June 8, 2005--If your employees have trouble balancing work and life, odds are they have less confidence in you as a corporate leader, a new study shows.

The study, administered by Chicago-based employee research firm ISR, polled more than 50,000 U.S. workers from various markets, including professional services, consumer goods, and financial services.

According to the study, employees who strike a positive balance between home and work were 11% more likely to praise their leaders' ability to set clear direction than those who have trouble finding such a balance.

ISR has linked these results to a previous study that claims a connection between good management practices and improved bottom line. But some are skeptical about how much effect employee well-being can have on a company's profits.

"A lot of things exist besides x and y that they didn't look at," said Casey Ichniowski, a professor of management at Columbia University's business school. "Just because x and y are correlated doesn't give us a lot of insight into what would happen if we change x."

The Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) research also shows work-life balance has a great impact on how employees feel about their leaders. Jennifer Schramm, a manager in SHRM's workplace trends and forecasting research department, said as companies try to maximize the productivity of each employee, the work-life balance will become increasingly more important.

"The other factors that contribute to job satisfaction are getting harder to control: health care benefits, job security, and feeling safe in the work environment," Schramm said. "Work-life balance is something you can make steps toward offering."

The first step is something business leaders are familiar with: knowing what the customer wants. Schramm said understanding your work force and the unique situation in which your organization is designed is key to ensuring employee satisfaction.

Although research shows happy employees can yield happy returns for businesses, assuming your bottom line is down due to your employee's poor work-life balance isn't the right approach, Ichniowski said.

"So many other places besides human resources get a business going well," he says. "I think the sentiment is right, but there's another level of making a specific connection."