Resolving stress between work and family
Psychology professor Leslie Hammer studies conflicts between people’s work and family lives, and helps organizations implement tools to help in managing these issues. Stress from such conflicts has been linked to cardiovascular risk, sleep disruption, and other health outcomes, and can also detract from organizational efficiency.
Hammer, director of the PSU-based Center for Work-Family Stress, Safety and Health, is participating in a federally funded $30 million project conducted at seven sites nationwide. The project, managed by the national Work, Family & Health Network, seeks to develop workplace initiatives—policies, procedures, and attitudes—that will help employees balance work and family, and help organizations in the process.
In the first phase of the process, Hammer says, facilitators worked with store managers in a Midwest grocery chain to educate them on the importance of work-family issues and how to create a more family-friendly workplace. Management approaches were often as simple as asking about an employee’s family, modeling good work-life balance in the manager’s own life, and working with subordinates to resolve scheduling conflicts.
An expanded second phase of the project, now getting underway, will bring the best managerial practices developed in phase one to 30 experimental sites in two additional industries—low-wage health care facilities (such as nursing homes), and higher-wage telecommunications operations. This time, Hammer says, “employees will learn from facilitators how to take more control over their work—when, where, and how they do their jobs.” This will be coupled with managerial training on family supportive supervisor behaviors.
The Work, Family & Health Network will analyze objective data on workers’ health, like blood pressure readings, and will use surveys to gather subjective information. Family health will be assessed in addition to organizational health.
“We expect a beneficial impact on employee and family health,” Hammer says, “and we hope it benefits the organization, too. We want them to see the value of reducing work-family conflict, and to take this up as a model.”
Read more about PSU's outstanding faculty.