Louisa Jewell, MAPP '09,is a consultant, facilitator, and speaker with over 15 years of experience working with large and small groups, mainly in the area of leadership development, employee retention, and team building. She co-founded whydidyougo.com, a project to research and study happiness at work. Louisa co-hosts a weekly radio show on CIUT.FM where she interviews guests on the topic of energizing organizations. (Full bio. Her articles are here, here, and here).
Marie-Josee Salvas Shaar, MAPP '07, founded Smarts and Stamina (SaS) to help organizations implement healthy living as part of their business strategy. She combines positive psychology with fitness and nutrition to accelerate personal and professional health and growth. She is co-author of the book, Smarts and Stamina: A Busy Person's Guide to Optimal Health and Productivity. Full bio. Her articles are here and here).
755 words, reading time: less than 3 minutes.
“You can take a person out of their home, but you can’t take the home life out of the person.”
While employers would like to think that people leave their problems at home, the reality is that most people find it challenging to turn off stressors from their personal life when they get to work. Similarly, research suggests that employees who enjoy fulfilling home lives are better equipped to make significant contributions at work. Rather than ignore the home-life/work-performance connection, we argue that employers who encourage and support healthy home lives in their employees see a better return on their salary investment.
How Separate Are Work and Personal Lives?
Readers of PPND already know that according to research by Diener, Lyubomirsky, and King, happy individuals are successful across multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, health and work performance. The research suggests that it is the positive affect that engenders success rather than the other way around. So if people are happier at home, can we expect to find a spillover of benefits into the workplace?
That is precisely what the research firm Gallup has found. After having studied work environments for 40 years, their results demonstrate that the most productive team members are those who, rather than crawl to the couch after work, invest their full energy in their loved ones when they get home from work. In other words, engagement at home refreshes and prepares workers for the next effort at work, and thus leads to better performance.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology further explored the importance of studying the relationships between work and home lives in organizational policies. The researchers found that employee commitment is particularly high in organizations that support work-life fit practices.
A different study led at George Mason University further reinforces this finding and suggests that the degree to which job satisfaction varies is explained by home-life factors whereas the degree to which family-life satisfaction varies is explained by work-related factors.
To that effect, one very interesting finding in this article’s co-author Louisa Jewell’s research at Why Did You Go.com is that when we asked people why they left their jobs, the most common reason cited was unsupportive managers. When we asked people who loved their jobs to report the reasons why, they spoke more about the work being important – that it fulfilled their purpose in life. Thus engaging employees is about truly tapping into and supporting the whole person, and allowing them to live in harmony within and outside of the company.
Insight on the Brain
Here’s even more compelling evidence: research published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience has shown that people solve creative problems better when in a positive mood. The researchers believe this enhanced insight occurs because positive affect is conducive to a more global scope of attention enhancing the brain’s ability to make distant or unusual associations. In an economy increasingly driven by the creativity and innovativeness of its people (think product design, engineering, bio/medical research, process improvements, advertising, entertainment, etc.), assisting employees to have greater positive affect can have a dramatic impact on business results.
Should Managers Get Involved?
Organizational leaders typically prefer to steer clear of employees’s personal lives. Indeed, how to effectively deal with such issues isn’t taught in business school, and not everyone is comfortable or competent at it. There is also the concern that employees may think it is intrusive, or the fear of being seen as overly touchy-feely.
However, employers can teach employees how to cope with stressors at home without becoming involved in the issues, which is precisely what the US army is doing with its resilience program. Employers can also offer tools to help their workers take better care of their health, a strategy that benefits the bottom line remarkably well. Give employees good tools, encourage participation, support them along the way, and their work performance will improve. It’s a simple equation, really: build positivity and resilience, get enhanced performance.
In support of this claim, in a two-year longitudinal study published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science in 2002, it was found that psychological well-being reliably predicts job performance. Thus managers would be wise to work on this.
Employers who see workers strictly as output-producers are missing one of the greatest levers they have – harnessing employee emotions for greater performance. Employees are complete human beings, and managing their full complexity is – in our educated opinion – a more productive approach.
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Jung-Beeman, M., Bowden, E.M., Haberman, J., Frymiare, J.L., Arambel-Liu, S., Greenblatt, R., Reber, P.J., Kounios, J. (2004). Neural Activity When People Solve Verbal Problems with Insight.
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