Work-life initiatives and organizational change: Overcoming mixed messages to move from the margin to the mainstream

Ellen Ernst Kossek, Suzan Lewis, Leslie B. Hammer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

323 Scopus citations


This article examines perspectives on employer work-life initiatives as potential organizational change phenomena. Work-life initiatives address two main organizational challenges: structural (flexible job design, human resource policies) and cultural (supportive supervisors, climate) factors. While work-life initiatives serve a purpose in highlighting the need for organizational adaptation to changing relationships between work, family, and personal life, we argue they usually are marginalized rather than mainstreamed into organizational systems. We note mixed consequences of work-life initiatives for individuals and organizations. While they may enable employees to manage work and caregiving, they can increase work intensification and perpetuate stereotypes of ideal workers. In order to advance the field, organizations and scholars need to frame both structural and cultural work-life changes as part of the core employment systems to enhance organizational effectiveness and not just as strategies to support disadvantaged, non-ideal workers. We conclude with an overview of the articles in this special issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Flexibility
  • Mainstreaming
  • Organizational change
  • Work-family
  • Work-family conflict
  • Work-life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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