Conciliar trabajo y familia

Conciliating Work and Family: A Catholic

Social Teaching Perspective


Gregorio Guitia´n


(Journal of Business Ethics,Springer 2009, pp.513-524)



ABSTRACT. Although work–family conflict is highly relevant for both families and businesses, scarce attention has received from business ethics perspective. This article focuses on the latter, presenting a set of relevant insights from Catholic Social Teaching (CST). After reviewing the foundations and principles presented by CST regarding work–family relationships, a set of normative propositions are presented to develop work–family policies and for a correct personal work–family balance. It is argued that business responsibility with employees’ family should be considered as a part of Corporate Social Responsibility. In addition, the applications of these principles and propositions can lead to a mutual enrichment of both business and family.


KEY WORDS: Catholic Social Teaching, Corporate Social Responsibility, work–family balance, work–family conflict, work–family enrichment




Family and work are rich and complex aspects of human and social life, especially given the current economic and cultural circumstances (Cullen et al., 2003; Donati, 2001). A multiplicity of factors, such as a growing global economic competition, an ageing population along with an increasing number of families in which both the father and the mother have day jobs, single mothers or fathers, workers with duties of eldercare, etc., have given rise to new modalities of the so-called work–family conflict.


At first glance, the conflict would seem like a ‘‘private’’ family affair; however, the evident consequences of the problem have pulled down the myth of separation between work and personal life and account for the interest generated in addressing this issue. Several studies point out that work–family conflict is correlated with absenteeism, decrease of productivity, job dissatisfaction, lower organizational commitment, lack of life satisfaction, anxiety, burnout, psychological distress, depression, physical ailments, heavy alcohol use or marital strain (Hansen, 1991, pp. 348–349; Marchese et al., 2002 1; Matthews et al., 1996). This shows that the conflict goes beyond the case of business. Ultimately, work and family conflict is a human and social problem.


Empirical studies, from different perspectives, have sought to determine the characteristics, antecedents and consequences of the work–family conflict, as well as the identification and implementation of possible solutions to the conflicts that may arise (Edwards and Rothbard, 2000; Frone, 2003; Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985; Greenhaus et al., 1989; Gutek et al., 1991; Yang et al., 2000, etc.).


Other authors have also focused on the reasons for which a firm might introduce family needs of employees as a structural variable for the work organisation (Chinchilla and Torres, 2008).


The literature has been copious; many studies focused on the effects of family polices implemented, such as flexibility, technical and personalized support, family-related services, etc., on performance (Breaugh and Frye, 2007; Christensen and Staines, 1990; Connelly et al., 2002; Frye and Breaugh, 2004; Galinsky and Stein, 1990; Glass and Riley, 1998; Gonyea, 1993; Mesmer-Magnus and Viswesvaran, 2006; Thomas and Ganster, 1995, etc.). It is generally recognised that the overall result of such policies is generally favourable, but the multiplicity of variables that have to be taken into account implies that every policy has its pros and cons (Marchese et al., 2002).


However, little has been proposed from a normative perspective in providing values, principles or guidelines which might help and are at the root of a successful work–family policy and personal balance.

An exception is Greenhaus and Powell (2006) whose approach, perhaps in a non-intended way, has made best contribution to this perspective. Mele´ (1989) dealt also with business duties regarding the employees’ family rights. In this article, we wish to contribute to enriching the normative perspective with the insights inspired by Catholic Social Teaching (CST).


Literature on business ethics based on CST is not abundant. Nevertheless, the existing works show the reasonability and practical possibilities of this perspective (Abela, 2001; Alford and Naugthon, 2001; Cortright and Naughton, 2002; McCann, 1997; Mele´, 2005; Naughton and Cornwall, 2006).


Accepting CST contents do not necessarily require sharing the Catholic faith. Although inspired by faith, CST presents rational arguments which can be shared by everybody. That is why Papal Letter- Encyclicals, which are basic documents of CST, are often addressed to all people of good will.2 In this context, we also wish to contribute to the important topic of work–family conciliation from a CST perspective.


First, we present a set of basic concepts and principles of CST on the relationship between work and family as well as some practical aspects. Then, we discuss how the work–family conflict has to be considered within the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) context. Next, we suggest some recommendations for managers and, finally, we point out the contribution of a correct management of work–family relationship to the business case.


