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  • Writer's pictureScott Behson

What’s the Work-Family Culture Like in Your Workplace?

The Families and Work Institute has been surveying people about work and family issues for the past two decades in their National Studies of the Changing Workforce.  If you follow their results over time, it is encouraging to note that more and more respondents report that their workplaces and jobs are more flexible and supportive than ever.  There is a still a long way to go, and progress is stronger in some industries and for certain types of jobs. And, while workplaces have become, in general, more flexible and “family friendly”, the pressures and expectations to devote more and more hours either at work or working on job responsibilities continue to increase.

In this post, I’d like to share with you the questions the Families and Work Institute asks in their surveys in terms of workplace flexibility and support for balancing work and family roles.  This may help you think through and assess how your workplace stacks up, and what barriers or supports you may face in your workplace. 

First, specifically regarding the work-family culture of the workplace, here are their questions* (which they break down into two categories, all in 5-point disagree to agree scales):

1. Career Concerns

  1. There is an unwritten rule at my place of employment that you can’t take care of family needs on company time

  2. At my place of employment, employees who put their family or personal needs ahead of their jobs are not looked on favorably

  3. If you have problems managing your work and family responsibilities, the attitude at my place of employment is: “you made your bed, now lie in it!”

  4. At my place of employment, employees have to choose between advancing in their jobs or devoting attention to their family or personal lives

Obviously, “agree” answers here make balancing work and family much harder.

2. Supervisory Support

  1. My supervisor is fair and doesn’t show favoritism in responding to employees’ personal or family needs

  2. My supervisor accommodates me when I have family or personal business to take care of- for example, medical appointments, meeting with child’s teacher, etc.

  3. My supervisor really cares about the effects that work demands have on my personal and family life

  4. My supervisor has expectations of my performance on the job that are realistic

  5. My supervisor is understanding when I talk about personal or family issues that affect my work

  6. I feel comfortable bringing up my personal or family issues with my supervisor

“Agree” answers here really help with balance.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to assess your workplaces and supervisors, and then consider the implications this has for your various roles and responsibilities, as well as your mental health.

Once you assess your situation, you can consider what this means for you.

  1. Perhaps you are more able to deal with family concerns than you originally thought?

  2. Maybe you need to polish off your resume to find a better situation?

  3. Here’s a list of great employers, compiled by the Work and Family Researchers Network

  4. Maybe your organization is unsupportive, but you can work something out unofficially with your supervisor? (topic for a future post)

  5. Maybe your answers to these questions influence how you negotiate for alternate work arrangements? (topic for a future post)

So, how do you feel about these questions and issues?  How does your employer stack up?  We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section.

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