportive of such programs is likely a contributing factor in the
success and effectiveness of these programs. This study tested a model that examines
the availability of work – family programs and work– family culture (i.e. in terms of
managerial support, organizational demands and career consequences) as predictors of
WFC. The model also examined the effects of WFC on individual’s well-being (i.e. life
satisfaction and work engagement). Data were collected from 112 employees, and the
overall fit of the model was good (i.e. the model was reasonably consistent with the
data). Results demonstrated that the availability of work– family benefits promoted a
supportive work– family culture, which was inversely related to WFC. WFC
contributed negatively to both life satisfaction and work engagement. That is,
employees who reported more WFC were less satisfied with their life and were less
inclined to be engaged at work. Results of the study highlight the importance of
inculcating an accommodating work environment, and will be discussed.
Keywords: family-friendly benefits; life satisfaction and work engagement; work–
family conflict; work– family culture

The uncertainty plaguing the economy today has many workers concerned about their
future employment. This, coupled with unprecedented work demands and personal and
family responsibilities that many employees struggle to manage with, has many
individuals reporting increased levels of stress and conflict. Work – family conflict (WFC),
a growing topic of interest in both popular and academic literatures, occurs when the
demands of work and family life are incompatible in some respect, such that participation
in one role is made more difficult due to participation in the other role (Greenhaus and
Beutell 1985). Changes in the demographic composition of the workforce (i.e. more dual
earners or dual-career couples with the added responsibility of either childcare or
eldercare), coupled with extensive downsizing by large corporations, have many
individuals experiencing difficulties in juggling the demands of the workplace and the
home. Barrette (2009) reported that, since 1996, between 46% and 61% of parents have a
hard time juggling work and family life.

Conceptualizing WFC
Early research conceptualized WFC as a unidimensional construct. More recently,
however, researchers have distinguished between two types of WFC: conflict due to work

*Email: lisafix@yorku.ca

q 2013 Taylor & Francis


654 L.M. Fiksenbaum

interfering with family (WIF) and conflict due to family interfering with work (FIW). The
former is said to occur when work-related activities interfere with home responsibilities
(e.g. taking work home), whereas the latter is said to occur when family responsibilities
interfere with work activities (e.g. an employee having to cancel a business meeting because
a child is suddenly ill). Individuals tend to report more WIF than FIW (Frone, Russell and
Cooper 1992; Kinnunen and Mauno 1998; Burke and Greenglass 2001; Geurts, Kompier,
Roxburgh and Houtman 2003), a finding that Frone et al. (1992) attribute to the greater
permeability of family boundaries in comparison with work boundaries.

Theoretical approaches of WFC


Traditionally, the WFC literature has been dominated by role theory (Montgomery,
Peeters, Schaufeli and Den Ouden 2003), which predicts that multiple roles lead to role
stress that in turn leads to strain. Several other theoretical frameworks, however, have
attempted to further explicate the nature of WFC; these include spillover, compensation
and segmentation theories. According to spillover theory (Staines 1980), the boundaries
between work and family are permeable; consequently, the experience of one domain
influences attitudes, behaviors, values and skills in the other domain. In contrast to
spillover theory, compensation theory (Staines 1980; Zedeck 1992) postulates an inverse
relationship between work and family roles, such that work and family experiences are
incompatible. This theory posits that deficits in one domain are offset or counteracted by
activities pursued within the other domain. For example, individuals with unsatisfying
family lives may tend to pursue work activities that bring satisfaction. Likewise, if
individuals are dissatisfied with their work lives and satisfied with their family lives, they
will exert more time and effort toward developing their family roles. Such compensation
leads to an imbalance between the two domains. Unlike spillover and compensation
theories, segmentation theory (Lambert 1990; Zedeck 1992) assumes no relationship
between work and family domains; rather the domains are viewed as being completely
independent of one another. In fact, segmentation theorists suggest that there is an inherent
separation between work and family, with involvement in one domain not necessarily
impacting the other. The two domains serve disparate functions; the family meeting
primarily expressive and affective needs, whereas work serves instrumental purposes.
Grandey and Cropanzano (1999) suggested that Hobfoll’s conservation of resources
(COR) model might offer a fruitful theoretical guide for understanding the work– family
literature. According to COR theory, ‘people strive to retain, protect, and build resources
. . . what is threatening to them is the potential or actual loss of these valued resources’
(Hobfoll 1989, p. 1). Resources include objects, energy (e.g. time, money and knowledge),
conditions (e.g. unemployed and marital status) and personal characteristics (e.g. self-
esteem). Stress occurs when the possibility of losing resources is raised. Grandey and
Cropanzano (1999) reported support for COR theory in their model of WFC and strain.

Consequences of WFC
Given the growing concern about WFC, much attention has been directed toward the
potential outcomes of such conflict. Extant research has shown that WFC tends to result in
a number of work-related outcomes, such as low levels of job satisfaction (Kossek and
Ozeki 1998; Allen, Herst, Bruck and Sutton 2000), lack of organizational commitment
(Lyness and Thompson 1997), absenteeism (Gignac, Kelloway and Gottlieb 1996;
Hammer, Bauer and Grandey 2003), turnover (Good, Page and Young 1996; Netemeyer,
Boles and McMurrian 1996; Greenhaus, Collins, Singh and Parasuraman 1997) and
The International Journal of Human Resource Management 655

