Research Tracks

A publication of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Baylor University

May 28, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
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Business school faculty receive grant to study positive and negative consequences of daily work-family interruptions

Hankamer School of Business faculty members Dr. Emily Hunter (left) and Dr. Dawn Carlson.

Two faculty members in the Hankamer School of Business recently received a grant from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology to support their research on boundary violations between family and work responsibilities.  Dr. Emily Hunter, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship, and Dr. Dawn Carlson, professor and H.R. Gibson Chair of Management Development, will survey employees and their families to explore the impact of work-family boundary violations on factors like health, job performance and family satisfaction.

While previous research has shown that the stress of balancing family and work responsibilities can be detrimental to both job productivity and family happiness, Hunter says the current survey is designed to gather more detailed information about how intrusions from one area into the other actually impact employees and their families on a day-to-day basis.

The study will ask participants to record survey responses three times per day — in the morning, at the end of the work day, and at bedtime — to assess their feelings toward work, family, and the boundaries between them.

“Most of the other studies in this area have asked very general questions like ‘Have you been interrupted at work by family members?’ or ‘How do you manage interruptions from work when you’re at home?'” says Hunter.  “These one-time questions don’t measure employees’ experience at a day-to-day level.”

Because the daily data collection in this study allows participants to record their feelings more immediately, Hunter believes the survey will capture employees’ reactions to specific types of interruptions at particular times of day, for example, when a child calls her parents at work to let them know she is home from school.  Interruptions like these may look like a disruption to a manager, Hunter says, but they might actually help the employee to focus on work without worrying about their child.

Carlson, the project’s co-investigator, says that in addition to assessing the effect of work-family boundaries on productivity and relationships, the study will also examine the role of technology in helping employees balance their varied responsibilities.

“With the rapid spread of technology, people are constantly available,” she says, “and that has changed the way people manage the landscape of their work and family.  We hope this study will show how organizations can use technology and other policies to help employees work better and be happier.”