Study of the intersection of work with nonwork components of individuals’ lives has most often focused on roles within nuclear and extended families but is increasingly focused on nonwork domains beyond family, such as roles within friendships, communities, leisure activities, and the self. In line with the focus of most existing literature on the family-specific domain within nonwork lives, the nonwork domain will generally be referred to here as “family.” One popular conceptualization of linking mechanisms between work and family differentiates between work-family conflict or stress, which occurs when a work role and a nonwork role are not fully compatible and results in some type of physical or psychological strain. Alternatively, work-family enrichment occurs when participation in one role benefits life in the other role. Concepts similar to work-family enrichment include work-family positive spillover and work-family facilitation; all emphasize the ways in which one role can positively impact another role. Additionally, the popular concept of work-family balance highlights either a state of low conflict and high enrichment or the presence of effectiveness and satisfaction in both roles.
Broadly speaking, the links between work and family are bi-directional, such that the work domain can influence the family domain, the family domain can influence the work domain, and both can occur simultaneously. Work-family conflict and enrichment have been tied to important employee outcomes, including work (e.g., absenteeism), family (e.g., family satisfaction), and domain-unspecific outcomes (e.g., physical and psychological health), as well as to organizational outcomes (e.g., market performance). Working conditions contributing to work-family conflict and enrichment are frequently characteristic of lower wage jobs, such as low levels of control over work, high work demands, low levels of supervisor support, shift work, and temporary work that can lead to unpredictable schedules, high degrees of job insecurity, and increased health and safety hazards. Researchers are presented with unique challenges as the workplace continues to change, with more dual-earner couples, an increasingly aging workforce, and surges of technology that facilitates flexible work arrangements (e.g., telecommuting). Nonetheless, researchers and organizations work to explore relationships between work and family roles, develop policies related to work and family (i.e., national, state or local, and organizational), and build evidence-based interventions to improve organizations’ abilities to meet employees’ needs.