burnout (Bacharach, Bamberger and Conley 1991; Boles, Johnston and Hair 1997;
Richardsen, Burke and Mikkelsen 1999). Many studies have also documented an inverse
relationship between WFC and family satisfaction (Frone, Barnes and Farrell 1994), life
satisfaction (Kossek and Ozeki 1998; Allen et al. 2000) and marital satisfaction (Kinnunen and
Mauno 1998; Allen et al. 2000). Of all the potential outcomes of WFC, however, stress-related
outcomes seem to be the most detrimental for the individual. Stress-related outcomes such as
depression (Grzywaca and Bass 2003), anxiety (Beatty 1996; Frone 2000), substance abuse
(Frone 2000), elevated blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels (Thomas and Ganster
1995), gastrointestinal disorders (Kinnunen and Mauno 1998), cardiovascular disease (Frone
et al. 1997) and somatic complaints, such as poor appetite, fatigue and nervous tension (Burke
1988; Grzywaca and Bass 2003) tend to take an enormous toll on the individual and his or her
social others.
Given the recent focus of ‘positive psychology’ (Seligman and Csikszenthmihalyi
2000), ‘positive organizational scholarship’ (Cameron, Dutton and Quinn 2003) and
‘positive organizational behavior’ (Luthans 2002), which emphasizes human strengths and
optimal functioning rather than human weaknesses and malfunctioning, researchers have
started to examine the relationship of WFC and engagement. The research in this field is
relatively scant since the concept of engagement is rather new, as is the whole emerging
trend of positive psychology. Engagement refers to a positive, fulfilling, work-related state
of mind, and is distinct from organizational commitment, job satisfaction, job involvement
and psychological empowerment (Hallberg and Schaufeli 2006; Macey and Schneider
2008). Gibbons’ (2006) meta-analysis defined employee engagement as ‘a heightened
emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job, organization,
manager, or co-workers that, in turn, influences him/her to apply additional discretionary
effort to his/her work’ (p. 5).
According to Maslach and Leiter (1997), engagement is assessed by the opposite
pattern of scores on the three Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) dimensions: emotional
exhaustion, cynicism and lack of professional efficacy. Furthermore, they contend that
burnout is an erosion of engagement, whereby ‘energy turns into exhaustion, involvement
turns into cynicism, and efficacy turns into ineffectiveness’ (p. 24). Although some
researchers believe that engagement and burnout are opposite endpoints of a continuum
that can be measured with the same instrument, other researchers have opposed this notion
(e.g. Maslach, Schaufeli and Leiter 2001). For example, Maslach et al. (2001) assert that
burnout and engagement are not polar opposites, but rather independent states of mind.
They further believe that engagement cannot be adequately measured by the opposite
profile of burnout. They define engagement as ‘a persistent, positive affective-
motivational state of fulfillment in employees that is characterized by vigor, dedication,
and absorption’ (Maslach et al. 2001, p. 417). Vigor is characterized by high levels of
energy and mental resilience while working and by the willingness and ability to invest
effort in one’s work. Dedication is characterized by a sense of significance, enthusiasm,
inspiration, pride and challenge. Absorption is characterized by being fully concentrated
and happily engrossed in one’s work, whereby time passes quickly and one feels carried
away by one’s job. Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalez-Roma and Bakker (2002) have
constructed the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES; Schaufeli et al. 2002), which is
a 17-item self-report inventory to measure these three dimensions of engagement.
Confirmatory factor analysis has demonstrated the factorial validity of this inventory
(Schaufeli et al. 2002). Demerouti, Bakker, De Jonge, Janssen and Schaufeli (2001) found
that levels of job demands and job control were predicted by two discriminant functions: a
core burnout function (i.e. emotional exhaustion and cynicism) and an extended
656 L.M. Fiksenbaum

engagement factor (i.e. the three-core engagement scales plus the positively phrased
professional efficacy from the burnout inventory). Likewise, Schaufeli and Bakker (2004)
found support for this two-factor conceptualization in four different samples of employees
in the Netherlands.
Engagement is not only important for the employee, but it is also significant for the
organization. High levels of work engagement have been related to positive outcomes for
both the individual and the workplace. For example, Halbesleben, Harvey and Bolino
(2009) showed that work engagement was positively associated with high levels of
organizational citizenship behavior. Similarly, Organ and Paine (1999) found that engaged
workers were highly dedicated to their work and the organization and were inclined to help
their colleagues if needed. Other research has found that engaged employees tend to be
safer, create stronger customer relationships and stay longer with their companies than less
engaged employees (Harter, Schmidt and Hayes 2002; Crabtree 2005; Gallup
Organization 2006; Gibbons 2006; Ellis and Sorensen 2007). Workers who are engaged
tend to be less stressed, more satisfied with their personal lives, use less health care and
take fewer sick days than employees who are actively disengaged (Harter et al. 2002;
Gallup Organization 2006). Schaufeli et al. (2001) interviewed 30 employees, and found
that engaged workers were generally optimistic, took personal initiative to increase skill
variety in their jobs and were proud of their work.
Although WFC is positively related to burnout, a small but growing body of literature
demonstrates that it is negatively related to favorable outcomes, such as engagement.
Montgomery et al. (2003), in a cross-sectional study of 127 newspaper managers,
examined the notion that job and home demands lead to burnout and decreased feelings of
engagement, whereas job and home resources lead to increased feelings of engagement
and reduced burnout (specifically exhaustion and cynicism). Results revealed that WIF
was indeed inversely related to vigor. Further results revealed that WIF mediated the
effects of emotional job demands on exhaustion and cynicism. Taken together, it is evident
that WFC is related to serious psychological detriments, negative attitudes and feelings
that affect the functioning of everyone concerned: the employee, his or her family and his
or her employer. Clearly, it is in the best interest of both the employer and the employee to
further understand and, therefore, work to curb the development of WFC.

