This blog is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape the workplace, employees are increasingly seeking telecommuting or hybrid work arrangements. With these changes come new challenges, one of the most pressing of which is managing distractions from family and household members. Business leaders must find a way to motivate and engage employees while also supporting them in their efforts to balance work and home life. In this blog, I discuss the benefits of family-supportive leadership and the role leaders can play in helping employees achieve work-life balance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant shift in the way people work, with over 70% of U.S. workers performing some or all of their job duties from home as of late 2020 (Parker et al., 2020). Due to the lack of physical compartmentalization between work and family space, most employees experience blurred work-life boundaries. Distractions from family and other household members have become a major challenge for both employees and employers (Gratton, 2020). It is important to note that family distractions are not limited to married couples or women, but also extend to individuals with children, caregiving responsibilities, and elderly dependents. Both married and unmarried individuals face these challenges, making it a widespread issue that affects a large segment of the workforce.

Why should leaders be family-supportive? Leaders should prioritize being family-supportive as it leads to numerous benefits for both employees and the workplace. Our recent research showed that when leaders support employees’ family matters, it leads to an increase in positive emotions, such as happiness, excitement, appreciation, energy, and engagement in remote work. These positive emotions act as psychological resources that help employees maintain a better quality of family life, which in turn spills over to the workplace. The family-to-work enrichment experienced by employees results in better performance at work as they are more active, energetic, and motivated in dealing with different work tasks.

It’s crucial to note that family-supportive leaders also foster increased creativity among employees. Employees with leaders who support their family lives have the potential to bring innovative ideas and solutions to their daily work activities. This can be a valuable asset for organizations in adapting to the new working environment, such as implementing virtual conferencing or establishing a remote reporting system. A family-supportive leader creates a positive work environment that allows employees to build strong relationships with their employers. Employees are consequently more driven to carry out their duties and responsibilities within the organization and are more inclined to act in a creative and innovative manner.

For leaders to become family-supportive, they can adopt several strategies:

Show interest. Leaders should take an active interest in understanding each employee’s unique family situation. They should express their concerns and offer encouragement to employees who struggle with balancing work and family demands. Leaders should also frequently ask about their employees’ family demands and listen when they discuss their family matters.

Be flexible. Leaders should be proactive in solving work-life balance problems and acknowledge that employees have family obligations. They should be responsive to requests for flexibility, interpret and discuss family-related policies, and manage work schedules to accommodate family needs.

Use empathetic language. Leaders should provide emotional support through empathetic language, making employees feel cared for and comfortable discussing family-related issues. They should demonstrate respect, sympathy, and sensitivity towards family responsibilities, and alleviate any concerns employees may have about negative career consequences. By doing so, leaders can help employees balance work and family life.

Gratton, L. (2020). How to help employees work from home with kids. MIT sloan management review.
Lee, Y., & Kim, J. (2022). How Family-Supportive Leadership Communication Enhances the Creativity of Work-From-Home Employees during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Management Communication Quarterly, 08933189221144997.
Parker, K., Horowitz, J. M., & Minkin, R. (2020) How the coronavirus outbreak has-and hasn’t – changed the way Americans work. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

Yeunjae Lee, Ph.D., Purdue University is an assistant professor in the Department of Strategic Communication at the University of Miami. Her main research interests include employee communication, internal issue/crisis management, and organizational diversity and justice.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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