THE BLOG
10/18/2013 11:16 am ET Updated Dec 18, 2013

Something Could Be Good for Both Work and Family? No Way.

National Work & Family Month, established by WorldatWork"s Alliance for Work-Life Progress, is a great way to encourage employers to think about family-friendly policies and work-life benefits. Family structure has changed dramatically, yet workplaces have changed little in the last 40 years. But what's a company to do when no workplace solutions are backed by evidence that they can make a positive difference for families without a huge blow to the bottom line?

Responding to this need, our research team developed and tested a highly innovative intervention to reduce the conflict between work and family--and it is now ready for employers to give it a try. Just in time for National Work & Family Month, we are launching www.workfamilyhealthnetwork.org with plug-and-play materials that support health, family, and work. The new Work, Family & Health Network website has toolkits designed for employers who want to transform their workplace to improve health and support families.

Let's back up a minute to see how this came about. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recognized that health is not just about changing individuals--they wanted scientists to think about how work can affect the health of employees and their families. Work can have a huge impact on stress levels, smoking, sleep, eating habits, exercise, and so much more. So NIH asked a team of experts to study whether changing work could make people healthier. At the same time, these experts studied how much a work-life program like this affects the bottom line.

Over the next year or so, we will be publishing findings from the only study of its kind: the Work, Family & Health Network randomized controlled trial. The program redesigns work to increase employees' control over work and family-supportive supervisory behaviors. The research team implemented this work-life program in two real companies: one in information technology and another in the extended care industry.

We measured effects on health (such as blood pressure, sleep, and mental health), on families (such as the stress levels of spouses and kids), and on business (such as productivity and ROI). Now we are busy publishing evidence on whether changes in work practice and culture can improve the health of workers and their families. Please stay tuned--and in the meantime, check out the materials on our website (www.workfamilyhealthnetwork.org). And have a happy Work & Family Month.