An increasing number of workers report that they have a hard time balancing work and personal and family life, and that this affects job satisfaction and productivity. Many factors help explain why the pressures of employment have been intensifying in recent decades. First, women from all socioeconomic classes have entered the labor force, reducing their time for work at home. This is especially the case for low-wage workers, and for single heads of household. But other factors, like advances in information and communication technologies, the spread of non-standard hours, and demands for constant availability also play a role.
Most research on work-life balance has emphasized paid leave, dependent-care support, and control over schedule and hours of work. Some research suggests that whether or not an employee makes use of available benefits depends on supervisors’ knowledge of workplace policies and the support provided for the workers under their supervision. Few studies have examined how increased organizational pressure to support employees’ work-family balance creates new role- and skill-demands for first-level supervisors in non-professional employment (who likely have their own work-life challenges, and often get paid just a few dollars an hour above the pay of the low-wage employees whom they supervise).
Ellen Kossek and Leslie Hammer are psychologists who have studied gender, work and family issues in relationship to organizational change, and its effect on workers’ health and wellbeing. They will research the implications of retail employers providing work-life support to front-line supervisors, who represent the lowest level of management in a mostly low-wage sector. They will examine the extent to which "soft" training interventions, aimed at modifying the level of awareness and competency in managing the interaction between work and family, affect front-line supervisors and, by extension, their employees.