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Research Brief of von Allmen et al.’s (2023) The Effectiveness of Work-Nonwork Interventions…

Ryan Grant & Adam Meade

In recent years, understanding how to effectively manage the work–nonwork interface has become highly important to researchers, organizations, and individual employees alike. Effectively managing the work–nonwork interface involves improving work–nonwork balance (the extent to which employees evaluate the combination of work and nonwork roles as satisfying), minimizing work–nonwork conflict (when the demands of life roles are not compatible in some way), and promoting enrichment between roles (when experiences in one life role improve the quality of life in other roles). The authors of this study evaluated the effectiveness of different interventions and their ability to improve management of the work–nonwork interface in terms of strengthening balance, reducing conflict, and promoting enrichment (enrichment occurs when the experiences in one role improve the quality of life in other roles). To do so, the authors conducted a meta-analytic review of available work–nonwork intervention studies that compared an experimental intervention group to a control group that did not have access to the intervention. They chose to focus on this type of research design as it is the gold standard for providing stronger evidence of causation as compared to other methods, like a correlational study.

Their meta-analysis included 6,680 participants across 26 studies. The studies examined the effects of various interventions on employees’ work–nonwork outcomes by comparing the pre- and postwork–nonwork outcomes among those receiving the intervention to those who did not (the control group). The authors examined the general effectiveness of work–nonwork interventions, along with two different strategies to improve work–nonwork outcomes: increasing personal resources and contextual resources. Contextual resources are located outside of the individual and originate from the social context. Examples of contextual resources include the autonomy one’s job gives an individual over their work schedule and social support from colleagues at work. On the other hand, personal resources are resources that originate from within the individual, such as an individual’s energy level and their time management skills. They further differentiated which life role these resources came from: work (e.g., increasing knowledge and work skills), nonwork (e.g., improving parenting skills), or boundary spanning (e.g., training on balancing both work and home demands).

The key findings of the study are

  1. All work–nonwork interventions improved employees’ overall management of the work–nonwork interface compared to employees in a control group with no intervention.
  2. When comparing the different kinds of interventions, interventions aimed at improving personal resources (e.g., mindfulness training, stress management) were more effective than interventions that targeted improving contextual resources (e.g., giving more flexibility over an individual’s schedule). Specifically,
    • Interventions targeted at increasing contextual resources were ineffective at reducing work-to-nonwork conflict.
    • Increasing personal resources reduced both work-to-nonwork conflict and nonwork-to-work conflict, increased work-to-nonwork enrichment, and increased work–nonwork balance. In particular, interventions targeted at improving personal resources in the nonwork domain, such as improving parenting skills, teaching stress management techniques, and increasing mindfulness skills, were more effective at helping people balance their work and nonwork lives than improving personal resources in the work domain (e.g., promoting resilience at work).

Practical Implications

The findings of this meta-analytic study offer multiple important practical recommendations. Most importantly, organizations and practitioners should focus on improving personal resources in the nonwork domain to help employees better manage their work–nonwork interface. For example, organizations could offer training to improve employees’ abilities to manage daily stress and parenting skills. The findings in this study, that interventions for increasing personal resources are best for helping employees manage work and nonwork roles, are particularly important given that these interventions offer several key advantages for organizations. First, increasing personal resources in the nonwork domain does not require oversight and involvement by organizations and supervisors. This means any employee can engage in activities that improve their personal resources without an employer’s support. Second, personal resource interventions are highly flexible. They can be delivered across many different mediums, whether they be online or in person. This makes them easier to implement and more cost-effective than other interventions. For example, organizations could provide parenting skills training that employees could view on their personal phones at any time they pleased. Third, personal resource interventions aimed at improving nonwork resources can be applied across all organizations and job contexts, which increases the number of employees who can reap the positive benefits of these interventions. Within an organization, this context independence allows an organization to apply these personal resource interventions across many or all job levels and areas within an organization, also benefiting more employees.

Limitations to Consider

This study’s findings should also be evaluated in the context of its limitations. One limitation is the relatively small number of studies (k = 26) included in the overall meta-analysis, along with a smaller number of studies used in each individual analysis, limiting confidence in the generalizability of the findings. A second limitation is that the authors initially sought to examine interventions aimed at reducing personal demands (e.g., unreachable goals) and contextual demands (e.g., time spent working), along with interventions for increasing resources; however, there were not enough studies in the literature to meta-analyze the effects of demands reduction interventions. Thus, the results of this study should not be interpreted to mean that organizations should not provide contextual resources or reduce contextual demands but that nonwork personal resource interventions appear to be best at this time. As more studies are conducted that examine demands-reduction interventions, future research may be able to better estimate the effect of such interventions on employees’ ability to manage work and nonwork boundaries. That being said, the findings here regarding using interventions that increase personal resources may still hold true given that interventions that try to reduce contextual demands, such as reduced work hours, may not be practical or feasible for organizations or could possibly even be harmful to an organization’s goals. 

For more details, please read the full article:

von Allmen, N., Hirschi, A., Burmeister, A., & Shockley, K. M. (2023). The effectiveness of work–nonwork interventions: A theoretical synthesis and meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0001105

Ryan Grant and Adam Meade were members of the 2023–2024 Scientific Affairs Committee (chaired by Maria Kraimer).

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