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Research


Workplace Flexibility


Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Description: The grant will enable Dr. Barnett and her team, together with a team from the Harvard School of Public Health, to study the link between workplace flexibility and health outcomes. This study will establish the linkages by pursuing a three-pronged approach. Specifically:

  1. determine what can be known given the nature of the available data; 

  2. determine what cannot be known given the data; and 

  3. determine what would need to be done (e.g., gather additional data) to fully establish causal links.

With this study we expect to be able to look at a number of health outcomes in relation to the exposures of interest. We, also hope to identify weaknesses in the data both with regard to the assessment of the exposures as well as to the outcomes. And finally, to determine what would need to be done to fully establish causal links.

Status: This study started in January 2007.

 

The Work-Responsiveness of After-School Programs (WRASP) Project

Funder: Work/Families Direction, Inc. (WFD)

Description: This project, conducted in partnership with WFD, Inc., aims to

  1. develop and validate a measure of the characteristics of employee-friendly after-school programs (EFASP), and
  2. examine the relationships among EFASP, parental concerns about children during after-school time, job performance, and well-being in order to create a "best practices" after-school program profile for use by programs and parents.

Status: Final Report in progress

 

Family Responsive Workplaces and Low-Wage Employee Health


Funder: Department of Health & Human Services

Description: The goal of our interdisciplinary research network is to identify workplace practices and policies that impact the health of low-wage employees and their families and dependents so that we can design effective work- based interventions to improve health outcomes. Our specific aims are to:

  1. Contribute to the research agenda of the national network through individual and collaborative projects aimed at understanding the dual work and family demands of low-wage workers and the policies and practices of workplaces that employ them, including:
    • a. an individual research project to investigate the associations among a range of workplace policies and informal practices in 5 small manufacturing and service businesses on the health of their ethnically and racially diverse low-income employees (n=500) and children. We additionally aim to do a small substudy of 80 employees with at least one school age child to assess biological markers of stress including dysregulation of patterns of cortisol, ambulatory blood pressure and sleep (using actigraphy).
    • 
b. a collaborative project aimed at refining our measures of elder care stress and parental after school stress (PASS) developed by Barnett and Gareis across a number of different industries varying in size and type of industry. Building on the work in the individual project, we aim to develop reliable and valid measures of PASS and elder care as they are related to job disruption. (lead center &collaborative project)

Status: This study began November 1, 2005.

 

Concerns about Adult Relatives and Elders


Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Description: The aim of this study is to learn about the specific concerns of employed caregivers who have direct, indirect, or care-coordinating responsibilities for adult/elderly dependents and about what effect those concerns have on caregiver job performance, mental health, and family relationships. In Phase I, we will conduct open-ended focus groups with 80 employed caregivers to develop a measure of CARE (Concerns about Adult Relatives and Elders). In Phase II, we will conduct online surveys with 600 employed caregivers to estimate the effect of CARE on caregiver outcomes, to identify subgroups of employees who are at high risk for CARE, and to assess the effectiveness of various workplace policies and practices in reducing CARE or ameliorating its negative effects. We believe the study will provide useful information for working families with caregiving responsibilities, employers, service providers, community leaders, and policy makers, as well as for work-family researchers.

Status: This study began November 1, 2005.

 

The Effect of Parental After-School Stress on Career Advancement


Funder: Citigroup, Fannie Mae, and Pfizer

Description: Demographic shifts that have increased the number of dual-earner and single-parent families indicate that employed parents of school-age children may be especially at risk for increased stress. Working parents of minor children comprise over 37% of the current labor force. When jobs are inflexible and children are unsupervised after school increased job stress is likely to result. Preliminary evidence suggests that such stress is not limited only to women. Men and women are similar in their experience of parental after school stress and in its relationship to job disruptions.

Employees at three Fortune 500 companies (300 employees at each company) will be surveyed using an online questionnaire. Equal numbers of men and women will be selected from pipeline and senior management positions. Interviews with senior managers will be conducted in each company to inform development of the study.

Status: View final report.

 

Study of Family Schedule Coordination


Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Description: A major aim of this study is to discover how parents and guardians of school-age children manage to coordinate their own work schedules with their children's school, after-school, and transportation schedules. Additional goals are to better understand which community and workplace factors affect such family schedule coordination, and how family schedule coordination is related to health, quality-of-life, and job productivity outcomes among working parents and guardians of school-age children. Our hope is that the findings of the proposed study will be relevant to audiences including working families, community leaders, school administrators, service providers, transportation planners, employers, and policy makers in Waltham and in other communities, as well as to work-family researchers.

Status: Complete. View final report.

