New research conducted by a doctoral student at Auburn University adds another voice to the growing chorus of experts calling for a better balance between work lives and personal lives.

Anna Lorys reviewed studies and found support for strong relationships between work-life balance effectiveness and satisfaction and overall life satisfaction. Her analyses concluded that if individuals perceive themselves to be effective at managing the demands of their work and personal life, and are happy with the balance between their two roles, they more likely to be happier overall with their lives.

A recent white paper from the Society for Industrial and Occupational Psychology (SIOP) backs up Lorys’ conclusion that work-life balance has important implications for employee outcomes.

“People want this balance. People seek out organizations where they feel that they’re going to have a good balance between their work life and their personal life,” said Lorys. “We know that job satisfaction is incredibly important to wanting people to be committed to your organization. But also work-life balance can influence how you feel about yourself and about your health.”

Lorys presented a poster on her study, which was completed in August, at the 2018 Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in Chicago.

Segmentation is key

Lorys’ advice to people who want a takeaway from her work: segmentation is really important, particularly in an age when smart phones can keep us connected to our jobs 24/7.

“You really don’t disengage from either your work life or your personal life,” she said. “But if you can segment the two, separate the two, then people generally tend to be happier and feel like they have a better balance between these two roles.”

There can be a clear line drawn, Lorys said.

“Don’t take personal calls at work, but by the same token, at 5 p.m. when you go home at the end of the day, you don’t answer your boss or you don’t answer email,” she said. “There are some small steps that you can take to separate these two roles out so they don’t get muddied together and you can use your technology to help you with that.”

Work-life balance was one of SIOP’s Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2018.

Topic is trending

Lorys predicted the topic will become more popular in the workplace, at home, and with scholars.

“I would really like for it for it to be used as a jumping-off point for future research,” she said of her study. “I’d like for people to cite it and say, ‘we’ve done this review, we’ve looked at all the different correlations, so we do see that there is a pretty strong relationship between your work-life balance and ensuring that you have high satisfaction levels, ensuring that you have good health and well-being outcomes.’”

Lorys said there are not a lot of work-balance studies that look at particular outcomes. This one summarizes and also opens up new avenues, she said. It should inspire more research that will look at different outcomes or conceptualize something differently.

“I was very interested in doing this study because we hear all about how balance is super important and results in a lot of different employee outcomes. But I really wanted some sort of quantitative review to summarize the literature as it currently exists,” Lorys said.

About the research

Her initial research, with the assistance of Jesse Michel, assistant professor, Auburn University, led to 553 articles. Lorys started weeding them out, making sure that there was an outcome-variable measure, and a correlation table. “That whittled that 500 articles down to 38 studies. It was really a lot of review and reading through,” she said.

Additionally, Lorys wanted to ensure there was an empirical test. “If it wasn’t empirical, it shouldn’t wind up being included,” she said. “And we wanted to make sure they had correlations.

“The other thing that we did to help weed it out, was we only wanted to report unique relationships because with meta-analyses, there’s the assumption of independence, so you’re not recycling the same sample over and over, inflating those same correlations.”

Michel said meta-analysis was an appropriate method for this study as it reduces various forms of error and more accurately estimates relationships between variables.

“Substantively, these results are exciting as work-family balance effectiveness and satisfaction generally display strong relationships with performance, health/well-being, and attitude/intention outcomes,” Michel said.