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Collaborative Research Team to Study Work and Family Balance

June 11, 2008

The Cooperative Extension has joined with the Carsey Institute and New Hampshire Employment Security (NHES) to implement a study of the factors contributing to work and family balance in New Hampshire workplaces. The study, funded by a Cooperative Extension Significant Issues grant, will help create programs to strengthen New Hampshire’s working families.

This research project was inspired by the work of New Hampshire Legislative Task Force on Work and Family, established in 2007 to “identify the multiple barriers which keep New Hampshire workers from achieving economic security and maximizing their contributions to the state’s economy as well as attending to family responsibilities.”

Malcolm Smith, a Cooperative Extension family education and policy specialist, noted that previous research shows the correlation of an employee’s family-related stress and workplace productivity.

“Our research seeks to identify and understand the factors that either impede or promote balance between work and family life, with a goal of developing prevention and intervention strategies to address them,” said Smith.

The project will be the first of its kind in the Granite State, and will include focus groups, surveys, and statewide meetings for policy makers. Cooperative Extension has provided programs at worksites aimed at balancing work and life, but seeks to improve and expand its programming with the research findings. Furthermore, although NHES’s Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau has produced benefit studies from employer perspectives, it hasn’t solicited employee perspectives up until this point. This survey will fill a void in existing research.

NHES Commissioner Richard Brothers said, “Attracting and retaining young families is essential for maintaining a strong New Hampshire workforce while providing the engine to drive our state’s future economic prosperity.”

The Carsey Institute is an applied research and public policy institute at UNH that studies the issues that face families and communities. The institute has published several briefs on various aspects of issues related to work and family balance, but hasn’t yet worked on a comprehensive study.

“A work and family balance study of this magnitude is well overdue in New Hampshire” noted Kristin Smith, family demographer at the Carsey Institute. “Many New Hampshire families struggle with juggling the demands of family and careers. This research will contribute to finding solutions to help New Hampshire families and businesses better balance work and family by identifying the key factors that impede their success,” she said.

NHES and Extension will host a series of focus groups including families, employers, and human resource professionals. The research team will combine findings from the focus groups with analysis of existing national data to design a survey instrument, which the UNH Survey Center will administer to more than 500 families throughout the Granite State in the spring of 2009. The project will also host two statewide meetings for legislative and business leaders, community support groups, and policymakers.

To learn more, contact Extension associate professor/specialist Malcolm L. Smith, at 2-7008 or by email at Malcolm.Smith@unh.edu

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