 

Study of Families with Shiftworking Mothers


Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Description: To better understand the consequences of maternal work schedules on family functioning and children’s socioemotional outcomes, we interviewed 29 registered nurses who regularly worked day shifts (typically from about 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) and 26 registered nurses who regularly worked evening shifts (typically from about 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.). We also interviewed the nurses’ husbands and their 8- to 14-year-old children. We interviewed a total of 183 people (55 mothers, 55 fathers, 73 children) between December 2002 and February 2004. In appreciation for their time, families received $75 plus $25 for each participating child. We believe the results will provide useful information for nurses, their families, their employing organizations, and other researchers who are interested in the effects of shiftwork on employees and their families.

Status: Complete. FSM Publication list.

 

Study of Parental After-School Stress


Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Description: To examine the relationships linking parental after-school stress (PASS) to outcomes such as job disruptions and psychological well-being among employed parents of school-aged (i.e., K-12) children, we asked employed parents of school-aged children to fill out a 20-minute mail questionnaire. We collected data from 374 employed parents at four different companies between June of 2003 and February of 2004. In appreciation for their time, participants were entered into a drawing to win one of a number of $100 gift certificates. The data allowed us to explore the variables that moderate and mediate relationships between PASS and outcomes and to determine what factors contribute to and ameliorate PASS among employed parents. This information should be helpful to other working parents, their employers, after-school program developers and advocates, and local and national policy makers.

Status: Complete. Download interim report.

 

Study of Total Family Work Hours in dual-earner couples


Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Description: To better understand the relationship between work hours and stress-related outcomes in dual-earner couples, we conducted a secondary analysis using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) of couple data from the Adult Lives Project, a prior longitudinal study of Boston-area dual-earner couples. Based on a paper by Jacobs and Gerson (Jacobs, J. A., & Gerson, K., 2001, Overworked individuals or overworked families? Explaining trends in work, leisure, and family time, Work and Occupations, 28(1), 40-63), we tested the hypothesis among the 211 couples with children that total family work hours (i.e., husband’s hours plus wife’s hours) is a stronger predictor of outcomes for both spouses than is each spouse’s individual work hours. We also examined the effects of other couple-level work hours variables, including the gap between husbands’ and wives’ work hours and the proportion of total family work hours contributed by each spouse. We believe that the results of this analysis will provide useful information for dual-earner couples, their employers, and other researchers who are interested in the effects of work schedules on stress-related outcomes.

Status: Data have been analyzed and a manuscript is currently under revision.

 

Managing the Travel Demands of All Members of Dual-Earner Families with Children


Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Description: Mainstream work-family research has largely ignored the role of travel, while transportation research has not considered how complex family travel patterns affect the quality of life, transportation mode use and residential choice of all members of two-earner households. This qualitative interview study has collected data that explores how families determine their daily travel arrangements and how they manage the dynamic variability of their schedules and travel needs. Dual-earner couples with preschool and school-aged children living in two communities in the greater Boston metropolitan area (Brookline and Winchester, MA) were interviewed for this study. Recognizing how communities vary in how well or poorly their transportation options meet the needs of working families, the towns selected for the proposed study were chosen because they vary greatly in transportation options and land use density, yet share other significant characteristics that influence residential choice and quality of life such as quality of schools, libraries, and recreational resources.

In addition to the interviews conducted, travel diaries were completed by the couples for one week. Data collected include length of trip (commuting and household-sustaining travel), transportation mode, satisfaction with travel arrangements, how variability in travel is managed and overall coordination of family travel. In addition to the travel data collected, the interviews revealed significant information about the role of community and transportation resources in supporting or hindering families' ability to manage their daily travel needs

Status: Data collection has been completed and is now being analyzed. In addition to analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data and travel diary information to be reported in narrative format, the travel diary and other quantitative data are also being entered into a Graphical Information System (GIS) mapping program to visually analyze travel patterns in relation to the quantitative data (e.g., stress reported and impact on work performance) collected during interviews.

Study of Women's Health Care Professionals 
Funder: National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health #OH 03848 Description: To examine the relationship between full-time vs. reduced-hours work schedules and mental- and physical-health outcomes, extensive face-to-face quantitative interviews were conducted with 186 women in two health-care professions, physicians and licensed practical nurses, who were in dual-earner couples and who had at least one child under high-school age. Our final sample consisted of 47 reduced-hours MDs, 51 full-time MDs, 44 reduced-hours LPNs, and 44 full-time LPNs. Data for the MDs were collected between September 1999 and March 2001, whereas data for the LPNs were collected between March 2000 and October 2001.

Status: Complete. Download report.

 

Alternative Careers in Medicine


Funder: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Description: Between May of 1997 and August of 1998, we interviewed 141 Boston-area reduced-hour physicians (116 women and 25 men) and their employed spouses in a study of the anticipated and unanticipated consequences of reduced-hours work on physicians, their spouses, and their employing organizations. Before the interview, participants received a mailed survey to complete. The interview and survey together comprised about 558 items covering various aspects of the reduced-hours work arrangement and a number of quality-of-life indicators. Our response rates compared favorably to those achieved in other studies of physicians.

Status: Complete. Download report.