Reducing the consequences of WFC: the role of formal family – work arrangements
and a supportive work – family culture
Given the prominent role of WFC in the literature, organizations are increasingly offering
various formal programs to assist employees in balancing work and family life, or
ameliorating the harmful effects of such conflict on work attitudes and outcomes.
Examples of such interventions include on-site childcare, flexible work schedules
(flextime), a compressed work week, telecommuting, job sharing, part-time work or leaves
of absence/sabbaticals. These programs are designed to alleviate the difficulty inherent in
coordinating and managing multiple roles. Flexible work arrangements such as flextime,
telecommuting, job sharing and compressed work week also give employees some level of
control over when and where they work. Although these programs are usually viewed as
beneficial, there are some inherent disadvantages with each of them for the employee and
the organization. For example, with job sharing difficulties in communications and
collaboration between partners who share the job may arise. Given that telecommuters
work off-site, supervisors cannot directly observe the telecommuter, and may also be
skeptical of the number of hours they are putting in. Telecommuting may also impact
The International Journal of Human Resource Management 657

career mobility as they are less present in the organization and less likely to be part of the
political environment, which is required for career advancement. A compressed work
week requires employees to work longer hours, so they are typically exhausted and less
productive toward the end of the work day. Despite these drawbacks, research has
demonstrated that overall such programs are instrumental in achieving a healthy work –
family balance (Eby et al. 2005). Voydanoff (2005) defines work –family balance as a
global assessment of the extent to which work and family resources are sufficient to meet
work and family demands. Baltes, Briggs, Huff, Wright and Neuman’s (1999) meta­
analysis of 39 studies supports the effectiveness of such organizational programs in
increasing productivity, job satisfaction and satisfaction with work schedule. These
programs also reduced absenteeism rates.
Much of the early research on family-oriented benefits has focused on the nature of
these benefits, the extent to which they are available, and the receptiveness of workplaces
to their implementation. However, more recent empirical investigations have examined
the relationship between the use of family-oriented benefits and WFC outcomes.
Researchers have found that when employees had flexibility in their work schedules, they
experienced less WFC. Additional results revealed that employees with schedule
flexibility reported higher levels of job satisfaction (Thomas and Ganster 1995). Rosin and
Korabik (2002) examined the extent to which perceptions of, satisfaction with, and
importance of family-friendly policies (parental leave, paid days off for family concerns,
job sharing, policies dealing with family responsibilities, daycare, flextime and
telecommuting) impacted WFC (both WIF and FIW) and a variety of work and family
outcome variables. Higher satisfaction with family-friendly policies was associated with
reductions in both WIF and FIW which, in turn, were related to reduced stress, increased
work and family satisfaction, organizational commitment and lower turnover intentions.
Despite the potential benefits of such family-friendly options, additional research has
demonstrated that even when such benefits are offered to employees, many employees are
hesitant to use them. This is usually due to ‘stigmas’ attached to taking advantage of these
programs. A stigma is an attribute or behavior that is deeply discredited or disapproved by
society, and consequently the stigmatized individual may adjust his/her behavior
accordingly. It is commonly believed that any employee who takes advantage of these
programs is not truly dedicated, loyal or committed to their employer and research
supports this perception (Judiesch and Lyness 1999; Cohen and Single 2001). Judiesch and
Lyness (1999) found that taking a leave of absence was associated with fewer subsequent
promotions and smaller salary increases. Almer et al. (2003) found that professionals
working in assurance services who participated in flexible work arrangements were
negatively perceived in terms of career success and anticipated turnover.
Attitudes regarding the use of these flexible programs, however, may be affected by
the practices of management. Research has demonstrated that many managers do not
encourage employees to utilize these programs (Kossek, Barber and Winters 1999). The
degree to which an organization can be viewed as instilling a family-supportive work
environment is related to its organizational culture. Organizational culture is a
multifaceted, dynamic phenomenon and has been defined as ‘a deep level of shared
beliefs and assumptions, which often operate unconsciously, develop over time, and are
embedded in the organization’s historical experiences’ (Lewis 1997, p. 18). According to
Allen (2001), a supportive organizational culture is one that acknowledges and is
supportive of employees’ family and personal situations, and promotes flexibility,
tolerance and support for family needs and obligations. These organizations do not
establish an employee’s commitment, dedication and value to the organization contingent
658 L.M. Fiksenbaum

