Bath [England]: In order to maintain a productive and free-thinking environment that boosts the creativity of employees, employers need to value supportive friendships between colleagues. It is the key to unlocking more resourcefulness and innovation. A new study from the University of Bath’s School of Management has revealed that care from a co-worker inspires people to be supportive of their partner at home.
This showed that co-workers had a significant role to play in enabling couples to cope with balancing the demands of work and family life. The study titled, ‘Sharing is Caring: The role of Compassionate Love for Sharing Coworker Work-Family Support at home to promote Partners’ Creativity at work’ was published in the ‘Journal of Applied Psychology.
This spiral of support has knock-on benefits for creative thinking at work. “Employees take the support they receive from co-workers home with them, and in a loving relationship, they transfer this support to their partner. This might mean they encourage them to open up about stresses, seek to resolve issues, or make improvements to the juggle of work-life arrangements that benefit the family,” said Professor Yasin Rofcanin from the University of Bath’s Future of Work research centre.
“The result is that both members of a couple of benefits. Spouses who pass on support received from co-workers and partners will be more creative at work, in what is termed a ‘gain spiral. So it pays for employers to recognize the value of caring co-workers.”
Over and above work policies, or interventions by supervisors, it is informal support from co-workers that stands out as having the biggest impact on an individual’s ability to manage the work-life balance, spilling over to benefit the partner at home and in turn their own creative thinking at work.
Co-worker support can mean being on hand to listen and talk through life’s issues and challenges as they arise, offering suggestions for problems at home, as well as providing cover for absence if a child is sick, or other caring responsibilities crop up. The research suggested that organizations should give employees more flexibility to manage caring cover with a colleague without intervention from managers.
The research also alerted employers to the pitfalls of working practices and expectations taking a toll on home life, encouraging employers to be mindful of the detrimental impact on relationships.
“So much research points to the stresses of being in a dual-income couple, it’s refreshing to see a win for loving relationships alongside work,” said Rofcanin. “While we’re not suggesting employers should meddle in relationships, they may be able to positively contribute to the quality of relationships at home by putting policies and procedures in place to minimize work-family conflict, such as limiting overtime and expectations to respond to emails outside of hours.”
The study, by the Universities of Bath, VU Amsterdam and IESE Business School, focused on diary entries over five weeks by over 200 full-time, dual-income heterosexual couples in the United States, eighty per cent of which had children.
The researchers acknowledged that there could be drawbacks in relying on co-workers for support with work and family matters, with partners at home feeling jealous and upset about the closeness of ‘work spouse’ relationships. They suggested that future research could examine the potential of this relationship dynamic to promote conflict at home.