Work and family in CST


Work and family are the two spheres in which people spend most of their time. Although being distinct, work and family are interdependent as they are mostly related with the fulfilment of the person: the sensitivity that every person shows regarding these two aspects of human life accounts for it.


The better we understand the meaning and interconnection of work and family, the better we can approach the human dimension involved in work–family conciliation issues. CST bibliographies on work and family are extensive.3


The unity between work and family


The vision of CST on work stands on the common ground that work (and so business) is ordered to serve human beings by making life more human; this is more appropriate to the human condition. This approach is explained ultimately by human dignity, a concept, the groundings of which have been expressed in philosophy and CST in these terms: ‘‘the human being is always a value as an individual, and as such demands to be considered and treated as a person and never, on the contrary, considered and treated as an object to be used, or as a means, or as a thing’’ (John Paul II, 1988, n. 37). Furthermore, theology contends that as an image of the Creator, the human person is endowed with a special dignity reflected in the calling to collaborate through work in the development of the created order.4 Work is, for the person, a reflection of his dignity and an essential factor for his flourishing.


On this basis, the letter-encyclical Laborem Excercens, the most representative document of CST on human work, describes the rapport between work and family. The document places emphasis on the subjective dimension of work, namely, the fact that the person who works is called to perfect himself through that very activity (John Paul II, 1981a, n. 5).5

Experience shows how every person, through work, transforms not only the environment but also him or herself, enriching or impoverishing his or her life and spirit. In this way, the subjective or personal dimension of work is closely related to the dignity of the human person: it points to the need to consider the employees’ flourishing through work. It is understood that man needs others to attain his flourishing.6 Even more, according to CST, man ‘‘cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.’’ (Vatican Council II, 1965, GS, 24).


This is what happens in work when the worker works with the willingness of serving others and acquiring virtues.


Frequently, managers assume that the point of business is to make a contribution to the society, to accomplish something collectively, to provide something unique, to build society, etc. (Novak, 1996, p. 36). These insights reflect that the purpose of business is, in one way or the other, to serve the society through economic activity, which includes organising human work.


Consequently, if it should serve human beings by making life more human, then business management should consider the worker’s personal flourishing through his or her work. On this point, CST not only accepts that a human being has value as an individual and demands to be treated always as a person, never as a means, but also emphasises the requirement to contribute to, or at least not to prevent, human flourishing through the working conditions.


Proposition 1: The aim of work is to serve human beings and make life more human. Business management should contribute to this end, or at least, to avoid impeding it.


As far as the family is concerned, CST stresses its crucial role for the welfare of the person and society.

The family is seen as the first and most vital cell of human society with the consequent priority ‘‘over every other community, and even over the reality of the state’’ (PCJP, 2004, n. 254). This is in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognises the right of every person of full age to create a family, and it states that the family is ‘‘the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to the protection by society and the State’’ (United Nations, 1948, art. 16, 1 and 3).


CST, along with other voices,7 states that a better and more human society – with its implications for economy and business – depends on families, since principles, values and virtues of individuals are initially

fostered there. Thus, the family is called to make life more human. As well as being the most desirable context to receive the gift of children, family is a privileged place for the creation of valuable competencies: it provides personal maturity and internal enrichment, educates in responsibility and in the meaning of the common good, teaches one to combine in practice authority with affective support, inculcates a spirit of solidarity and other social virtues and thus becomes de facto the first school of citizenship, etc. (Benedict XVI, 2005). Naturally, these competencies are not taken for granted, that is, they can be the result of a certain quality of family life not always achieved.


If work can contribute to human flourishing, then the family can also contribute, and probably even more. On this point, Pope John Paul II insisted that ‘‘man does not attain his fulfilment except in relation to and in union with other men, and especially with those who are of his own flesh and blood’’ (1980, n. 4).


Proposition 2: The family has a primary importance for the flourishing of the person and society. As a consequence, the family is one of the most important terms of reference for shaping the ethical and social order of work.


Beyond the need of children for the family, for the mother or father, husband or wife, the family is also especially linked with the love through which they fulfil themselves. In this sense, CST emphasises that the family is the natural environment for the development and fulfilment of the person and a critical place for his or her happiness and hope.

