June 20, 2018
I am a doctoral student in the Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management program in the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics. My supervisor is Dr. Yujie (Jessie) Zhan.
My research interests primarily lie within the broader field of the work-nonwork interface. In other words, how work, family, and personal life roles can have both conflicting and enriching effects on one another. Given the shifting composition of the current and incoming workforce – people having fewer traditional family obligations – I study ways in which personal roles can be distinguished from family roles and subsequently influence workplace outcomes. I am also interested in how prominent people (e.g. supervisor, partner) around a focal employee can support and/or obstruct positive work-nonwork relationships, and the nuances of women and men’s experiences and challenges in managing work, family, and personal life roles.
I recently conducted a field study to examine how greater engagement in one’s personal life (i.e. activities one does out of personal discretion and interest outside of work and family) can influence creativity at work. The findings of this study provided initial evidence that having what one may consider a “fulfilled personal life” by engaging in a variety of personal life activities, is beneficial to an individual’s capacity to be creative at work. This was explained by an underlying mechanism that I conceptualized as utilizing multiple perspectives or thinking about something in different ways, which arguably is fostered through higher engagement in a variety of different activities. This study contributes to broader knowledge by demonstrating that personal activities can be advantageous in their own right for aspects of performance and not just for stress recovery.
This fits well within the larger scope of my research interests and in my specific research program that aims to make a distinction between personal life and family roles, as past research has often conflated these the two, assuming the family domain to be all encompassing of everything non-work. One of the other important objectives of this research program is to examine conflict/enrichment with a more fine-grained approach by breaking down the process by which spillover occurs rather than the dominate method which has been to ask people directly their perceptions of work-family conflict or enrichment. In so doing, this research more objectively tests the underlying explanation of why one domain influences another domain.
I plan to continue research in this area by conducting follow-up field studies that provide stronger evidence for these relationships and examine theoretically important variables that would explain when these relationships are expected to be more pronounced. I hope to contribute to the broader literature by empirically testing propositions from recent theory, expanding the scope of the theory to personal roles, and exploring the boundaries of these relationships.
Furthermore, I will examine whether there are gender differences in these relationships given the overwhelming evidence of inequality that remains in both households and workplaces, while the work-nonwork literature is inconclusive regarding the role of gender in the work-family interface.
I hope that the findings of this study and my research program will set the stage to develop an intervention to enhance the positive benefits of personal activities on work-related outcomes. This will have great practical significance because it provides insight into how these processes unfold, and provides benefits to employees and organizations by validating a training tool that can be useful in managing this phenomenon. Ultimately, by illustrating the importance of having fulfilled personal interests outside the workplace, the goal is to encourage engagement in nonwork activities, which combat stress and increase performance, by underscoring the benefits that occur inside the workplace.
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