Dear Wharton Alumni,
Many of you may have seen an article that ran in the Sunday New York Times on Father’s Day that highlighted a recent study conducted by Wharton Management Professor Peter Cappelli (New York Times, June 18, 1995). The study revealed that, contrary to popular wisdom, employees who invested time and energy in having a strong family life were actually more successful in their careers than those who sacrificed their home lives for their jobs. Although I was delighted to see the study prompt such a wonderful article on Father’s Day, I couldn’t help but think it would have been equally appropriate for the article to have run on Mother’s Day — or on any day for that matter. Certainly, this is an area of deep concern for working men and women alike.
We’ve long heard anecdotal evidence about the challenges that workers face with regard to their personal lives in the fast-paced, ever changing business environment. Yet many of us have questioned the expectation in many industries and organizations that the job comes first and one’s family comes — or should come — a distant second. As the father of four young children myself, I’m personally aware of the importance of, and tensions involved in, balancing work and family life!
We’ve seen the concerns of those who seek greater flexibility between the conflicts of work and family life surface in many forms: in the demand for company-sponsored, on-site day care; in issues arising from employer-provided health care benefits and family leave; in the development of job sharing and flex time; in telecommuting; and in experiments like the so-called “mommy track.” And while the Cappelli study is encouraging, many receive it with more than a little skepticism. Can we really “have it all”? A successful, high profile career and also time for dinners with the family, school plays, family vacations and little league games? And even time for friends and personal interests?
Much more good research needs to be done in this area, and I’m happy to report that Wharton faculty are pressing ahead on studies into the relationship between work and personal life, and on developing curricular material to assist employees, managers and businesses in the search for balance. Stewart Friedman, adjunct associate professor of management, is conducting a longitudinal study of Wharton students and alumni to measure expectations and accomplishments in career and personal goals. His work with corporations has resulted in the production of a resource guide to help employers develop training and policies in this area. And our MBA students explore issues affecting both career achievement and personal satisfaction in their first-year leadership course.
The work being done here at Wharton clearly suggests that there may well be a productive happy medium that is better than the all-or-nothing work-family choices we’ve made in the past. While the School is helping to chart the course for individuals interested in reaching it, employers have a real stake in this as well: Cappelli’s study indicates a strong correlation between personal life satisfaction and worker productivity. This suggests that employer support for their employees’ lives outside the company may be as meaningful a long-term investment as professional development and training. We can help corporations realize that both investments can yield concrete value to their bottom lines through increasing the productivity of their workforce.
I’m proud of the role Wharton faculty members are playing in exploring these vital and long unaddressed issues. It is just one more way the School can contribute to the conduct of business and the quality of life in our society.
Thomas P. Gerrity