on the number of hours they are in the office and whether they make their work life and
responsibilities a top priority. Individuals working in such an environment may feel more
comfortable devoting time and energy to their family and personal life without fearing the
negative career consequences. They may also feel less pressured to invest themselves
completely in their work role at the expense of their family. Thompson, Beauvais and
Lyness (1999) developed a multi-dimensional measure of work –family culture, which
comprises three components: organizational time demands, career consequences for using
work –family benefits and managerial support. The first two components are negative in
nature, serving work–family barriers, whereas the third component is positive (supportive).
Organizational time demands refer to the extent to which there are expectations for long
hours of work and for prioritizing work over family. Perceived career consequences are the
degree to which employees perceive positive or negative career consequences for using
work–family benefits. Finally, managerial support represents the extent to which managers
are sensitive to, and accommodating of, employees’ family needs.
Respect for an employee’s non-work life is an important component of a family-
supportive organization. Through its policies and practices, an organization sends a
message to its employees that non-work activities are important and valued. Although the
concept of work –family culture is a relatively novel concept, limited research has examined
the relationship of work– family culture to work –family benefit utilization, organizational
attachment, WFC and a host of outcome variables (Thompson et al. 1999; Allen 2001;
Campbell Clark 2001). Allen (2001) found employees working in an environment perceived
as more family-supportive reported less WIF, even after controlling for the availability of
family-friendly benefits and the receipt of family-supportive supervision. In addition,
Allen’s results suggest that employees’ family-supportive organization perceptions may be
partially influenced by the family-supportive supervision they receive and the availability of
family-supportive benefits. Finally, Allen found that family-supportive organizational
perceptions correlated positively with employees’ actual use of family-supportive benefits,
particularly flexible work arrangements (e.g. flextime, compressed work weeks and
telecommuting). Allen (2001) concluded that family-supportive organization perceptions
may be a key indicator of whether the employees’ work environment is instrumental in
reducing WFC. Thompson et al. (1999) also found that a supportive work– family culture
was related to employee attitudes above and beyond simply offering work– family benefits.
More recent studies support these findings (e.g. Gordon, Whelan-Berry and Hamilton 2007;
Lapierre, Spector, Allen, Poelmans, Cooper and O’Driscoll 2008). Gordon et al. (2007)
found that a supportive work –family culture was negatively associated with WFC and
positively related to job satisfaction, whereas Lapierre and Allen (2006) confirmed the vital
role of family-supportive supervision (a key factor in a supportive work – family culture) for
low WFC and high affective well-being. Mesmer-Magnus and Viswesvaran’s (2006) meta­
analysis, based on 38 studies, confirmed a negative relationship between positive work –
family culture perceptions and WFC. These findings are not limited to North America. A
few studies conducted in Finland found positive perceptions of work –family culture, which
were associated with better self-reported health (Mauno, Kinnunen and Pyykkö 2005), job
satisfaction, organizational commitment and a lower level of physical symptoms (Mauno,
Kinnunen and Ruokolainen 2006). Positive work– family culture has also been associated
with higher work motivation (i.e. job satisfaction, organizational commitment and lower
turnover intentions; Allen 2001). Taken together, these studies clearly demonstrate that a
supportive work –family culture contributes significantly to the achievement of work –
family balance, which, in turn, increases productivity and personal well-being. Thus, it
seems that a carefully nurtured work – family culture has much to contribute to the well­
The International Journal of Human Resource Management 659

being of the many individuals who struggle to maintain full involvement in both their
personal and professional lives. Again, such involvement serves to benefit both the
employee and the employer.

Present study
The purpose of this study is to examine the relationships among the availability of various
work –family programs, perceptions of a work –family culture, WIF, FIW, engagement
and satisfaction with life. Although previous research has examined the availability of work–
family programs and perceptions of a work–family culture in relation to WIF and FIW, very
few studies have incorporated these variables with outcomes of WFC. Thus, this study
contributes to the WFC literature by investigating all these relationships simultaneously, and
sheds further light on the complex interrelationships between work and family. Second, WIF
and FIW and their relationships with life satisfaction and engagement were investigated here.
Most studies in the field focus on WIF only. Kossek and Ozeki (1998) found that only one-
third of the studies in their review measured FIW. Third, this study included all working
employees; it did not limit the sample to married employees with or without children, as has
been the tendency in many of the studies in this area. The rationale for this decision was that
even single, childless and widowed employees often have family and social commitments to
their parents, siblings or relatives. These individuals may even have greater expectations and
demands placed on them because they do not have a ‘formal family unit with kin’. Thus, this
study included a broader range of participants in the study of WFC, which further broadens
the base for generalization of the results of this study.
Figure 1 provides a graphic depiction of the proposed theoretical model, which
integrates the relationships among these variables. Based on the review of the literature, it
is hypothesized that perceptions of a supportive organizational culture will reduce
perceived WFC. As WFC decreases, an individual’s satisfaction with life will increase,
and these employees will have more energy to invest themselves in their work; thus, these
employees will tend to report being more engaged at work. Finally, an organization that
values support, understanding and flexibility of non-work roles and obligations will have
more formal work– family programs available to their employees. Thus, this study
examines the mediational relationships of work– family culture and WFC (e.g. work –
family culture as a mediator between the availability of family-friendly programs and

Work– Family– Satisfaction


family work– with life
Availability conflict conflict
of work–
family
benefits
Work– Work–
family family
culture interface

Engagement

Vigor
Managerial Career Organizational
support consequences time demands
Dedication Absorption

Figure 1. Proposed SEM of the relationship between availability of work– family programs, work–
family culture, work– family conflict and outcomes.
660 L.M. Fiksenbaum

WFC; the mediation of WFC between work– family culture and perceived life satisfaction
and the mediation of WFC between work– family culture and work engagement). Not
many studies have investigated the possible indirect relationship between work– family
culture and outcomes, so this study contributes to the limited literature. Kinnunen, Mauno,
Geurts and Dikkers (2005) allude to this by stating
we do not know how the positive effects of a supportive work– family culture are translated
into an individual’s well-being. For example: it is possible that perceived WFC functions as a
mediator in the relationship between a supportive work– family culture and individual or
organizational well-being. (Kinnunen et al. 2005, p. 114)
They speculate that the logic for this mechanism may be that when employees perceive
their organization as being supportive of work– family issues, they will not experience
difficulties in balancing the demands of work and family which in turn will be related to
enhanced feelings of well-being. Conversely, a non-supportive work –family culture will
have the opposite effects.

