Work–Life Program Participation and Employee Work Attitudes: A Quasi-Experimental Analysis Using Matching Methods

Published date01 September 2020
Date01 September 2020
AuthorDavid Lee,Sun Young Kim
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2020, Vol. 40(3) 468 –490
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X18823250
Work–Life Program
Participation and Employee
Work Attitudes: A Quasi-
Experimental Analysis Using
Matching Methods
Sun Young Kim1 and David Lee2
Work–life programs (WLPs) have been widely adopted and implemented by public
organizations as a means of providing employees with greater choices and flexibility
in coordinating their work and personal lives. Although previous research has
shown that these programs are positively related to various employee attitudes
and behaviors, empirical evidence about whether and how such relationships vary
by type of WLP is relatively scant. In this study, we categorize WLPs into two
different types—work-oriented and life-oriented programs—and explore whether
and how participating in distinct types of WLPs has varying impacts on employee
work attitudes. A series of Mahalanobis distance matching is conducted using data
from the 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. The results indicate that the
use of life-oriented programs has a positive and substantive impact on employee
satisfaction and commitment, while the effect of participating in work-oriented
programs is not statistically significant.
work–life programs, job satisfaction, organizational satisfaction, affective commitment,
matching methods
1University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA
2University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, USA
Corresponding Author:
David Lee, Public Administration Program, College of Social Sciences, University of Hawai‘i at Ma¯noa,
2424 Maile Way, Saunders 631, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.
823250ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X18823250Review of Public Personnel AdministrationKim and Lee
Kim and Lee 469
The U.S. labor force has witnessed dramatic changes in employee demographics over
the past few decades. Some of the most prominent changes include an increase in the
number of female workers in the workforce and a growth in the average age of employ-
ees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, the proportion of
women in the workplace nearly doubled between 1950 and 2010 (Toossi & Morisi,
2017). Such trends have had a large impact on the public sector workforce, in part
pushing public organizations and managers to pay greater attention to how to deal with
the changing needs of diverse employees. Specifically, balancing work responsibilities
and personal lives has posed a major challenge to both public employees and employ-
ers (Bruce & Reed, 1994).
To enhance the balance between employees’ work and personal lives, many
organizations have begun to institute various policies and programs known as
work–life programs (WLPs). In particular, the U.S. federal government has played
an active role in developing and implementing WLPs. According to the U.S. Office
of Personnel Management (OPM, 2014), WLPs refer to a “business practice of
creating a flexible, supportive environment to engage employees and maximize
organizational performance.” These programs are distinguished from traditional
economic benefits, such as health insurance, pension, sick leave, and paid vacation,
by their aim of enabling employees to manage the diverse needs that originate from
work and nonwork domains (Roberts, Gianakis, McCue, & Wang, 2004). While
also commonly known as family-friendly policies, WLPs do not target any one
particular group of employees facing family-related issues but include a broad set
of benefits and policies offered to a wide range of employees. These programs
intend to enhance employees’ work motivation and productivity as well as personal
well-being by providing greater flexibility in both work and nonwork conditions.
Some of the most widely used WLPs include telework, alternative work schedules,
child care, and elder care programs.
Along with practitioners’ growing attention to WLPs, public management scholars
have examined how these programs are related to individual and organizational out-
comes. The effects of WLPs on job satisfaction, job involvement, organizational com-
mitment, turnover intention, actual turnover, and organizational performance have
been extensively studied in previous research (Bae & Kim, 2016; Caillier, 2013b; de
Vries, Tummers, & Bekkers, 2018; Durst, 1999; Ezra & Deckman, 1996; Facer &
Wadsworth, 2008; Feeney & Stritch, 2017; J. Kim & Wiggins, 2011; Ko & Hur, 2014;
S.-Y. Lee & Hong, 2011; Saltzstein, Ting, & Saltzstein, 2001). Still, empirical studies
investigating whether WLPs can be categorized into different types (particularly based
on the program’s primary orientation to work or nonwork realms) and whether they
have varying impacts on work outcomes are relatively scarce. Additional research
addressing these issues is needed to further bolster our theoretical and practical under-
standing of WLPs in the public sector.
Hoyman and Duer (2004) proposed the conceptual typology of workplace policies
by dividing a range of policies into four types based on several criteria, including the
purpose, focus, beneficiary, financial burden, and target group of each policy: (a) fam-
ily or personal benefits, (b) removal of barriers to work, (c) training and education, and

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