Work and Family in the New Economy: Volume 26

Cover of Work and Family in the New Economy

Table of contents

(18 chapters)
Content available
Content available
Content available
Content available
Content available
Abstract

This volume of Research in the Sociology of Work brings together chapters that address the intersection of work and family in the new economy. In our introductory chapter, we provide a short overview of some characteristics associated with the current era, briefly introduce the other chapters in the volume, and explain the major themes that connect them. The chapters are diverse – ranging from how precarious employment influences the boundaries workers create between work and family, to how social environments present within work teams, organizations, or nations shape the work–family intersection, and workplace interventions that aim to create more flexibility in when, where, and how work is done. Collectively, these chapters reflect some of the breadth present in the growing work–family field. We conclude with our parting thoughts about the current state of work–family scholarship.

Content available
Purpose

This chapter investigates how normative beliefs attributed to insecure paid work and care responsibilities affect social understandings of the work–family boundary, and either challenge or reinforce traditional links between gender and moral obligation.

Methodology

Within an interpretive approach and from a gender perspective, I present a discourse analysis of 41 interviews with Italian parents.

Findings

This chapter shows that women in the sample felt forced into blurred boundaries that did not suit their work–family normative beliefs. Men in the sample perceived that they had more boundary control, and they created boundaries that support an innovative fatherhood model. Unlike women, men’s boundaries aligned with their desires.

Research limitations

The specific target of respondents prevents empirical comparisons between social classes. Moreover, the cross-level analysis presented is limited: in particular, further investigation is required at the level of organizational cultures.

Originality

The study suggests not only thinking in terms of work–family boundary segmentation and integration but also looking at the normative dimensions which can either enhance or exacerbate perceptions of the work–family interface. The value of the study also stems from its theoretically relevant target.

Content available
Purpose

Research has not yet examined how paid labor performed at nontraditional hours may factor into women’s perceptions of the fairness of the division of household labor. Here we specifically examine how being employed during nonstandard hours alters the relationship between the division of household labor and wives’ perceptions of the fairness of this division of labor.

Methodology/approach

We analyze data from the National Survey of Families and Households using multinomial logistic regression.

Findings

We find that over-work in household labor has a weaker effect on perceptions of unfairness for wives who work nonstandard hours than for wives who work standard hours. This interaction effect, however, is partially mediated by husbands’ time in feminine-type chores.

Research limitations/implications

The cross-sectional design does not allow us to draw causal conclusions. Future research would benefit by considering how movement in and out and nonstandard work affects perceptions of fairness of household labor.

Originality/value of the chapter

Our findings suggest that one way that the gender revolution has stalled is through women’s participation in the service economy since this participation is positively associated with their husbands’ hours in routine chores, which women particularly value. Thus, women may continue to perceive fairness in the home, despite objective inequality, because their husbands are spending more time in feminine-type chores, as necessitated by women’s participation in work at nonstandard times.

Content available
Purpose

To assess: (1) the prevalence of specific work practices that incorporate use of information and communication technology (ICT), (2) whether these practices are connected to employee distress or productivity via work extension or social network processes; (3) the implications of ICT-based work practices for the work/family interface.

Design/methodology/approach

We draw on the 2008 Pew Networked Workers data collected from a nationally representative sample of workers and use logistic regression methods to investigate links among use of specific ICT-based practices and increases in distress or productivity.

Findings

(1) Use of e-mail, instant messaging, texts, and social networking sites at work varies by demographic, organization, and job characteristics, and (2) ICT-based work extension, social network expansion, and connectivity to work colleagues are linked to increases in distress and productivity. Connecting with family or friends while at work can reduce the likelihood that an employee reports an increase in work stress.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations include a cross-sectional design, age of the data, missing data, and measurement issues. Even with these limitations, there are few investigations drawing from national samples of employees that can assess work-related ICT use with this level of depth.

Originality/value

Findings point to technological innovation as an important factor influencing work extension and social network processes and connect this to changes in employee distress and productivity. The focus on productivity is especially important given the emphasis that previous research has placed on linking ICT use and employee distress.

Content available
Purpose

This chapter explores how long-distance truckers in the contemporary United States navigate work and family obligations. It examines how Christianity and constructions of masculinity are significant in the lives of these long-haul drivers and how truckers work to construct narratives of their lives as “good, moral” individuals in contrast to competing cultural narratives which suggest images of romantic, rule-free, renegade lives on the open road.