Method
Participants
Data were collected from a convenience sample of 112 employees who worked in a variety
of fields and capacities ranging from customer service, accounting and finance,
administration, information technology, marketing, underwriting, sales and claims. The
average age of participants was 39.28 years (SD ¼ 9.13) with age ranging from 22 to 63
years. The majority of participants were female (64.30%), married and living with a
spouse (71.40%). Almost all of the participants (98.10%) worked full-time, working on
average 42.11 (SD ¼ 7.86) hours per week. Only 1.80% reported a high school education
or less, 15.20% had a community college certificate, 9.80% had some university, 25.00%
had an undergraduate university degree, 15.20% had some graduate or professional
university education and 21.40% had a graduate or professional university degree. Most
respondents had no managerial/supervisory responsibilities (64.90%). Those with
managerial/supervisory responsibilities supervised an average of 11.41 employees
(SD ¼ 16.82). Sixty-seven percent of employees had an annual income of $50,000 or
more, and the average tenure of employment was 8.20 years (SD ¼ 7.33). About two-
thirds of the participants had full-time employed partners (64.00%), earning $50,000 or
more per year (62.30%). Just over half (51.80%) had at least one child at home, 17% of
whom had children under 5 years of age.

Measures
A survey was assembled to assess the research variables. The survey was pre-tested with a
small number of users to ensure that it was clear and readable. Pre-testing also confirmed
the time it took for participants to complete the survey. Prospective participants received a
flyer explaining the purpose, requirements and benefits of the study. Interested individuals
were directed to the survey’s weblink, which was hosted on SurveyMonkey.

Work – family variables


Work – family conflict
WFC was assessed using nine items developed by Carlson, Kacmar and Williams (2000).
This scale measures the impact that work has on home life, and taps time-based, strain­
The International Journal of Human Resource Management 661

based and behavior-based conflict (three items each). A sample item is ‘When I get home
from work I am often too frazzled to participate in family activities or responsibilities’. A
five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) was used,
and higher scores indicate greater interference with family.
Carlson et al. (2000) assessed the dimensionality, reliability and discriminant validity
of the scale in a sample of 225 full-time employees. Reliability ranged from .78 to .87 for
the various subscales. Discriminant validity of the subscales was confirmed with structural
equation model (SEM) by examining the factor correlations from confirmatory factor
analysis; values ranged from .24 to .83, with only two of the correlations above .60. In this
study, the internal consistency of WFC was .90.

Family – work conflict


Family– work conflict was assessed using nine items developed by Carlson et al. (2000).
This scale measures the impact that family life and personal demands have on work, and
taps time-based, strain-based and behavior-based conflict. A sample item is ‘Due to stress
at home, I am often preoccupied with family matters at work’ (strain-based). A five-point
Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) was used, and higher
scores indicate greater interference with family. In terms of reliability, the Cronbach a in
this study was .88.

Work – family culture


Work – family culture was measured using a scale constructed by Thompson et al. (1999).
This scale consists of 20 items, measuring three distinct factors associated with work –
family culture: managerial support (11 items), career consequences (5 items) and
organizational time demands (4 items). Sample items include: ‘in general, managers in this
organization are quite accommodating of family-related needs’ (managerial support),
‘many employees are resentful when women in this organization take extended leaves to
care for newborn or adopted children’ (career consequences; reversed scored) and ‘to get
ahead at this organization, employees are expected to work more than 50 h a week,
whether at the workplace or at home’ (organizational time demands; reversed scored).
Respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which each item describes their current
organization using a seven-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly
agree). High scores reflect a supportive work– family culture.
Thompson et al. found that the a for this scale was .92 and the as for the three component
factors were .91 for managerial support, .74 for career consequences and .80 for
organizational time demands. In this study, the as for the subscales were as follows: .92 for
managerial support, .80 for career consequences and .89 for organizational time demands.

Work – family benefits


Respondents were also asked to indicate if their organization offered any work– family
programs or benefits (e.g. leave of absence such as parental/maternity leave, flexible
scheduling, telecommuting/work from home, on-site daycare, daycare/eldercare referral
services, eldercare assistance, part-time work, job sharing, compressed work week, sick
leave for family care/bereavement, employee assistance benefits and wellness/health
programs). In total, 21 work – family benefits were listed, and respondents were asked to
indicate whether their employer has such a policy, by checking ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘not sure’.
662 L.M. Fiksenbaum

For each policy for which ‘yes’ was circled, a value of ‘1’ was given. If a policy was not
available or used, or if the individual was not sure if a policy/benefit was available, a value
of ‘0’ was given. The 21 items were summed to derive a total work – family benefits
availability score.

Consequences of WFC
Life satisfaction
Diener, Emmons, Larsen and Griffin’s (1985) Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) was
used to assess participants’ overall satisfaction with life. The SWLS is a brief scale that
consists of five items, and has been used extensively in the literature. The scale was
designed to provide a global measurement of life satisfaction using a seven-point Likert
scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). A sample item is ‘If I could
live my life over, I would change almost nothing’.
Psychometric studies suggest that the SWLS has high internal consistency and
stability. Diener et al. (1985) found a coefficient a of .87 and test–retest correlation
coefficient of .82 for a 2-month interval. Diener et al. (1985) have reported that the SWLS had
desirable convergent and discriminant validity. The SWLS has also demonstrated good
construct validity: it has been shown to be negatively related to measures of neuroticism and
emotional distress (Diener et al. 1985). In this study, the internal consistency was .91.

Engagement
Engagement was assessed using Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalez-Roma and Bakker’s
(2002) UWES. This 17-item scale consists of three subscales: vigor (six items; e.g. ‘When
I get up in the morning, I feel like going to work’), dedication (five items; e.g. ‘I am
enthusiastic about my job’) and absorption (six items; e.g. ‘When I am working, I forget
everything else around me’). Items were rated on a seven-point scale, ranging from 0
(never) to 6 (always). In this study, the Cronbach as were: .83 for vigor, .95 for dedication
and .86 for absorption.

