Work and Family Dinner Conflict: A New but Important Flavor


Topic: Work-life Balance
Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior
Article: Workplace factors associated with family dinner behaviors.
Blogger: Benjamin Granger

It’s well-known that employees’ family and work roles often collide (and sometimes it ain’t pretty!). But researchers have only just begun to scratch the large surface that is work and family conflict.

So let’s take a closer look at a very specific aspect of family life that may be adversely affected by work: family dinner behaviors.  What workplace factors do you think influence family dinner behaviors?

Does the number of hours worked affect family dinner behaviors (Honey, I’m working late tonight, order Burger King)?  What about flextime opportunities?  What about the extent to which supervisors are supportive of family needs (This one’s just a no-brainer!)?

Researchers Allen, Shockley and Poteat (2008) conducted a study that investigated workplace factors that may influence the frequency of family dinners and the frequency of the family eating fast food for dinner.

So according to Allen et al.’s study, what workplace factors influence family dinner behaviors? No surprise here: 1) Work hours 2) Flex-time availability 3) Family supportive supervisor

Their results suggest that when employees work longer hours, have few flextime options, and have supervisors that are not family-supportive; they tend to eat fewer dinners with their families.

However, Allen et al. found evidence that family-supportive supervisors was the key factor influencing family dinner behaviors such that work hours and flextime may be negotiated through the supervisor (i.e., family-supportive supervisors may be more willing to provide
flextime options, etc.). Additionally, less flextime and more work hours were found to lead to more fast food dinners!

Although it is well-known that workplace factors can interfere with an employees’ family life, Allen et al.’s results provide evidence that workplace factors can even influence very specific aspects of family life (e.g., dinner behaviors) which have been linked to important outcomes for children.  Allen et al.’s study reinforces the importance of family dinner behaviors and suggests that organizations and employees alike should become more cognizant of the potential effects of work on specific aspects of family life.

Allen, T. D., Shockley, K. M., & Poteat, L. F. (2008). Workplace factors associated with family dinner behaviors. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 73, 336-342.