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Supporting Families Can Lead to Healthier, More Productive Workers

Researchers at the Center for Work-Family Stress, Safety and Health (CWFSSH), housed at Portland State University, and Michigan State University were awarded $4.1M grant to take part in a 5-year study evaluating innovative workplace change initiatives designed to improve employee health. This study is part of an NIH $30 M initiative to improve worker health and business work-family practices.

Drs. Leslie Hammer of Portland State University and Ellen Ernst Kossek at Michigan State University identified behaviors consistent with being a "family-supportive supervisor" and developed a training program around those behaviors.

Follow-up research showed that employees with family-supportive supervisors reported better overall health, lower blood pressure, lower turnover intentions, improved safety, and greater productivity, when compared with employees whose supervisors who weren't as supportive.

"Our training provided managers with tools for being more supportive of employees with family and non-work demands. This training proved to be beneficial for both the employer and the employee in terms of effectiveness and well-being," Hammer stated.

Kossek sees the study as timely, given our current economic crisis. "Businesses are searching for new ways to manage in a tough economy. Our study shows that just teaching managers to be more supportive can have cost savings for turnover, lower stress, which all affect the bottom line." These cost savings could translate to lower health care costs as well.

The findings of the project are of great interest to employers in the public and private sphere.

To read more and keep informed about the ongoing PSU-MSU project, please visit the CWFSSH website at . For information about the larger Network, please link to

About the researchers
Dr. Leslie Hammer is a professor of psychology at Portland State University and the Director of the Center for Work-Family Stress, Safety and Health at Portland State. Dr. Hammer is also the founding president of the Society for Occupational Health Psychology,
and a co-author of Working Families Caring for Children and Aging Parents; Effects on Work and
Well-Being. (

Dr. Ellen Ernst Kossek is a University Distinguished Professor in the School of Labor and Industrial Relations at Michigan State University and the Co-Director of the Center for Work-Family Stress, Safety and Health. She is also a co-author of CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age and is the 2008 National Academy of Management Sage Scholarship Award Recipient for making lifetime contributions to research on gender and diversity in organizations (

About Portland State University
Portland State University (PSU) serves as a center of opportunity for over 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Located in Portland, Oregon, one of the nation’s most livable cities, the University’s innovative approach to education combines academic rigor in the classroom with field-based experiences through internships and classroom projects with community partners. The University’s 49-acre downtown campus exhibits Portland State’s commitment to sustainability with green buildings, while many of the 125 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees incorporate sustainability into the curriculum. PSU’s motto, “Let Knowledge Serve the City,” inspires the teaching and research of an accomplished faculty whose work and students span the globe.

About the Center for Work-Family Stress, Safety and Health (CWFSSH)
CCWFSSH's research is part of a larger collaborative, The Work, Family and Health Network (WFHN) funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control, which is examining how company policies supportive of working families affect the health and well-being of employees and their families. In addition to Portland State University and Michigan State University, the network is comprised of interdisciplinary research teams from the University of Minnesota, Penn State University, Harvard University, Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research, and RTI International. In addition, consultants at Oregon Health Sciences University, Northwest Education, Training and Assessment, and Culture Rx, are contributing their expertise.

Scott Gallagher | Portland State University
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