Procedure
Participants completed the completely voluntary, confidential and anonymous online study
concerning work experiences. Informed consent was obtained by having participants click a
continue button to signal their agreement to participate after they had read the form. The
survey took approximately 30–40 min to complete. Although no monetary incentive was
offered for participating in the research, respondents were informed of the scholarly and
practical use of the research, and were invited to contact the researcher about the results.

Results
Preliminary analyses
Table 1 presents frequencies of the availability of the various formal programs (e.g. on-site
childcare, flexible work schedules (flextime), a compressed work week, telecommuting,
job sharing, part-time work or leaves of absence) that have been offered by organizations
to assist employees in balancing work and family life. Of those who responded, the
following programs were available by most organizations: employee assistance program,
relocation services, paid maternity leave and paid paternity leave. Programs less likely to
The International Journal of Human Resource Management 663

Table 1. Frequencies of the availability of family-friendly programs offered by organizations.

Availability
No % Yes % Not sure %
Flexible work options
Flexible hours 40 35.71 72 64.29 0 0.00
Part-time work 59 52.68 47 41.96 6 5.36
Job sharing 83 74.11 20 17.86 9 8.04
Telecommuting/working from home 57 50.89 53 47.32 2 1.79
Compressed work week (i.e. working 81 72.32 24 21.43 7 6.25
longer hours each day to reduce the
number of days in a work week)
Paid maternity leave 18 16.07 92 82.14 2 1.79
Paid paternity leave 22 19.64 84 75.00 6 5.36
Paid leave for adoptive parents 20 17.86 72 64.29 20 17.86
Career breaks 51 45.54 34 30.36 27 24.11
Use of employee sick days to attend 38 33.93 69 61.61 5 4.46
to family commitments
Dependent care arrangements
On-site or near-site childcare facility 105 93.75 5 4.46 2 1.79
School holidaycare 109 97.32 3 2.68 0 0.00
After school care 111 99.11 1 0.89 0 0.00
Childcare information and referral services 75 66.96 32 28.57 5 4.46
Eldercare information and referral services 71 63.39 35 31.25 6 5.36
Emergency, back-up or sick childcare 95 84.82 14 12.50 3 2.68
Nursing mother rooms 104 92.86 5 4.46 3 2.68
Work and family services/benefits
Employee assistance program 10 8.93 101 90.18 1 0.89
Relocation services 10 8.93 100 89.29 2 1.79
Support groups for employees with family 36 32.14 53 47.32 23 20.54
issues
Seminars for employees with family issues 58 51.79 42 37.50 12 10.71

be offered include after school care, school holiday care, on-site or near-site childcare
facility and nursing mother rooms.
Table 2 presents means, standard deviations, reliabilities and intercorrelations of all
the study variables. All scales were internally consistent, with reliability indices ranging
from .80 to .92, all above the .70 minimum established by Nunnally and Bernstein (1994).
The correlations among the variables were in the expected direction. WIF has a significant
negative correlation with vigor, dedication, all three subscales of the work – family culture
measure, life satisfaction and the availability of family-friendly benefits. A similar
correlation pattern emerged for FIW, with one exception (i.e. FIW and dedication was not
significantly related). The correlations between WIF and the other variables were slightly
higher in magnitude than the correlations with FIW, which is consistent with findings
reported in the literature. Weak to moderate positive correlations were found between
vigor and all three subscales of the work– family culture, as well as the availability of
family-friendly benefits. Strong, positive correlations were found between vigor, life
satisfaction and the availability of family-friendly benefits. Similar correlations were
found with dedication. Absorption was positively correlated with life satisfaction and the
availability of family-friendly benefits only. Likewise, all three of the subscales of
the work– family culture measure were negatively related with life satisfaction and the
664

Table 2. Mean, SD and zero-order correlations of study variables.

Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1. WFC
2. Family– work conflict .622**
3. Vigor 2 .230* 2 .239*
4. Dedication 2 .185 2 .113 .873**
5. Absorption .009 2 .083 .657** .664**
6. Work– family culture managerial support 2 .477** 2 .215* .265** .297** .078
7. Work– family culture career consequences 2 .445** 2 .391** .226* .188* 2 .035 .513**
8. Work– family culture organizational time 2 .589** 2 .344** .256** .221* 2 .013 .632** .735**

demands

L.M. Fiksenbaum

9. Life satisfaction 2 .358** 2 .461** .507** .442** .324** .194* .285** .309**
10. Work– family benefits availability 2 .194* 2 .156 .241* .233* .203* .357** .239* .273** .216*
M 23.66 19.56 4.84 4.52 4.04 4.04 49.41 32.56 25.76 9.07
SD 7.28 6.16 1.03 1.53 1.37 12.45 7.28 5.36 6.44 3.50
Note: *p , .05, **p , .01.
The International Journal of Human Resource Management 665

availability of family-friendly benefits. A weak correlation was found between the


availability of family-friendly benefits and life satisfaction.

