Life Out of Balance: Impact on Families

February 17 2020 / by Mari Ryan

Work-life balance is not a new topic. Nor one that is going away. Typically, when we think about work-life balance it is from the perspective of the employee who is trying to juggle the challenges of their professional and personal responsibilities. But there’s more to this conversation. What effect does this imbalance have on families?


Perhaps you can identify with one of these profiles. The executive or entrepreneur who works long hours each day and often on weekends. The salesperson entertaining clients multiple nights a week. The worker who has unpredictable shifts or must put in mandatory overtime. I can honestly say I’ve lived this. While I worked as a consultant in another city for nine months, my husband had to assume all the responsibilities for our life at home. Even our dog was stressed!

Regardless of the scenario, the impact is the same. Families – spouses, partners and children are negatively impacted by the stress of these situations. We don’t leave our work at the door when we head home. Just like we don’t leave our family life at the door when we head to work.

According to the American Psychological Association, 65% of US employees cite work as a significant source of stress. Additionally, one third report chronic work stress. Given those numbers, it is no surprise the people are showing up at home depleted and stressed.

The result of this ongoing stress is called work-family conflict and it occurs when pressures at work interfere with how we function at home. This clash may manifest as the failure of one partner to do their share of the childcare or housework, resulting in hostile interactions between the partners.

There is also the concept of spill-over. This is the processing of carrying over emotions from one setting to another. For example, lashing out at family members for little or no reason because we are so pressured at work. Research has shown that distressing social interactions at work can influence mother’s behavior, causing her to be withdrawn with their young children.

In a recent conversation with Adam Anderson, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Whole Life Entrepreneurship, he said, “Dream with me for a little bit, if you wouldn’t mind. Picture this: I have an employee and that employee has a list of tasks and they simply don’t do them, or they do them so poorly that they impact the rest of the organization because they are depending on them. That employee is absentee, doesn’t show up for work, and actually doesn’t understand their role in the company. That is the same thing happening inside of your family when you are so focused on work that you don’t even realize that you are being disruptive to your family. The lack of connection causes a toxic ripple effect through your entire family. It is devastating to the people who you are not even paying attention to.” Adam speaks from experience. His own situation ended up being so toxic that his wife, Kerry, wrote a book about it called, In Bed With the Business.

What Can Employers Do?

Regardless of how you make a living, we owe it to our families to consider the impact that work stress and demands have on our family life. Employers have options for helping to create workplaces that support whole family well-being. Here are a few:

  • Culture. Workplace culture plays a key role in the employee experience. If the culture focuses on profit over people, there will undoubtedly be stress. Every culture has espoused values. Do those values support the individual in a way that doesn’t disrupt family well-being?
  • Flexible Policies. Policies that allow for flexibility in work hours and locations can support the need to uphold family commitments. In research interviews for my book, The Thriving Hive, a CEO of a public relations firm stated, “I’ve always made it a point to tell people that I rose through the ranks of my career all the way to CEO without having to work late hardly ever. I had dinner with my family almost every night, unless I was traveling, obviously. The times that I had to stay in the office late to work were relatively few and that for me was about prioritization. I wanted to be home with my family.”
  • Vacation Policies. Encouraging employees to take vacation, as I’ve written previously, gives them a chance to step away from work so they can recharge and reconnect with their families.
  • Support resources. Offering support services, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and promoting them throughout the organization, gives employees resources to fall back on when they need support for their mental health or relationships.

Many people agree there is nothing more important than family. Yet, all too often the stress of our day-to-day lives causes our family life to suffer. Let’s strive to find greater balance in our work and our life.


Topics: Worksite Wellness, Wellbeing, worksite wellbeing, workplace wellbeing, employee experience, hr, talent management, chronic stress, workplace wellness, employee wellbeing, family health

Mari Ryan

Written by Mari Ryan

Mari Ryan is the CEO/founder of AdvancingWellness and is a recognized expert in the field of workplace well-being strategy.