Redesigning Work: Findings from the Work, Family, and Health Network and Implications for Gender Inequality
Friday, March 18
Erin L. Kelly
Professor, Work and Organization Studies and Institute for
Work and Employment Research
MIT Sloan School of Management
Professional, managerial, and technical employees often face expectations that they will put in long hours in the office and prioritize work over family and personal responsibilities. Flexible work arrangements seem to challenge those expectations and potentially reduce work-life conflicts (or improve ¡°balance¡±). But most work organizations grant flexibility to an individual employee after a request and negotiation with a supervisor. That system discourages some interested employees from seeking out flexible work practices because they fear working in these ways will bring negative career consequences; penalties for flexible work practices also contribute to gender inequality given cultural associations between women and family life. I will report on the Work, Family, and Health Network’s group-randomized field experiment evaluating a different approach (called STAR) to supporting employees personal and family lives and health. Longitudinal data from over 600 information technology (IT) employees in a U.S. Fortune 500 firm demonstrate positive effects of the STAR intervention on work-life conflicts, having ¡°enough time¡± for family, sleep duration and quality, and improvements in well-being for some subgroups of employees. Analyses also reveal that employees in STAR do not face career penalties, such as slower wage growth, when they have variable schedules or work at home but women in the control group do.