Model testing
The proposed SEM was tested using AMOS 16.0 (Arbuckle 2003), with maximum
likelihood (ML) estimation. ML estimation is the most widely used method of estimation
(Anderson and Gerbing 1988) and is the optimal strategy recommended for fitting SEMs
(Hu and Bentler 1999; Du Toit and Mels 2002). Latent variables were created for work –
family culture, work –family interface and engagement. As suggested by Bollen (1989)
and Kelloway (1998), at least two indicators were used for each latent variable. Specifically,
work – family culture consisted of managerial support, career consequences and
organizational time demands. Work–family interface was operationalized with total scores
of WIF and FIW. Engagement consisted of vigor, dedication and absorption. Both the
availability of family-friendly benefits and satisfaction with life were manifest variables.
Model fit was assessed through the evaluation of several fit statistics (i.e. original x 2
goodness of fit statistic, the comparative fit index (CFI), the goodness of fit (GFI), adjusted
goodness of fit (AGFI), root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) and the
standardized root mean square residual (SRMR), as there does not appear to be any
consensus regarding which indices of fit are the most desirable (Marsh, Balla and Hau
1996). Several rules of thumb have been proposed in assessing the model fit, Hu and
Bentler (1999) have recommended CFI, AGFI and GFI values of .95 and greater, RMSEA
close to .06, the SRMR close to .08. Kline (1988) has recommended RMSEA values less
than .10 for acceptable fit, while values less than .05 indicate very good fit (Kelloway
1998). Figure 2 presents the model with the standardized parameter estimates, as well as
the fit statistics. The fit of the proposed model was acceptable (x 2(32) ¼ 61.184,
p , .001; CFI ¼ .947; Tucker-Lewis index (TLI) ¼ .926; GFI ¼ .900; RMSEA ¼ .091;
AGFI ¼ .850; SRMR ¼ .0782), and no modification indices were suggested. Inspection of
the standardized parameter estimates indicated, as expected, that supportive work– family
culture related negatively to WFC. As predicted, WFC, in turn, related negatively to life
satisfaction. In addition, as anticipated, WFC related negatively to engagement. That is,
employees who were experiencing WFC were less likely to have the energy and
enthusiasm to invest themselves in their work; they reported low levels of vigor, were less

Work– Family–
family work– Satisfaction
conflict conflict with life
0.89 *** 0.70***
Availability of 0.32**
–0.68 ***
work–family –0.46 ***
Work– Work–
benefits
family family
culture interface
–0.27*
0.68*** 0.93***
0.78***
Engagement

Managerial Career Organizational 0.95***


support consequences time demands 0.70***
0.92***
Vigor
Dedication Absorption 0.70***

Figure 2. Structural model. Note: x 2(32) ¼ 61.184, p , .001; CFI ¼ .947; TLI ¼ .926;
GFI ¼ .900; RMSEA ¼ .091; AGFI ¼ .850; SRMR ¼ .0782; ***p , .001; **p , .01; *p , .05.
666 L.M. Fiksenbaum

dedicated to their work activities and felt less absorbed in their work. Finally, the more
work –family programs available to employees, the more supportive the employee
perceived their organizational culture.
The Sobel test (Sobel 1982) was used to test for mediation. Results revealed that the
Sobel test for work–family culture mediation between the availability of family-friendly
programs and WFC was significant (test statistic ¼ 2.74; p ¼ .006). The Sobel test was also
significant for WFC mediating the relationship between the availability of family-friendly
programs and perceived life satisfaction (test statistic ¼ 3.60; p ¼ .0003). And finally, the
Sobel test for WFC mediating the relationship between the availability of family-friendly
programs and engagement was marginally significant (test statistic ¼ 1.89; p ¼ .0584).

Discussion
Family-friendly benefits and measures of supportive work – family culture have frequently
been included in studies of WFC and well-being; however, they have rarely been included
in studies of employee engagement and well-being. This study aimed to help fill this gap
by examining the link between perceptions of a supportive work– family culture and
individual’s well-being. Specifically, this study examined the relationships among the
availability of family-friendly work arrangements, work – family culture, WIF, FIW, life
satisfaction and work engagement. Results supported the notion that a supportive work –
family culture effectively reduced perceptions of WFC (both WIF and FIW), which in turn
reduced some of the negative effects of WFC on employees’ well-being. That is, as
perceptions of WFC decreased, individuals tended to report being more satisfied with life
and were also more likely to have the energy to invest themselves in their work. Thus, a
family-supportive work environment can potentially strengthen life satisfaction by
reducing work– family incompatibilities that lessen their satisfaction at work and at home.
This implies that employees’ perceptions of their work environment’s family
supportiveness may play a vital role in their overall level of enjoyment in life. This
study also showed that a supportive work –family culture was related to engagement
through the perception of less WFC.
The findings of this study are consistent with previous research demonstrating the
beneficial effects of organizational resources in alleviating perceptions of WFC, which, in
turn, impact perceptions of life satisfaction and work engagement. There is ample previous
research that has found a supportive work –family culture and family-friendly programs
associated with several positive outcomes (Kinnunen et al. 2005; Premeaux, Adkins and
Mossholder 2007). A supportive culture can be interpreted by employees as the
organization is being deeply concerned and taking care of the well-being of its employees.
The employee, in turn, may experience positive emotions toward the organization as it
feeds workers’ perceptions that the organization cares about their well-being.
Furthermore, the employee may want to reciprocate and show his/her appreciation and
dedication toward the organization by engrossing themselves in work activities. This
could be accomplished by exerting more energy and time in one’s work, feeling proud and
taking pleasure in working for such an organization.
The results of this study have some important practical implications for managers and
human resource consultants who are interested in helping employees balance work and
home obligations. Organizations desire to have highly engaged and satisfied employees
because previous research has demonstrated that an engaged workforce improves business
outcomes and reduces labor costs (Kahn 1990; Schaufeli, Salanova, González-romá and
Bakker 2002; Saks 2006). Unfortunately, Saks (2006) has pointed out that more and more
The International Journal of Human Resource Management 667