On this basis, CST states that human nature is a calling to a symbiotic relationship between work and family: both are directed to the flourishing of the person. Work is the basic and necessary condition for the possibility of family life, and on the other hand, the family is the first school of work for every person (John Paul II, 1981a, n. 10). In addition, one important function of the family is to make work life easier through the resources of solidarity it generates (PCJP, 2004, n. 249).


Proposition 3: Work and family are intrinsically related to the dignity and flourishing of the person, as well as the improvement of society. Both are called to contribute to the fulfilment of the person.


Priority in conflicts between work and family


The work–family conflict, as has been said, brings about lack of satisfaction with life, anxiety, burnout, psychological distress, depression, physical ailments, etc. Actually, the life of the employees becomes less human, contrary to what it ought to be. Thus, if the organisation of work becomes an enemy of the family, then it is also an enemy of individual. It can be assumed that as far as work and family maintain a severe dialectical relationship, there is a serious obstacle for the fulfilment of the employee required by his or her personal dignity. Therefore, there is some ethical disorder therein.


In this context we come to a key point – from a normative perspective – of the relationship between work and family. Normally, the employee is not an isolated entity, rather he or she is placed in the context of a family, which is for him or her, among others, a strong point of reference from an ethical point of view. This is especially so when the employee is a father or mother, a husband or wife.


The bonds of blood and love that link employees with their families are qualitatively deeper than those involved in their relationship with their companies.


It is worth noting that one of the reasons for which, in practice, companies implement family-friendly policies is precisely to attract and sustain talented employees (Chinchilla and Torres, 2008). This reflects that the ‘‘family factor’’ has a higher value in the life of some employees; otherwise, companies would not have to make an effort to retain them.


CST holds that the family has a natural priority over work: ‘‘work is for the family, because work is for the sake of man (and not vice versa) and it is precisely the family, above all else, that is the specific place for man’’ (John Paul II, 1981b, n. 5). The family is not an accidental dimension but one that is essential in order to carry out work truly in the service of the human person.


Thus, if the organisation of work is to consider the human flourishing of the employees, then their familial dimension is one of the values most related to their fulfilment as persons. That is why CST regards the family as ‘‘one of the most important terms of reference for shaping the social and ethical order of human work’’ (John Paul II, 1981a, n. 10).


It is important to highlight that the order mentioned does not mean a conceptual opposition between work and family for they need each other.


For instance, experience shows how frequently family shapes the meaning of work. Unity and order between work and family means integrating them in such a way that neither work nor family permanently overwhelms the other, even though work should be oriented towards the family. This subordination also requires a balance on the part of the family, since an excessive emphasis on the family, even with the best intention, is a source of conflict in relation with work (Friedman and Greenhaus, 2000). In this sense, the work–family balance demands personal decisions guided by a proper scale of values. It happens that ‘‘the individual conscience also often lacks the capacity to assess the complementary nature and individual value of various forms of activity – educational, cultural, community and professional – in order to make a proper choice’’ (Vignon, 2002, p. 93).

In addition, it might be convenient to revise the approach to the work–family relationship, as this is quite focused on conflict, as scholars acknowledge (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006, p. 72). Conflict does exist; however, if we are only interested in the problematic dimension of the relationship, we then lose sight of one interesting – and no less real challenge: under certain conditions (for example, a supportive environment) work empowers family and family empowers work.


The fact that both spouses work might be an opportunity to discern what is really more important than other tasks, to increase productivity at work by making a good use of time (a parent who does not work extra hours feels the challenge to demonstrate her or his efficiency more than others), to learn to organise and program family tasks and activities, to increase the communication between the spouses as it is crucial for family organisation, and to involve the children naturally in family tasks (this way, they learn to cooperate with others, be responsible and appreciate the value of division of labour).


Some studies suggest that family itself has the ability to find solutions for work–family conciliation (Pe´rez Ortiz, 2006). This shows that the family itself under certain conditions has the capability to generate natural and satisfactory solutions to the problems.8


Fortunately, there are some preliminary signs on the side of social sciences of a more positive approach (Friedman and Greenhaus, 2000; Greenhaus and Powell, 2006). In any case, one of the pending issues in this field is to analyse in depth the positive aspects of the work–family relationship.


A second aspect is to consider a deeper and more complete vision of work, especially in respect to its human dimension. By pointing out the subjective or personal dimension of work, CST shows that work is indeed more than what it seems at first sight: it is a human activity that transforms the world and the person, a part of a human project geared towards one’s own perfection and is open to the others (of whom the family occupies a privileged place).


