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Supporting Families: The Importance of Supervisors

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Right now, employees are dealing with lots of challenges related to the pandemic. Many of us are working remotely, often with our family members staying at home too. Having leaders that are supportive of personal and family life is more important than ever. Today, we explore the concept of Family Supportive Supervisor Behaviors (FSSB) – what it is and how it can help improve employees’ lives.

What are Family Supportive Supervisor Behaviors?

Family Supportive Supervisor Behaviors are behaviors exhibited by supervisors that are supportive of employees’ family life. In other words, it’s what supervisors do to show and provide support for their team members’ family life outside of work. There are 4 different types of behaviors – emotional support, instrumental support, role modeling, and creative work-family policies. As you read through this, think about how you can provide this type of support to your team members, especially if you are a leader.

Employees need all the help they can get managing work and family during this pandemic!

Emotional Support

This one is a pretty obvious supportive behavior. Emotional support is all about showing care and concern about the employee’s work-life balance. Supervisors that do this effectively provide space for their employees to come to them and share their struggles and challenges in regard to work-life balance. In addition, they empathize and provide help from an emotional perspective.

Instrumental Support

Instrumental support is all about providing resources and solutions to employees to help them juggle work and life. For example, if an employee is facing a client meeting at the same time as pick up from daycare, a supportive supervisor will jump in to help out, find someone else to cover, or work to move the client meeting. They will find a way to work through the issue.

Role Modeling

In addition, FSSB includes role modeling. Effective supervisors are focused on their own work-life balance as well. They do the things they recommend the team members do. This is very important. Employees will find it hard to believe that they can disconnect at night and not answer emails if their supervisor is doing it every night. It’s important for the leader to lead the way!

Creative Family-Work Policies

Finally, supportive supervisors actively work to create a workplace that allows for employees to manage work and life. This is more big picture than instrumental support. Effective supervisors organize work in a way that benefits the employee and the team. For example, a supervisor may set core work hours from 10 am to 3 pm. They would allow for blanket flexibility for start and end times so that employees can manage their family responsibilities as they see fit. Most importantly, supervisors that are good at FSSBs are structuring work to help support employees’ family lives.

A supportive leader will help the team structure work in a way that everyone can benefit!

Benefits of Family Supportive Supervisor Behaviors

Who doesn’t want a supervisor that’s supportive of their family life? The benefits are probably pretty clear! However, what does the research show? Employees that have supportive supervisors tend to have lower work-family conflict. In other words, they see more balance! These employees are also happier with their jobs and less likely to want to leave. In addition, employees with supportive supervisors are less stressed and are happier with the amount of time they have with their families. Finally, these employees are more likely to feel in control of their work hours and feel less obligated to show up to work when they are sick. In sum, supportive supervisors have employees that are more well!

So what can you do? If you are a leader, start doing the 4 different types of behaviors to help your employees! Show your support and create a workplace where employees can thrive in and out of work. If you don’t lead a team, think about how you can support your peers,. While this research is specific to leaders, we do know that coworkers are incredibly important too. Be the good coworker! And if you have a good relationship with your leader, maybe you can influence how they support work and family. Good luck!

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