Work-Family vs. Work-Life: Are Organizations Equally Supportive of Family and Non-Family Concerns?

Activity Description:


To facilitate critical thinking and class discussion about how family and non-family concerns are managed in the workplace


In recent years, organizations have moved from trying to create an environment supportive of work and family to one that is more inclusive: appropriately called “work-life” culture. However, many of the benefits organizations offer are geared towards individuals with family responsibilities. One issue organizations face is how to give employees with children flexibility without increasing the demands on those who do not have children. Allowing all employees flexibility, regardless of parental status, fosters the perception of fairness. For example, if the organization allows employees with children to leave early to pick up a child, they should also allow employees without children to leave work early to attend a sports game. But is it the norm in today’s workforce to treat family and non-family concerns the same?

Ask your students to fill out the questionnaire located at the bottom of this entry.

Discuss the degree to which organizations are supportive of family concerns as opposed to non-family related ones. You may want to use the following questions as a basis for class discussion:

  1. Do you believe that companies treat employees differently if they leave work early to address family concerns (e.g., pick up a child) as opposed to personal concerns (e.g., leave early to go to the gym)?
  2. Why might organizations be more supportive of family reasons? Is it the value society places on family? Or, is it because obligations that involve children are seen as necessary?
  3. If two obligations are seen as “necessary,” does it change the way that the organization treats family vs. non-family obligations? (For example, a person leaving early for a medical appointment vs. leaving early to pick up a sick child).
  4. Do you think organizations should treat family concerns (e.g., picking up a child from daycare) and non-family concerns (e.g., leaving early to further one’s education) in the same manner?

Activity Source:

Content contributed by Jeanine Andreassi as a Suggested Work and Family Class Activity

Activity Links to Materials: