PROVO, Utah Parents in developed countries can typically provide for their children but are they adequately nurturing their sons and daughters?
"Many [children] are starving for the tender, nurturing hand of a loving mother and loving father in a nuclear family," said E. Jeffrey Hill in his July 17 presentation at the 2001 World Family Policy Forum at Brigham Young University.
Brother Hill, an associate professor at BYU's Marriage, Family and Human Development department, spoke to delegates from more than 30 countries about the critical challenge of creating harmony between professional pursuits and family commitments.
The World Family Policy Forum was established in 1999 as a yearly meeting of concerned United Nations diplomats, opinion leaders and scholars focusing on international family policy. Forum delegates gather each summer at BYU to discuss emerging trends on topics ranging from the natural family to children's rights.
In his presentation, Brother Hill examined the mixed impact today's evolving, high-tech workplace is having on the family.
He noted some disturbing trends:
1. The workplace requires longer hours and is more intrusive on the family. The workweek is expanding and common, high-tech tools like pagers, cell phones and laptop computers enable instant communication anywhere in the world.
"These portable communication devices can interrupt the flow of precious family processes at any time on any day in any place," Brother Hill said.
2. Less time is available for family relationships and the time available is of lower quality.
Many families are experiencing a "time famine," especially when both parents are in the work force, he said.
3. Businesses are beginning to offer a corporate counterfeit for family and personal needs.
Many companies are offering on-site services ranging from banking to nail salons. Such self-contained communities suggest "a growing trend to offer ways to fulfill more personal needs in the workplace, reducing the need to go anywhere else," Brother Hill said.
Still, the evolving workplace is showing signs of cultivating harmony between work and families, he added.
First, there is a growing recognition that men, as well as women, are involved in family life.
"It is much more acceptable for men to be involved in the lives of their children," Brother Hill said. "Though women still have more household responsibility, increasing numbers of men are using work-family programs."
Second, technology also offers the potential to create an "electronic cottage" friendly to family life, he said. Words such as "telework" and "telecommuting" are now part of the labor lexicon. Such "office-at-home" practices allow parents to spend more time at home and have more energy devoted to nurturing children.
"[My research] indicates that those who work electronically from home are more motivated, higher performers, have less difficulty managing work and family demands and are more likely to stay with the company," Brother Hill said.
Third, work-family programs are being regarded by companies as "strategic" rather than "accommodative."
"When employers see it in their own self-interest to promote programs that enable employees to better harmonize personal and professional life, these programs are much more likely to be developed, implemented and supported," Brother Hill said.
He called on Forum delegates to support measures "designed to strengthen the natural family as the fundamental unit of society and the basic building block of a strong economy."