K-State psychology researchers studied how positive work experiences extend into family life and facilitate family interactions. They found that employees who are engaged in their work, which includes higher levels of vigor, more dedication and absorption in daily activities, have better moods and more satisfaction at home.
The K-State research group included Clive Fullagar, professor of psychology; Satoris Culbertson, assistant professor of psychology; and Maura Mills, graduate student in psychology, Manhattan. They presented the research in April at the annual conference for Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in New Orleans. The study was partially funded by K-State's Center for Engagement and Community Development.
"Our research indicated that individuals who were engaged in positive experiences at work and who shared those experiences with significant others perceived themselves as better able to deal with issues at home, became better companions and became more effective overall in the home environment," Culbertson said.
The researchers tracked 67 extension agents for two-weeks to determine the relationship between daily work engagement and work-to-family facilitation. The participants responded to two daily surveys, one at the end of their workday and the other immediately before going to bed for the night. They also completed a separate survey prior to the start of the two-week period and another after the daily data collection had ended.
Culbertson said stress at work and stress at home interact in ways that affect outcomes in both domains. The study results suggested that engagement is significantly related to daily mood, and mood also is positively correlated with work-family facilitation. The researchers found that both work engagement and work-to-family facilitation vary considerably from day-to-day.
"Just because an employee might not be invigorated or dedicated to his or her work on a Monday doesn't mean he or she won't be engaged on Tuesday or vice versa," Culbertson said. "Additionally, one's work can facilitate things at home to a different extent depending on the day and what has happened on that particular day."
The researchers also found that daily work engagement had a positive effect on family life after controlling for workload -- heavy or light work hours were not a factor.
Culbertson stressed that engagement refers to positive work involvement rather than more negative forms of job involvement like workaholism and work addiction, which differ in their effects on home lives.
"Work addicts, or workaholics, have been shown to experience higher levels of work-family conflict," Culbertson said. "On the contrary, our study showed that higher levels of engagement were related to higher levels of work-family facilitation rather than conflict."
Culbertson said organizations could build on these findings and intervene in the workplace. She said that it is important for organizations to help employees balance their work and personal lives. Prior research has shown that people who report high levels of work-family conflict tend to also report experiencing lower job satisfaction, poorer health, lower job performance and a greater likelihood of leaving the organization. Thus, helping employees helps the organization, she said.
"Practically, our results indicate that engagement is controlled by situational factors that are manageable by the organization," Culbertson said. "Generating high levels of engagement among workers has a positive impact on the work-family interface."
Satoris Culbertson | EurekAlert!
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