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WORK, FAMILY SKILLS CAN COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER

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Work and family. Common wisdom holds that never the twain shall meet, but two psychologists say common wisdom may be wrong.

Bill and Christina Marshall - yes, they are married - believe employers who help employees mix work and family successfully will be rewarded with more dedicated and productive employees. What's more, the Marshalls, who are affiliated with Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, have developed a seminar on "corporate famology" to show employers, and later their employees, how to go about it.Christina Marshall realized there was a need to show people that work and family didn't always have to be couched in terms of stress and conflict while doing background research for another project. While surveying 15 years of research on families, she noticed that much of the research focused on the influence of work on the family rather than the influence of a family on an employee's behavior. She also realized that focusing on the positive skills and attributes found in both contexts might be helpful.

"This whole work-and-family issue has been so difficult for people," Christina Marshall said. "The attitude has been that the two were mutually exclusive - like trying to mix oil and water."

The Marshalls performed additional research, looking for clues to what made a family, a manager and a company successful.

"We found there were few differences between these things," Bill Marshall said.

The Marshalls have labeled the similar components "transferable skills." In their seminar, the Marshalls describe what these skills are and identify how they are used both in the home and at work. They also discuss "pro-family policies" a company can use to facilitate the blending of family and work, and the role of women in the work place.

"Business understands that if they want to hire and retain good workers, they'll have to have good pro-family policies," Christina Marshall said. Pro-family policies do not necessarily entail programs such as on-site day care, flexible work time or maternity leave. Rather than new programs, the Marshalls say many employees want their company's understanding regarding such phenomenon as the "3:15 syndrome."

"Sometime between 2:30 and 3:15 a parent - usually the mom - becomes distracted about the security of children returning home after school," Christina Marshall said. Often employees, without knowing how their employer feels about it, make a call home, feeling guilty and stressed out while doing so, or are stressed out because they have not made the call, Christina Marshall said. Companies can give parents their blessing to make a quick call home.

"One study found workers spent 10 percent of the week - four hours a week - worrying about home concerns," Bill Marshall said.

"As an employee becomes a better person at home, it spills over into being a better person at work, and vice versa. You see mutual benefit rather than exclusiveness," he said.

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How to combine both

It is as easy as ACT:

Appreciation is the No. 1 thing people want from their employers - a pat on the back, a verbal comment, recognition of work beyond the call of duty, but also of the normal, everyday tasks. Showing appreciation for each other is also the No. 1 characteristic of healthy families.

Commitment. The second characteristic of healthy families and of healthy companies is individuals who are committed to each other and demonstrate it through their actions and words.

Time. Bill and Christina Marshall say "One Minute Manager" is inadequate. Quality relationships, whether at home or at work, require a certain quantity of meaningful, personal attention.