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The Relationship of Work Unit Pressure to Satisfaction with Work–Family Balance: A New Twist on Negative Spillover?

Work and Family in the New Economy

ISBN: 978-1-78441-630-0, eISBN: 978-1-78441-629-4

Publication date: 17 February 2015



We explore: (1) the effects of work unit pressure on employees’ satisfaction with work–family balance (S-WFB); (2) the effects of individual-level job and family pressures on S-WFB; and (3) the extent to which schedule control moderates the negative influences of work unit pressure and other demands on employee S-WFB – among employees in a large healthcare system.


The data come from employee responses to the baseline survey (n = 3,950) administered in September 2012, and from administrative unit-level data (445 units) showing the extent to which units were “on-budget” (within 5 percent), “over-budget,” or “under-budget.”


Practices associated with cost containment in a healthcare system of 10,000 employees in the United States appear to have a negative impact on employee S-WFB. Working in a unit that is “under-budget” is negatively associated with individual S-WFB. Employees with high job demands, longer hours, responsibilities for children and/or adults, also reported lower S-WFB than employees without these characteristics.

Research limitations/implications

Research is limited by lack of measures specific to healthcare workers, the use of baseline data only, and sample size for some of the analyses.

Social implications

Schedule control makes a difference even under high work pressure. The lack of interactions among variables that typically moderate relationships between work pressures and S-WFB suggests the need for more support for healthcare workers under the strain of cost containment.

Originality/value of the chapter

We include an objective indicator of unit-level job pressures on individual employees, thus identifying specific ways that work stress affects S-WFB.




We are grateful to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for supporting this work through a grant to the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College (#2011-6-23): Assessing the Business Impact of Time & Place Management Policies – What’s Age Got to Do with It? We are grateful to the leaders of “ModernMedical” for their willingness to support research within their organization, and to the many hourly and exempt workers who graciously shared their time and experiences with us. We offer special thanks to the senior vice-president of human resources at ModernMedical, who, along with her colleagues on the Oversight Committee, has worked with us over the past year to make our efforts mutually beneficial to the organization and to our research agenda.


James, J.B., Pitt-Catsouphes, M., McNamara, T.K., Snow, D.L. and Johnson, P.L. (2015), "The Relationship of Work Unit Pressure to Satisfaction with Work–Family Balance: A New Twist on Negative Spillover?", Work and Family in the New Economy (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 26), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 219-247.



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