Generations of employers have suspected that fathers who devote a lot of time to their families make less-than-optimum employees. And this suspicion persists today, even in the age of work-life balance.

But what if spending time with the wife and kiddos actually made guys better employees? There’s evidence, from recently published research, that this is so.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Northeastern University and Boston University surveyed nearly 1,000 male professional and managerial employees at four Fortune 500 companies. All of the survey participants were married and had at least one child under 18 years old.

More satisfaction, less turnover
Here’s the key finding from the survey: The more time these employees spent with their families, the more satisfied they were with their jobs and the less likely they were to quit and look for greener workplace pastures. (As a group, these upper-level employees — their mean annual salary was $80,000 — spent LESS time with their families than the national average: 2.65 hours compared with 3 hours. But that didn’t invalidate the trend that more time was better.)

The survey didn’t deal specifically with performance, but it’s very likely that satisfied employees perform better than disgruntled ones. The effects of job satisfaction on performance and vice versa have been much studied, with contrasting results, but a substantial amount of research has found that there is some kind of relationship.

The new survey touched on another significant point: the importance of managerial support for husbands-fathers who want to see the family for more than a couple of minutes in the morning and evening. The surveyed employees rated the amount of support they got from their supervisors on family matters at an average of 3.79 on a 1-5 scale.

The researchers acknowledged that male employees who spent more time with the family experienced lower levels of career identity. But they also said that support from supervisors went a long way toward shoring up employees’ perceptions of their careers as important.

Issues of balance
Different employers have different attitudes toward work-life balance, and the amount of family leeway your organization allows parents — both men and women — will depend on the particular facts of your specific business.

But the new research does suggest that, when it comes to men, you’re not playing a zero-sum game where the family’s gain is your loss. Both sides — home and career — can come out ahead, if you back these employees up through enlightened policies and managerial support.

Source: “Updating the Organization Man: An Examination of Involved Fathering in the Workplace,” Academy of Management Perspectives, February 2015.

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