Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Work-Family Experiences and the Insights of Municipal Government Employees: A Case Study

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Work-Family Experiences and the Insights of Municipal Government Employees: A Case Study

Article excerpt

Accumulating evidence about the links between paid work and family life has prompted many businesses to initiate strategies to aggressively confront the work-life challenges experienced by their employees. (1) The Alliance of Work-Life Professionals, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Artemis Management Consultants, WFD Consulting, WFC Resources, and numerous other consulting firms exist for the sole purpose of helping businesses develop and maintain workplaces that are responsive to the family needs of employees. Social scientists have applied increased conceptual and methodological rigor to their investigations into the work-family connection, hoping to minimize the strain often associated with managing work and family experiences while simultaneously enhancing business productivity. And, although the federal government has incorporated some work-family policies into its workplace environments, the majority of the research informing policy has taken place in the private sector, leaving the public sector at the local level relatively neglected in both the practice and the research arenas. (2)

To adequately recommend strategies municipalities can adopt to create workplaces that are responsive to employees' work and caregiving responsibilities, HR practitioners, researchers, and consultants must first appreciate the complexity of work-family issues experienced by municipal employees and the places where municipal employees work. This study is one of the few research efforts to examine the challenges faced by local city government employees who manage the multiple demands of work and family. Further, it presents insights into strategies that should create work environments that are supportive of municipal employees' multiple roles. A work-family spillover model provides a frame of reference for understanding this complexity, and an organizational analysis is used to present employee-generated organizational strategies that best address work-family challenges.

Literature Review

Research on the Intersection of Paid Work and Family Life

The work and family literature is replete with discourse on the nature, antecedents, and consequences of the spillover from work life to family life and from family life to work life. (3) Much of this research has been focused on the conflict or stress experienced by individuals who strive to manage their multiple responsibilities as paid worker, parent, spouse and adult child. (4) How to alleviate stress has also been explored. (5)

In general, work and family research provides the following insights into understanding work-family conflict:

* Work-family conflict varies from position to position, from job to job, and from life stage to life stage. (6)

* Stress generated in the workplace that spills over into the home is more problematic than is stress that spills over from the family to work. (7)

* Women experience the heavier burden of the conflict. (8)

* Family friendly workplaces benefit both employees and employers. In particular, employers anticipate increased retention, better recruitment outcomes, greater organizational commitment, and enhanced productivity as they increasingly establish family-responsive workplaces. (9)

* Employees report that workplace flexibility, strong supervisory support, and a positive organizational culture within the workplace are necessary to help employees balance work and family responsibilities. (10)

Up to this point, work-family research has been primarily conducted in private sector corporations that have invested in work-family solutions in order to increase their profits. Few researchers have focused on public sector organizations, where profitability is not a major concern. Among 40 important work-life studies identified by the WFC Resources, about 22 involved private sector employees and the remaining involved surveys of the general population. (11) Among the 60 articles chosen as finalists for the Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Life Research in 2000, 2001, and 2003, only three addressed public sector employees, and none focused on local government employees. …

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