Actually, work is a ‘‘total, social fact’’, namely, economic, social, moral, juridical and emotional (Donati, 2005b, p. 587).


As a primary human activity, work is subordinated to the person and the family, but not vice versa. This is

what CST points out with the principle ‘‘work is ‘for man’ and not man ‘for work’’’ (John Paul II, 1981a, n. 6). Yet this perspective does not negate the fact that the first aspect of human work to be taken into account by business firms is the provision itself. It is a matter of integrating the labour provision in its personal and social context. The solution depends on each specific situation and should be found prudentially, with practical wisdom.


Proposition 4: Work and family form a unity or interdependence in which the family has a higher value.

Work should be prudently oriented towards family.


In this context, the role of the woman in both family and work has a particular importance. On the one hand, CST recalls that the pursuit of solutions for current, urgent social problems is often mediated by the contribution of women. This is so, for instance, in education, health care, ecology, quality of life, issues related to migration, social services, drugs, etc.


(John Paul II, 1995, n. 4). On the other hand, the role of the mother for the well-being of her children is evident. In such cases, the work–family conflict entails special difficulties for women. It must be noted that the subjective dimension of work is closely related to the family when the worker is a mother.


Considering the dignity and fulfilment of women in the context of the organisation of work, for CST ‘‘the true advancement of women requires that labour should be structured in such a way that women do not have to pay for their advancement by abandoning what is specific to them and at the expense of the family, in which women as mothers have an irreplaceable role’’ (John Paul II, 1981a, n. 19).


Proposition 5: Work and family conflict in women neither should be solved at the cost of their motherhood

nor should it prevent the irreplaceable role of women in the family.


Work and family within the Corporate Social Responsibility context


An additional application of the CST vision is related to the personal and social aspects of work and family

involved in concepts such as CSR. It is well known that in the current economic context, sustainability has become an indispensable variable of every business.


Through this and other related concepts (especially CSR, but also Corporate Citizenship, Corporate Sustainability, etc.), companies also give expression to their social responsibility and service to society.


Personal and social dimensions of work–family conflict


The work–family conflict has two dimensions which should be considered by the social responsibility or sustainability of the company.


First, there is a personal dimension in the work– family conflict closely related to the concern of CSR about labour conditions of the employees. On the one hand, it is a reality that women suffer the worst in the work–family conflict; consequently, the current European approach to work–family conciliation is identified with the issue of equal opportunities for women (Donati, 2005a, p. 52; European Commission, 2007, pp. 3–4, 6–7). Hence, work–family conciliation policies, as far as they are oriented to solving the real problems of women, should be included as part of the social responsibility of the firm when dealing with equal opportunities.


If, on the other hand, and as scholars argue, the work–family conflict is a source of outcomes such as absenteeism, anxiety, burnout, psychological distress, physical ailments or depression, then work–family policy would also merit being included under the social responsibility of the firm regarding working conditions.


Second, the social dimension of the work–family conflict is also related to the social responsibility of the firm. The work–family conflict posits problems not only to parents but also to children (for instance, Crouter et al., 2001). It has been said that ‘‘children need to know and feel the love of their parents, and we as a society need to provide those opportunities for parents to give that love to their children’’ (Friedman and Greenhaus, 2000, p. 145). Through flexibility policies, employees can devote more attention and energy to their children and ‘‘the nation benefits from well-adjusted kids who do well in school and exhibit fewer behavioural problems (…). Society needs to choose to value quality of life and the development of the next generation to a greater extent than we do now’’ (Idem, pp. 145– 147). Work–family policies are also, on the part of the companies, an exercise of responsibility since they are a form of protection of childhood and a contribution to the sustainability of society.


Proposition 6: Business should consider the familial dimension of their employees and include family protection within its duty to contribute to a sustainable society.


In the context of the human rights


It is common to take human rights as a reference for the social responsibility of the firm. As has been mentioned above, the family, due to its importance for the person and society, is entitled to the protection of society and the State. Accordingly, companies should consider family aspects involved in work (and just those) as part of their respect towards human rights. And so, also from this point of view, work–family policies are a response to the responsibility of companies to protect the family.