Methodology/approach

This study is based upon ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, observations of long-haul truckers, and participation in a trucking school for eight months in 2005–2006 and an additional four months in 2007–2008. Using feminist grounded theory, I highlight how Christian trucking provides avenues through which balance is struck between work and family and between masculinity and other identities.

Findings

Christian truckers draw upon older ideas about responsible, breadwinning fatherhood in their discourse about being good “fathers” while on the road. This discourse is in some conflict with the lived experiences of Christian truckers who simultaneously find themselves confronted by cultural narratives and expectations of what it means to be a good “worker” or a good “trucker.”

As these men navigate both work and social locations, gender expectations are challenged and strategies to ameliorate the work/family balance are essential.

Originality/value of chapter

The chapter contributes to discourse on gender studies as well as to the reshaping of ideology and practices of work and family in contemporary American culture.

Content available
Purpose

In the United States, welfare-to-work workers are under scrutiny from everyone and must defend the program if they want to defend themselves as good workers and good people. I build on past research that has examined how workers manage their emotions to cope with dilemmas in their jobs in a number of settings including hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, and airplanes.

Methodology

In this chapter, I draw on data from an in-depth case study of a rural North Carolina (USA) welfare office using data primarily from observations and interviews with 19 welfare-to-work workers.

Findings

Within this highly constrained and contradictory work environment, workers recreate and redefine themselves as good workers and good people while simultaneously punishing program participants. To achieve this difficult task, workers manage their emotions through two key strategies, using institutionalized rhetoric and tough love paternalism, to justify their actions toward participants.

Originality/value

I add to the existing literature by examining how welfare-to-work workers cope with the emotional and moral dilemmas of their jobs.

Content available
Purpose

This chapter revisits a debate about the relationship between work and family and the conditions under which workers believe their jobs in the new economy offer an escape from families.

Methodology/approach

In contrast to prior research, the chapter uses multiple methods, including a random sample survey, intensive interviews with 221 respondents, and 615 hours of observations at eight sites in the health care sector.

Findings

The chapter shows that low-wage women nursing assistants – more than those in other health care occupations – develop strong connections to coworkers and patients whom they come to talk about as “family.” It finds that more than doctors, nurses, or EMTs, the CNAs seek an escape from home and a pull to people at work not only because they develop strong relations on the job and have more inclusive notions of family, but also because they face more difficulties at home. These difficulties at home are created in part by the unpredictable schedules and low wages offered by their jobs. These make home life more difficult, which paradoxically leads them to turn to their jobs.

Research limitations/implications

The analysis and findings show the ongoing power of unequal social relations – organized around class and gender and their intersection – in shaping the recursive relationship of jobs and families.

Content available
Purpose

Most research on the work conditions and family responsibilities associated with work-family conflict and other measures of mental health uses the individual employee as the unit of analysis. We argue that work conditions are both individual psychosocial assessments and objective characteristics of the proximal work environment, necessitating multilevel analyses of both individual- and team-level work conditions on mental health.

Methodology/approach

This study uses multilevel data on 748 high-tech professionals in 120 teams to investigate relationships between team- and individual-level job conditions, work-family conflict, and four mental health outcomes (job satisfaction, emotional exhaustion, perceived stress, and psychological distress).

Findings

We find that work-to-family conflict is socially patterned across teams, as are job satisfaction and emotional exhaustion. Team-level job conditions predict team-level outcomes, while individuals’ perceptions of their job conditions are better predictors of individuals’ work-to-family conflict and mental health. Work-to-family conflict operates as a partial mediator between job demands and mental health outcomes.

Practical implications

Our findings suggest that organizational leaders concerned about presenteeism, sickness absences, and productivity would do well to focus on changing job conditions in ways that reduce job demands and work-to-family conflict in order to promote employees’ mental health.

Originality/value of the chapter

We show that both work-to-family conflict and job conditions can be fruitfully framed as team characteristics, shared appraisals held in common by team members. This challenges the framing of work-to-family conflict as a “private trouble” and provides support for work-to-family conflict as a structural mismatch grounded in the social and temporal organization of work.

Content available
Purpose

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.

Methodology

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.”

Findings

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.

Content available
Purpose

Discrimination against workers because of their family responsibilities can violate federal law, yet scholars know little about the context surrounding perceived family responsibilities discrimination (FRD). This chapter investigates both the types of caregiving responsibilities that put workers at risk of FRD and the organizational contexts that give rise to perceived FRD.

Methodology/approach

We identify features of FRD which make detecting it particularly difficult and theorize the mechanisms by which caregiving responsibilities and organizational contexts lead to perceived FRD. We draw on data from the 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce for our empirical analysis.