employees of today are ‘disengaged’ and costing ‘U.S. businesses $300 billion a year in
lost productivity’ (Saks 2006, p. 600). Accordingly, organizations should be motivated to
develop strategies that decrease perceptions of WFC, which in turn would increase
employees’ well-being. Based on the results from this study, one way toward achieving
this goal is to invest and offer family-friendly programs to employees such as on-site
daycare or flexible working hours (e.g. compressed work weeks, part-time work and
flextime). These practices are viewed by employees as valuable workplace tools that
facilitate work– family management. Although some of these programs may not be
applicable to all employees, if a variety of programs are made available, an employee will
hopefully take advantage of them if and when needed. In addition, providing family-
friendly programs is an important benefit that makes an organization competitive for
attracting and retaining engaged and productive employees. While offering these
programs is a good first step, as there is ample previous research showing that they are
associated with several positive outcomes when effectively implemented (e.g. higher levels
of perceived control over work and family matters, lower levels of job dissatisfaction,
depression, somatic complaints and blood cholesterol; Kelloway and Gottlieb 1998;
Kinnunen et al. 2005; Premeaux et al. 2007), employees should not feel resistant to use them
for fear of negative career consequences or reprisals from colleagues. More importantly,
however, organizations should instill a supportive work–family culture and try to understand
the mechanisms through which work–family culture enhances efforts to help employees
achieve a balance between their work and non-work responsibilities and activities.
Management should embrace a vision for the organization that supports work – family
balance. Given that managers and supervisors typically act as gatekeepers to formal
organizational policies (e.g. access to benefits) and to informal practices (e.g. control over
work hours), it is important that they are provided with guidance on how to be supportive
and tolerant of their employees’ family commitments. Supervisors should also take the
time to listen to employees’ family-related problems, and may even offer advice with
employees on how to more effectively balance work and family responsibilities. They
should also encourage all employees in their team or department to show support for each
other’s family obligations. Not only would these efforts show sympathy for employees’
needs as working parents, but the entire group and organization would benefit in the long
run. Although these recommendations may sound a bit idealistic, if organizations are
really concerned about enhancing work engagement for across their workforce, they will
need to consider strategies that will help them achieve this objective.
Employers, managers and supervisors should be trained on supportive behaviors
through a combination of training on general sensitivity to work– family employee issues.
They should model such behaviors and be held more accountable. Forret and de Janasz
(2006) found that mentors played an important role in the development of a positive
work –family culture. Mentors provided their protégés with guidance and support to
balance work and home obligations or intervened directly with a protégé’s manager if the
protégé was becoming overwhelmed with WFC. Furthermore, mentors improved the
culture for work and family by providing specific examples of how individuals grappling
with WFC in the past have been supported by the organization or their manager.

Limitations and opportunities for future research


Despite its contributions to the literature, this study is not without limitations. First, the
cross-sectional research design limits the ability to make causal inferences. Although
directionality of the relationships is grounded in theory, cross-sectional designs indicate
668 L.M. Fiksenbaum

the presence of concurrent relationships, whereas longitudinal studies can more


appropriately assess temporal relationships and causality. A second limitation of the
study is the use of surveys as a method of data collection. Future research should include
longitudinal designs, coupled with peer-report and archival data sources. A multi-method,
multi-source design will strengthen our confidence in the findings and conclusions based
on these findings. In addition, the results of this study cannot be generalized to all
organizations because the data were gathered from employees working for a self-selected
group of organizations. However, the consistency of these results with results from
previous, national samples and the inclusion of several types of workers and industries
lend support to the relevance of these findings to the business and academic community.
And finally, in analyzing family-friendly benefits, the listing of benefits was combined
rather than examining specific practices. This approach provides little insight into specific
practices which may be beneficial for reducing WFC. Moreover, the measure addressing
the availability of family-friendly benefits did not capture actual frequency in use.
Gajendran and Harrison (2007) found that the intensity of using certain benefits moderated
the relationship between benefit use and working outcomes. In addition, most studies
examining the availability or utilization of different flexible work options typically assume
a ‘more is better’ perspective. This perspective overlooks the concept of fit; an
organization may offer a wide range of flexible work options, but if these options do not
meet the needs of the workers, then they are ineffective. Future research examining the
effects of family-friendly benefits should not only assess the availability and use of these
benefits, but should also examine the frequency and intensity of usage, as well as fit, on
employee outcomes in order to better understand the role these benefits play on various
outcomes. Longitudinal studies are also necessary as the advantages of these programs
may diminish over time. For instance, telecommuting may be perceived initially as
beneficial to the employee; however, the loss of face-to-face interaction that typically
comes with it may undermine the depth of ties with co-workers. Future research might also
want to explore how having the flexibility one may need interacts with other aspects of the
work environment, such as job control and autonomy, and how these interactions might be
similar or different for employees of different ages or career stages. Despite these
limitations, this study makes important contributions to the literature.

Conclusion
In conclusion, results from this study support previous empirical findings. Specifically,
results from this study demonstrated that both types of WFC (WIF and FIW) adversely affect
employees’ well-being. That is, employees reporting WFC also tended to report lower levels
of life satisfaction. They also had less energy, were less dedicated to their work and were not
fully immersed in their work. Both employers and individuals need to take measures in order
to alleviate WFC before it takes an emotional toll on employees. Organizations can be
supportive of family demands, and should make formal family-friendly benefits available to
their employees, such as those that provide them with more scheduling flexibility (e.g.
compressed work weeks, part-time work and flextime). Individuals should take advantage of
these programs, when needed, without fearing reprisals. Organizations should offer their
employees a variety of resources and programs to assist them. By doing so, they are likely to
encounter gains in employees’ well-being, productivity and performance.

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