Moreover, the progressive ageing of populations in developed countries, mostly provoked by a sustained low birth rate (United Nations, 2007), is also related to the work–family relationship. The work–family conflict is sometimes an obstacle to having children (Gonza´lez and Jurado-Guerrero, 2006; Lo´pez and Montoro, 2002). From the point of view of the sustainability of our society, and even from one which is exclusively pragmatic, it makes sense to promote proper family policies which make it easier to increase the birth rate, according to the present situation as well as prospects we already know. By doing so, business firms show also their commitment to the sustainability of some societies. For instance, this is quite evident in Europe where the birth rate of some countries is a cause of concern in the midterm and long term.


Keeping in mind these two dimensions (personal and social), we suggest that the work–family issue takes part in the responsibility of the company before society. CSR (and other expressions of social responsibility) should include work–family conciliation policies as a normal component of the social sustainability or social responsibility policy of the firm, in as much as they constitute a clear contribution to ‘human ecology’ of society in both short term and long term.


Unfortunately, if we look at the well-regarded institutions that set trends in policy-making geared towards sustainability, family policies for their employees are not regarded as a significant factor for sustainability.9 For example, in the Guide G3 for Sustainability Reports, work–family conflict policies are not even mentioned when dealing with equal opportunity policies (Global Reporting Initiative, 2006, p. 34). With a few exceptions, it appears that the most common concept of social responsibility or sustainability practiced by firms today does notrecognise that family policies are a significant implementation of the social responsibility of the firm.


CST contends that the more power one has the more responsibility it demands (Vatican Council II, 1965, GS, n. 32). Family policies adapted to the particular situations of employees and the circumstances of the firm itself is probably something within the scope of a company; it is a great contribution to the common good and has a yet undiscovered social relevance.


The reasons why a business firm implements conciliation policies might be many; however, they reflect, in the end, to what extent the business culture has internalised the personal or subjective dimension of the employees. In this context, we suggest a correction towards a better approach to family policies through two images.


Frequently, the underlying vision might be explained by the image of a skier. The skier (the employee) leans on two boards (work and family).


Conciliation consists of coordinating both boards in such a way that the person manages to slide down tothe finishing line. Work and family attain unity in the employee; otherwise, if we do not take into account the employee, work and family become independent and do not ‘know’ one another, like two separated ski boards. In this vision, the employee is the ‘key’ in work–family conciliation.


As far as we understand, this vision is correct but insufficient. Should we not support to some extent the effort of the employee?

A complementary approach to the relationship might be suggested by another image. If we intend to achieve a business and humanistic perspective, it could be meaningful to understand the relationship between work and family like that of a building and its foundations. Both form a unified structure although what is visible is only the building. Business (for instance, a construction company) is most of all interested in the visible aspect of the building (work), which is in the end a service to persons, in this case, housing. However, the company is equally interested – although invisibly – in the building being based on solid and reliable foundations (the balanced work– family relationship of their employees).

A building with unstable foundations or totally devoid of them will collapse if subjected to excess weight or certain natural occurrences. A work organisation that does not take into account the familial dimension of their employees as an essential element, inherent to work itself, is not sustainable through time from a humanistic – and sometimes even economic – point of view. Yet, solid foundations on which nothing is built make no sense. A balanced work–family relationship without efficient and quality work makes sense neither for enterprises, nor for families (this would lead to unemployment and we know full well the effects of unemployment on the family).


All of this suggests that a more unified vision of work and family, while of course making sure at the same time that the company performs well, is yet to be achieved. In addition, supporting a work–family balance is, in the current society, a noteworthy feature of CSR.


However, it is clear that the scope of CSR regarding family is limited. Public powers, other intermediate groups and, ultimately, each individual person also bear responsibilities. The latter is an important point, for it is also suggested that work– family balance depends on the personal choices of the employee (Poelmans, 2001). It has been noted that the effort to build an organisational culture which promotes and supports the needs and duties of the family cannot substitute the responsibility of each employee before her or his family (Frye and Breaugh, 2004, p. 218). In line with this, experience shows that there are a number of cases in which the values orientation of the employee is at the root of the conflict (Mele´, 1989, pp. 651–652).


Proposition 7: Implementation of appropriate conciliation of work–family policies should be included within corporate social responsibility.


