Researchers from the US have highlighted the importance of the non-work domain (i.e. home life) in an employee’s experience of the work domain – and their career decisions.
In their recent article in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Marla Baskerville Watkins and colleagues demonstrated how an employee’s “significant other” interpretation of work-life imbalance was associated with the employee’s intention to leave their job.
Specifically, our findings suggest that employees may search for alternative employment if their current job interferes with the family, as perceived by the significant other.
Notably, the influence of the significant other’s perceptions was over and above employee-reported job demands and job security, further reinforcing the crossover effect beyond employee’s own job experiences.
In other words, how much employees’ partners agreed with statements such as “I dislike how often my significant other is preoccupied with work while at home” was associated with that employee’s intention to find a new job. Further, the power of significant others’ view of work-life balance seemed to have more impact on employee’s intention to leave than their own perceptions of work-life imbalance or even workload.
We therefore seem to pay a lot of attention to the views of our partners/spouses – if they aren’t happy with how our jobs are impacting home life, then we’re more likely to do something about it.
The implications for employers are clear. It’s not enough to keep employees happy in the face of work-life conflict – you need to consider the influence their partners have on their view of work. Therefore, employers needs to be mindful of their employees’ lives outside of work, not simply keep them happy at work.
Personally, I’d be interested to see if the inverse of this were true. That is, if our partner/spouse is particularly satisfied with the work-life balance achieved through our job, would that influence us to stay in the role – even if we don’t find it fulfilling?
Baskerville Watkins, M., Ren, R., Boswell, W. R., Umphress, E. E., Triana, M. d. C. and Zardkoohi, A. (2012), Your work is interfering with our life! The influence of a significant other on employee job search activity. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 85: 531–538. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8325.2011.02050.x