Workforce-Family Interface: Conflict and Enrichment

 October 13, 2021 – Héctor Santana

As humans, we are all multidimensional beings. I don’t mean this in a spiritual or esoteric way. What I mean is that we play various roles across the different dimensions of our lives. Some of us are parents. Some of us are teachers. All of us are friends, neighbors, and daughters, or sons. All of us are members of a family, even if it’s just us, and if you’re reading this, you are probably a worker, a colleague, or an entrepreneur.
Everyone has a unique combination of roles to play in life. Most of us will at least have a family and work role to play. Although people like to think these roles can be kept separate, the truth is that the “barrier” that separates them is not solid and both dimensions interact more than one would think. From a scientific perspective, this interaction is called the work-family interface.
According to Vesga Rodríguez  (investigator with the Universidad El Bosque in Bogotá, Colombia), the work-family interface refers to the relationship and effects that happen between the work and family dimensions of an individual. This interaction happens due to various reasons and has a diversity of effects on both individuals and organizations. As a tool for understanding how the interactions happen and what the consequences of them can be, let’s explore the different types of work-family interaction.

Work-Family Conflicts

When aspects from one life dimension cause an adverse reaction in the opposing one, it is said that there is a negative work-family interface. These negative interactions are often referred to as work-family conflict. In the context of work-family interface, conflict is the most studied variable, and is often defined as the results of the demands of one role requiring more attention than the opposing role.
Work-family conflict can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of these factors are related to the individual and others to the organization they are part of. As far as individual factors, humans tend to have lack of autonomy and control, lack of support, low emotional stability, and stress. At the organizational level, we have causes like role ambiguity, time demands, and work demands. In general terms, demands from both the family and the job are related to work-family conflict.
As for consequences of work-family conflict, these can also be categorized as individual and organizational. For the individual, there can be consequences such as low job satisfaction, increased stress and anxiety, family and marital problems, and physical symptoms, among others. Organizations can see as consequences: higher turnover, absenteeism, and lower productivity.
To understand the concept better, here is a personal example.      As a professional, I strive to be always at my best. However, at an early point in my professional career, I had a significant family loss. The emotional effects of the loss and mourning were demanding. Because of these effects, my job performance suffered because it took all my resources to handle my family situation.

Work-Family Enrichment

On the opposite side of the spectrum, positive work-family interactions lead to a spillover of positive effects between dimensions. This type of interaction is called work-family enrichment. According to Santos Carvalho and colleagues (investigators with the University of Coimbra), work-family enrichment refers to the performance enhancement in one role thanks to experiences in its counterpart role. 
The causes of work-family enrichment have not been as broadly studied as those of conflict.  From the work dimension, enrichment can be caused by abundant resources, job characteristics, and flexibility. On the family side, possible predictors of enrichment can be family support, psychological involvement, and commitment to the matrimonial role.
Given the contrasting nature of conflict and enrichment, they tend to share effects with change in polarity. Clarifying, enrichment affects the same areas as conflict but in a positive manner. It can lead to lower levels of stress, increased family, and job satisfaction, increased organizational commitment, and increased physical and emotional wellbeing.
Just as I shared a story of conflict, let us put work-family enrichment into perspective. When I had my first child, life got really complicated, quickly. Although I could function normally in all my roles, it was not as easy as before. As part of my support network, my dad decided to move in with my family for a few months to help, which provided much needed assistance and resources (particularly time). The positive effects on the family dimension transferred to my work dimension where my performance increased.

Work-Family Balance

Interaction between the work and family dimensions can be categorized as positive or negative, as seen above. These positive or negative effects can move from the family dimensions to the work dimension or vice versa, creating a subjective view of the individual’s state of work-family interactions. Vieira and colleagues (writers for the Journal of Vocational Behaviour) call this subjective view the work-family balance.
Parting from the definition stated above, work-family balance is not a type of interaction, but the valuation that a person gives the different positive and negative interactions occurring in their lives. For example, if you think you have far too much conflict going on and not enough enrichment, you will probably say that you have a low work-family balance. On the other hand, if you feel you have plenty of enrichment but low to no conflict, you will say that you have a high work-family balance.

Tips to Obtain a Good Work-Family Balance

Now that we’ve presented a base for what work-family balance is, let’s present some tips on how to obtain it.

1. Let go of perfectionism

We should let go of perfectionism. What this means is that we need to realize that not everything we do will come out perfect and therefore the extra time we invest in trying to make it so, is time that could be spent in other dimensions of our life.

2. Prioritizing our tasks

We should strive to make effective use of our time by prioritizing our tasksBy prioritizing tasks based on urgency and importance, we can make sure that critical tasks are accomplished in a timely manner which will alleviate worries and extra time requirements.

3. Use technology

It is recommended to use technology as an aide for work-life balance. If meetings or tasks can be done remotely, without investing the time for travel, this can greatly alleviate time imbalances and promote a healthier work-life balance. Related to the subject, Forbes has a great article we recommend reading. 
An interesting thing about work-family balance is that it is not only a subject within the context of work-family interface, but there is a whole other area that explores practices and efforts taken by companies and individuals to balance time and loads between family and work, but that is a topic for another time.
As seen in this post, family and work are two separate dimensions of life that interact, both negatively and positively, with unique and significant consequences for individuals and organizations. Although this was just an introduction to the subject, we hope you have gained a better understanding of how work and family interact and can identify and develop strategies to keep the best balance possible. 
Have you had first-hand experience with work-family interactions? Tell us all about it! Don’t hesitate to share in the comment section below. You can also opt for reading more on our topics supporting your entrepreneurial journey, like Human Behavior Insights to Help You Influence Who You Are and How to Stay True to Yourself in a Professional Workplace.

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