Recommendations for managers


As we have explained in the second section, the family is a basic good for the flourishing of the person and society; thus, it is widely recognised that it merits protection and support. When companies consider the familial dimension of their employees according to their possibilities, they are fostering a human reality regarded as a good by the whole society. Furthermore, it has been shown that an improper work–family relationship gives rise to inequalities and significant disorders which have been traced from several perspectives (medical, sociological, ethical, economical, etc.).


Therefore, proper work–family conciliation policies – where needed – give shape to the protection and support of a good (family) crucial for the person and society. Thus, to integrate the familial dimension in the work organisation of a company is not a form of discrimination towards those employees hypothetically not involved in any family. Rather, it seems that, under certain circumstances, to do nothing in respect to the work–family balance of employees is often a source of inequality of opportunities, especially for women.


Keeping in mind the normative principles and possible consequences mentioned in the preceding sections, we suggest a set of recommendations which might help managers to develop work–family policy and for a correct personal work–family balance. At the same time, these recommendations incorporate some outcomes of the studies provided by social sciences and reported in this study.


(1) Make the aim of work–family policies to seek synergies between work and family, and not just to avoid the effects of the work–family conflict. Work and family are called on and can enrich each other.

(2) Analyse the current familial situation of employees: mothers or fathers, husbands or wives, daughters or sons (elder care), etc. Then, consider the conditions for their human flourishing in the light of the current work organisation and the work–family policy of the company.

(3) In a proper situation, work should be prudently oriented towards one’s family, as human flourishing requires. This orientation is present in the scale of values of many employees. A supportive attitude with regard to this order on the part of supervisors is important for the personal work–family balance and fulfilment of employees. Seek work–family policies that reflect this support.

(4) When the company detects significant work–family conflict, an examination of the sources of the conflict is needed. Sometimes this might come from a disorder in the scale of values of the employee, a lack of personal order at work, etc., and this should be picked up on. In as much as the conflict is provoked by work organisation factors, the dignity of the employee as well as the very purpose of business (to serve society through economic activity but not against the personal dignity of the employees) raises some ethical responsibility on the part of the company.

Hence, some conciliation policy should be implemented.

(5) Since work–family policies are due to personal circumstances, they must be adapted – as far as they can – to the particular situation of the employees. Given that the work–family balance depends on a scale of values as well as personal choices, consider – as some companies do – providing services focused on personal decisions (time management programs, technical or psychological support, etc.)

(6) Finally, see work–family policy as a part of the good that business does for society, for it is not just an internal affair of the company but also has societal effects.


Ethics and business success in dealing with work–family conciliation


In this last section, we depart from the normative approach and present, as a complement, the results of some studies on the business case for work–family conciliation, which are related to concepts expressed by CST.


As we have seen, CST puts emphasis on the positive rapport that work and family are called to maintain, given the role-play they have in the fulfillment of the person. Work and family should help each other. In fact, the few studies available focused on this positive spillover ‘‘lend support to the notion that work experiences can enrich family life and that family experiences can enrich work life’’ (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006, pp. 78–79; Huang et al., 2004).


Moreover, most of these studies ‘‘found [out] that family-to-work enrichment was substantially stronger than work-to-family enrichment’’ (Greenhaus and Powell, 2006, p. 76).


In contrast, scholars have focused more on the dimension of work. Hence, it is not surprising that some authors are becoming more aware of the need to deepen the role of the family (Frye and Breaugh, 2004, p. 218; Voydanoff, 2007, pp. 146–147).


From the point of view of CST, this is a worthy effort – given the value the family has within the relationship.

If we look into the particular advantages the family can provide to business companies, we find some similarity with the insights of CST. It has been stated that managing a household (with its financial,,interpersonal, entrepreneurial, and administrative requirements), coping with interpersonal difficulties, teaching children, etc., are resources that can be applied to one’s work (Crouter, 1984). Moreover, the sensitivity to the emotional needs of family members makes it easier to be emotionally available to work colleagues (Friedman and Greenhaus, 2000, p. 133). For instance, a female manager reports that ‘‘being a mother and having patience and watching someone else grow has made [her] a better manager’’.


She adds, ‘‘I am more able to be patient with other people and let them grow and develop in a way that is good for them’’ (Ruderman et al., 2002, p. 373).


