Looking to increase employee engagement and boost productivity?

Then help employees better manage their work-life conflicts.

Companies that foster employee well-being — including a culture that supports people’s commitments outside of work — are more productive and profitable, according to Ellen Ernst Kossek, a Basil S. Turner Professor at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management and Purdue’s 2016-17 Fellow in the Big Ten Alliance Academic Leadership Program.

“Helping employees manage work-life conflict also gives organizations greater ability to attract top talent, reduce turnover and reduce health costs,” Kossek says.

So why do so many work-family policies fall short, leaving employees and employers wondering about their value?

An international authority on workplace issues related to changing work-life relationships and new ways of working in an always-on world, Kossek argues that the business case for supporting employees has not filtered through most organizational cultures.

Short-Term Employer Needs

“At all ends of the labor market, work schedules and demands are dictated by short-term employer needs,” Kossek says. “Many companies — and managers — just don’t buy into the idea that helping people better manage work-life conflicts will improve productivity.”

In contrast, productive organizations that use human capital effectively take a longer-term perspective on the employment relationship. Quality human resources are seen as a core competency of the organization. People are viewed as assets to be nurtured and developed rather than merely as costs to be minimized.

“In these healthy work environments, employees feel engaged in their jobs and also in their home lives. They feel an energetic connection to their work and family activities,” says Kossek. “This fuels their engagement, productivity, and effectiveness both on and off the job.”

Rather than thinking of work-life issues only in terms of policies or benefits, HR teams, top executives, and managers across the organization should focus on creating greater congruence between employer and employee interests.

According to Kossek, 3 factors indicate employee well-being:

  1. They feel recognized and valued for good work. They believe that their jobs are a good fit with their abilities and interests.
  2. They believe they’re able to have a career with their employer with “mutual positive social exchange in the employment relationship.” This means they are paid fairly and job demands aren’t excessive. They don’t feel they have to sacrifice their personal and family well-being in order to perform their jobs.
  3. They are developing skills and knowledge that keeps them employable for a lifelong career.

In addition, the organization can provide support for individuals looking for new strategies to better manage their work-life conflicts. We partnered with Kossek to develop the WorkLife Indicator, a tool to help people understand the factors that come into play when managing work-life boundaries.

The WorkLife Indicator is a simple, 10-minute assessment that managers or human resources can provide to help employees as well. The tool helps people rethink how they manage the boundaries between work and family, identify choices, and put together a plan that will benefit them as well as their employer.

ellen-kossek-portrait-photoAbout Ellen Ernst Kossek

Ellen Ernst Kossek is the Basil S. Turner Professor at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management and Research Director of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence with a courtesy appointment in Psychological Sciences.  She holds degrees from Yale University (Ph.D in organizational behavior), the University of Michigan (MBA in human resources); and Mount Holyoke College (with honors in psychology). In 2016-2017, she was a Fellow for Purdue University in the Big Ten Alliance Academic Leadership Program. Learn more about Ellen Kossek and her work.

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