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Why Balancing Work and Family Is Easy for Some Men

Though a growing number of men are having difficulty juggling the demands of work and family, some are navigating this terrain successfully.

In a new report by the Families and Work Institute, a non-profit advocacy organization based in New York City, 32% of men said they experienced little work-family conflict and 19% said they experienced none.

How did they do it?

It turns out, though, that success at the juggling act has little to do with the employee's personality and work strategies---and everything to do with his boss, co-workers and corporate culture.

The report identified a number of factors that can buffer men (and presumably, women, too):

  • A supervisor's support: Fathers in dual-earner couples who feel comfortable bringing up family or personal issues with their supervisor are significantly less likely to experience work-family conflict than workers who don't feel comfortable sharing these issues at work.
  • Supportive colleagues: Men who are very driven about work need support from coworkers. Collegiality also is important.
  • Workplace flexibility: It sounds obvious, but being able to adjust their schedules or take time to deal with family emergencies is extremely important. The more workers have control over their schedules, the better. Men who feel they have this flexibility report far less work-family conflict. The authors write, "Workplace culture needs to signal that it is safe for men to use flexible options without their being perceived as less hardworking or harming their opportunities for advancement."
  • Flexible career paths: Organizations that allow for time off or reduced schedules after the birth of a child or when caring for an elderly parent also are key. But the companies have to do more than just have the policies--it has to be acceptable to use these programs without repercussions.
Does your organization offer any other supports? What do you think would help reduce your work-family issues?
Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for the New York Times, national magazines and websites. Follow her on twitter. Photo courtesy of Flickr user russelljsmith.