As far as the bottom line is concerned, the conclusions of an international analysis on work–family issues show that work–family policies are an opportunity to: (1) reduce productivity losses associated with a lack of balance; (2) provide an incentive to increase workers’ motivation and commitment and thus get higher levels of productivity from the current labour pool; (3) attract and retain the bestquality people and enable them to advance and (4) obtain community recognition by being seen as ‘‘good’’ corporate citizens (Haas et al., 2000, p. 256).


Particular studies have reported that there is an increase of productivity where work–family policies are present (Galinsky and Stein, 1990), and that shareholder value increases as companies announce family-friendly decisions (Arthur and Cook, 2004).


Finally, other authors contend that family-friendly policies provide a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly productive workers (Galinsky et al., 1991; Haas et al., 2000).


As we can see, family-friendly policies refer to qualitative factors which, perhaps, are not directly related to economic results but might influence them. For instance, retaining valuable human resources could be, in the end, crucial for business performance. In line with this (and in the context of America), Friedman and Greenhaus argue that ‘‘employers also need to pay attention to family issues. It’s a business concern with bottom-line implications. In a global economy, with heightened competition, American employers perhaps more than ever need the advantage of committed employees’’ (Friedman and Greenhaus, 2000, p. 145).


Furthermore, the need for support for the personal effort to achieve the work–family balance is overwhelmingly confirmed by an ‘‘accumulating evidence’’ (Secret, 2000, p. 218), achieving a general consensus regarding the crucial importance of a positive and supportive attitude towards work– family conflict situations from the part of those with authority or supervisory role in the firm (Breaugh and Frye, 2007; Hansen, 1991; Mesmer-Magnus and Viswesvaran, 2006; Secret, 2000; Swody and Powell, 2007; Thomas and Ganster, 1995). In the end, the key is for the business culture to adopt the values on which the policies for conciliation are fundamentally based.




From a normative perspective, the contribution of CST to the understanding of the work–family conflict has it roots in the human dignity and the meaning of work and family for the fulfilment of the person. The meaning, unity and order between work and family have given rise to seven propositions of which the possibility of mutual enrichment and prudent orientation of work towards family stands out. These propositions inspired some practical recommendations to managers to reflect on work–family conflicts and to find possible ways of reconciliation.


Our proposal includes considering the work– family issue under the social responsibility of the firm. We argued that the characteristics of the work–family relationship in the current social and economic circumstances, along with the effects of the conflict, make work–family policies a significant factor in the implementation of CSR. In other words, we suggest that nowadays sustainability, CSR, etc., are incomplete if a firm is not family responsible for a family. In addition, CST principles have inspired six normative propositions for managers approaching work–family policies and conflict.


The social sciences have shown that a healthy work–family relationship provides companies with some qualitative and valuable competencies from the part of their employees. These can benefit productivity and other key factors related to human capital, such as retaining valuable employees. This latter fact reflects that, in practice, even though work is important, it is not the most important factor for many employees. Family-oriented work is not just an ideal but also a reality in the life of valuable workers, and is – as it seems – a need for business.


Certain evidence suggests that our approach is not just a matter of humanising business but might be also a way to improve economic results of business.


However, regarding the latter point, further empirical research is necessary. So far, little research has been done on the costs and benefits of such policies and further analysis on the positive spillover between work and family is needed. In any case, the challenge is for managers as well as employees to find ways of achieving a synergic alliance between work and family.




1 This study provides specific bibliography on each one of the effects mentioned.

2 These documents are available at

3 Here we mainly refer to the CST insights on the role and interconnection of work and family for the fulfilment of the person. In particular, we focus this section on the unity and order between them.

4 The roots of this vision can be found at Genesis 1: 26–28.

5 For further detail on this topic, see: Stres, 2002.

6 This conclusion has come from many different perspectives. See, for instance: McIntyre, 1999.

7 On this point it is worth noting that significant social problems are related to the breakdown of the family, as shown from experience (Colson, 2001).

8 It would be interesting to study the impact of divorce and other forms of family break-up on the work–family conflict.

9 This is the case of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development ( or the Guide G3 for Sustainability Reports, by the Global Reporting Initiative.




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Gregorio Guitia´n is Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at the University of Navarra, Spain. He has a doctorate in theology and a degree in economics. His current research interests are Catholic Social Thought and Economic and Business Ethics, mainly from a Christian perspective.


Faculty of Theology,

University of Navarra,

31080 Pamplona, Spain