Findings

Caregivers who provide both child and eldercare are more likely to perceive FRD than caregivers who provide one type of care, as are people who experience high levels of family-to-work interference and who spend more daily time on childcare. Certain family-friendly and meritocratic organizational contexts are associated with lower perceived FRD.

Research limitations/implications

We measure perceptions, not actual discrimination on the basis of family care responsibilities. Our research cannot pinpoint the factors which intensify or lessen actual discrimination, just perceptions of it.

Originality/value

By pinpointing the characteristics of organizations in which perceived FRD occurs, this chapter shows how organizations can create workplaces in which perceived FRD is less likely.

Content available
Purpose

To investigate the association between country-level differences in childcare enrollment, the presence of affirmative action policy, and female parliamentary representation and individual-level conflict between work and family.

Methodology/approach

This study applies data from the 2002 International Social Survey Program (n = 14,000 + ) for respondents in 29 countries and pairs them with macro-level measures of childcare enrollment, the presence of affirmative action policy, and female parliamentary representation. I estimate the model using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM 7) and also assess cross-level interactions by gender and parental status.

Findings

The models show that female parliamentary representation has a robust negative association with individual-level reports of work–family and family–work conflict. These associations do not vary by gender or parental status. Also, mothers report less family–work conflict in countries with more expansive childcare enrollment, indicating that this welfare policy benefits the intended group.

Research limitations/implications

This research implies that greater female parliamentary representation has widespread benefits to all citizens’, rather than just women’s or mothers’, work–family and family–work conflict. Additional longitudinal research would benefit this area of study.

Practical implications

This research suggests that increasing female parliamentary representation at the country-level may promote work–life balance at the individual-level. It also indicates that public childcare enrollment benefits women through lower family–work conflict which may encourage continuous maternal labor force participation and reduce economic gender inequality.

Originality/value

This chapter builds on an emerging area of work–family research applying multilevel modeling to draw empirical links between individual work–family experiences and macro-level structural variation.

Content available
Purpose

Increased access to flexible work arrangements has the prospect of enhancing work-family reconciliation. Under consideration is extent that managers assumed lead roles in initiating discussions, the overall volume of discussions that occurred, and the outcomes of these discussions.

Methodology/approach

A panel analysis of 950 managers over one and a half years examines factors predicting involvement in a change initiative designed to expand flexible work arrangement use in a company in the financial activities supersector.

Findings

The overall volume of discussions, and tendencies for managers to initiate discussions, is positively predicted by managers’ prior experiences with flexibility, training to promote flexibility, and supervisory responsibilities. Managers were more inclined to promote flexibility when they viewed it as a supervisory responsibility and when they believed that it offered career rewards. An experiment demonstrated that learning of professional standards demonstrated outside of one’s own unit increased promotion of flexible work options. Discussions of flexibility led to many more approvals than denials of use, and also increased the likelihood of subsequent discussions occurring, indicating that promoting discussions of flexible work arrangements can be a path toward expanding use.

Originality

The study identifies specific factors that can lead managers to support exploration of flexible work arrangement use.

Content available
Purpose

The purpose of this chapter was to examine the implementation of a flexible work initiative that attempted to challenge two institutionalized precepts of contemporary white-collar workplaces: the gendered ideal worker norm, with its expectation of the primacy of paid work over family and personal life, and the assumption of managerial control over employees’ schedules and work location.

Methodology/approach

Using ethnographic and interview data, how the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) was experienced by employees in four different teams within the Best Buy, Co., Inc. corporate headquarters was explored.

Findings

Comparing more and less successful implementation across teams, results suggested that collective institutional work is required for the emergence of new norms, expectations, and legitimated practices. Findings indicated that managers’ task-specific knowledge – their deep experience with the tasks that the team is charged with completing – is a structural condition that facilitates managers’ trust in employees and encourages team experimentation with new practices.

Research limitations

Data for this study was limited to one organization and four teams. Future research should include similar organizational change efforts in other organizations and in larger teams.

Practical/social implications

These findings may promote a better understanding, among researchers and practitioners, of the importance of manager knowledge and background and how this appears to be key to achieving institutional change.

Originality/value

This research is an example of an innovative approach to workplace flexibility and applies an institutional theory lens to investigate variation in the implementation of organizational change.

Content available
Cover of Work and Family in the New Economy
DOI
10.1108/S0277-2833201526
Publication date
2015-02-17
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Work
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78441-630-0
eISBN
978-1-78441-629-4
Book series ISSN
0277-2833