Shiyang Su, PhD, University of Central Florida; Wheeler Nakahara, MS, University of Central Florida
Individuals fulfill a variety of roles across multiple life domains (e.g., employee, student, and family member). Each of these roles is associated with a variety of demands, and time to fulfill these demands is a limited resource. Many individuals may prioritize their limited time to work, school, and family demands over participation in certain or all health behaviors, e.g., exercise and sleep. Given that regular participation in these behaviors reduces morbidity and mortality for individuals and organizational health care expenditures (Danaei et al., 2009; Goetzel et al., 1998), it is imperative that researchers further study the relationship between conflict among life domains and participation in health behaviors. However, previous research is limited in that it only focuses on a narrow portfolio of life domains and health behaviors.
In keeping with the calls to expand both types of life domain conflict and health behaviors examined, the present study draws on social cognitive theory to examine the relationship between work-family-school (WFS) conflict and participation in multiple health behaviors among employed students, and the moderating effects of individual-level traits and organizational characteristics.
When examining the interface between employees’ work and non-work life domains, considerable research has focused on conflict between domains such as work, family, and school (e.g., Michel et al., 2011). Employees with such conflict are more likely to report poorer health (Jex et al., 2012). Lower participation in health behaviors, such as maintaining quantity and quality of sleep, participating in regular physical activity, could be a contributing factor (Allen & Armstrong, 2006; Barnes et al., 2013). Lack of time is an often-cited reason for not participating in health behaviors (Salmon et al., 2003), and many individuals may prioritize their limited time to work, school, or family demands over participation in health behavior due to the immediacy or severity of the consequences of not meeting these demands.
It is imperative that researchers further study the relationship between conflict among life domains and participation in health behaviors. There is a need for more research examining broadened types of conflict, WFS conflict (Park & Headrick, 2017). Also, examining a holistic portfolio of health behaviors, instead of a single health behavior, can bring additional insight, considering that participating in one health behavior is difficult, participating in multiple health behaviors becomes increasingly difficult (Reeves & Rafferty, 2005). In addition, based on interpersonal theories of health behaviors (i.e., Social Cognitive Theory, models of social support and social networks; Glanz et al., 2008), we propose moderation effects of individual and organizational resources that are useful in coping with a stressor.
H1. There will be a relationship between WFS conflict and participation in multiple health behaviors.
H2. Individual-level traits that are indicative of mastery over one’s internal and external experiences, such as coping, time management skills, core self-evaluations, and proactive personality, will moderate this relationship.
H3. Organization-level characteristics that are supportive of work-life balance and employee health, such as workplace health climate, perceived organizational support, and family supportive supervisor behaviors, will moderate this relationship.
We collected data from 73 part-time or full-time employed students, who completed two daily surveys upon waking and before bed, and wore an accelerometer (ActiGraph GT3X+) device during all daily and nightly activities for 7 – 35 days. We obtained both self-report and objective actigraph data of multiple health behaviors, including sleep quality and quantity, sleep efficiency, daily exercise duration and intensity, and steps. Multilevel modeling was used to test the hypotheses.
The results of multilevel modeling demonstrated daily work-school-family conflict had a curvilinear relationship with daily time spent on exercise and a linear relationship with daily sleep quantity. The curvilinear relationship between WFS conflict and exercise was moderated by both individual (i.e., time management skills, proactive personality) and organizational (i.e., workplace health climate, family supportive supervisor behaviors) characteristics; whereas the relationship between WFS conflict and sleep was moderated by individual traits only (i.e., coping skills).
This study extends the literature by focusing on a wide portfolio of life domains and health behaviors. This study is strengthened by the use of daily-diary and multilevel modeling approach to investigate both between and within-person processes and the use of both subjective and objective measures to assess health behaviors such as sleep and physical activity. Insight gathered from findings will be used to form interventions to promote effective management of life domain conflict and to promote participation in health behaviors.
The study may be limited in that there might be selection bias or demand characteristics: students who faced higher levels of conflict or were more interested in health behaviors may have been more motivated to participate, and the act of daily reporting on work characteristics and health behaviors may have made participants more aware of these variables.
Using a daily diary design with self-report surveys and objective actigraph data, we found WFS conflict was associated with participation in multiple health behaviors on the daily level. Individual traits moderated the relationships between WFS conflict and both exercise and sleep. Organizational characteristics moderated the relationship between WFS conflict and exercise. The current study provides theoretical and practical implications, and allows the groundwork for future intervention-based research.