Family Responsibilities Can Lead to Less Stress and More Focus At Work

Family life is not detracting us from our careers; quite the opposite, in fact.

One might think that adding family into the equation of their life would cause more stress and anxiety on the overall, but new research suggests that the opposite is actually true. A vibrant family life, yes even one filled with kids and all the associated responsibilities, may actually be making our worklife better, not worse.

Research published in the Academy of Management Journal shows how this paradoxical work-family relationship functions. It seems contrary to what we might believe at first, but the the findings speak for themselves.

Existing research shows that positive family experiences can affect work positively. In this article, however, we consider how family can enhance work even when family experiences are not explicitly positive. We draw on boundary theory and cognitive psychology’s current concerns theory to consider how employees’ family structures and associated after-work activities affect their work absorption. A survey of business school alumni (study 1) revealed that single, childless workers reported lower absorption than workers with other family structures. Further, a daily diary study of university employees (study 2), showed that employees’ planned after-work activities explained the relationship between family structure and work absorption. Specifically, single, childless workers anticipated fewer domestic after-work activities, resulting in lower work absorption. Due to similarities between domestic responsibilities and work tasks—e.g., their obligatory and goal-directed nature—anticipating domestic responsibilities after work reinforces, rather than distracts from, the work mindset, thus keeping employees more immersed psychologically in their work. This finding suggests that having a spouse and/or children can affect employees’ work absorption positively through the anticipation of domestic duties after work. Thus, our study contributes to a more comprehensive view of how employees’ work and non-work lives are connected.

This research shows that a vibrant family life has a profound impact on our careers. With a family at home to care for, something seems to change in a person that enables them to work more efficiently.

So what does this mean? If you want a good career, having kids is certainly not going to get in your way; it may even give you a boost!

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