Work-life Interference: SHRM Foundation Research


Work-life Interference: Expanding our Measurement Conceptualization and Improving our Measurement

This project was funded by a SHRM Foundation research grant.
: June 2008  Completed: June 2010

Ann Marie Ryan, Ph.D., Michigan State University
Jessica Fandre, Doctoral Student, Michigan State University
Elizabeth Oberlander, Doctoral Student, Michigan State University
Ruchi Sinha, Doctoral Student, Michigan State University
Alyssa Friede, Ph.D., DePaul University

Executive Summary

Organizations have increasingly recognized the importance of considering how work affects life outside of work.  While much of the research and policy focus has been on ways to reduce work-family conflict, employees have many different life roles and many employees do not have children or partners.  HR professionals have noted the need to be inclusive in approaching the issue of work interference with life outside of work, yet we actually know little about how work interferes with other roles than family and how that affects employee well-being.

Ann Marie Ryan, Jessica Keeney, Elizabeth Poposki, Ruchi Sinha, and Alyssa Westring sought to better understand work interference with non-work roles.  They collected data from 1811 working adults of varied ages, gender, marital and parental status, in a wide variety of occupations.  Their findings regarding work-life interference and implications for HR policies are detailed below.


  1.  Work interferes with many other life roles.  Individuals reported levels of interference with health, leisure, friendships, household management, romantic relationships, community involvement, and education at levels comparable to interference with family.  For example, individuals described how work interfered with their ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle, to form and maintain friendships and romantic relationships, and to be involved in their communities.
  2. Work interference with other domains affects individual life and job satisfaction, physical and mental health, and turnover intentions above and beyond work interference with family roles.  That is, there are negative effects on individual well-being and job attitudes from work-interference with aspects of life beyond family roles.
  3. Employees with higher work-interference-with life overall see work as contributing to their complete lack of involvement in one or more life domains.   That is, individuals “opt out” of life roles in order to more effectively balance other roles (i.e., work and family).  This was particularly true of involvement in health-related activities, friendships and leisure.  It is important to not just focus on how work is interfering with an individual’s current roles, but to recognize what roles they have given up or are unable to maintain because of work.
  4. Women perceived greater levels of work interference in six of the eight domains assessed.

HR professionals need to consider a more holistic and inclusive approach to assessing work interference with life outside of work, and recognize the negative effects of work interference with life domains beyond its interference with family roles.  Policy decisions should reflect a more inclusive approach to tackling work interference with life.

Study Methods
The investigators surveyed 1811 working adults on how work interferes with each of 8 life domains (family, friendships, household management, health, leisure, education, romantic relationships, and community involvement), and how that interference affects their life satisfaction, mental and physical health and turnover intentions.  The investigators also measured the extent to which individuals chose to “opt out” or reduce involvement in a domain because of work demands.

Read the full report here.
View the full list of SHRM Foundation funded research.