The word culture is often used in our daily lives, also in the corporate world. However, the concept is so broad that its definition ends up being diffuse. It encompasses almost everything. Spanish author Salvador Giner, in his glossary Ideas Cabales (sensible ideas), presents culture as a notion of extreme vagueness and vast popularity, made up of symbols, beliefs, concepts, languages, ideas, values and attitudes.

The concept of culture is defined by the RAE (Spanish language Academy) as a set of ways of life and customs, knowledge and degree of artistic, scientific and industrial development, at a given time, or social group. Therefore, we can talk about the culture of a territory, a family culture, or the culture in a specific organization, known as organizational culture. This is the personality of the company. And employees intuit and feel it, although it is not always easy to describe in words.

Organisational culture is a living thing

Culture always works in a double direction: it shapes its members, and its members shape it. Members are aware of the behaviour, attitudes, language, dress, values that prevail in the organization, and in some ways most of them try to conform to the prevailing culture.

moldear las políticas de flexibilidad

In turn, these members, with their own behaviours, attitudes, language, dress and values, also shape the prevailing culture. Therefore, while it is true that no culture changes overnight, it is never rigid. Culture is fluctuating, open to change. This is why the culture of a territory, the culture of a family, and the culture of a specific organisation change over time.


Organizational culture and work-life balance

In order to continue reflecting on the role of people in organisations, it is important to understand work-family culture. Like all subcultures, it defines organisational culture, and is defined by it in turn.

In this case, the work-family culture was defined, already in the 1990s, as those assumptions, beliefs and shared values regarding the extent to which an organisation supports and values the integration of the work and family life of its employees.[1].

The same authors who coined the term, far from leaving it again in a vague and unattainable concept, describe in detail three components that form the work-family culture. Analysing these three following components can help companies to understand their organisational culture and subcultures in depth.


Organizational culture: the best worker is the one who works the longest

The legislation sets a limit on hours for full-time contracts. But despite what the law says, employees in certain companies are aware of the amount of time they are expected to work. Promising young people working in auditing firms, consulting firms or investment banks are well aware of this. It is also known by the employee in a small company, and the finance director in a medium-sized company.

No one directly demands that they work extra hours, but they emulate the behaviour of their colleagues and incorporate this feature of the organizational culture into their work routine. This idea is related to the need of rethinking the concept of the ideal worker discussed in a previous article.

One possible question that should be asked within the company for self-analysis is: are employees expected to work more than 50 hours a week, either in the office or at home? The answer they get should give them the first impulse to transform their culture and make it more suitable to the work-family balance.


The perception of negative consequences

The second dimension of the work-family culture is the perception that employees have of the consequences that the use of flexibility policies will have on their career paths and those of their colleagues, as well as the rejection of promotions for family reasons.

In this case the question to be answered would be: are they less likely to be promoted than those who do not use them?


Colleagues’ reaction and supporting management

Colleagues play a key role, as managers do. Their reactions, unconsciously influenced by the organizational culture, determine to some extent the behaviour of other colleagues in their use of flexibility policies. Thompson and her team encourage the following question: do your colleagues feel uncomfortable when a peer takes long leave of absence to take care of a newborn or family member?

Organisations are heirs to their own culture. As we have seen, this culture can change over time. Most interestingly, managers have the opportunity with precise tools and sophisticated questionnaires to dissect said culture, and understand what kind of positive and negative implications there are.

[1] Thompson, C. A., Beauvais, L. L., & Lyness, K. S. (1999). When work–family benefits are not enough: The influence of work–family culture on benefit utilization, organizational attachment, and work–family conflict. Journal of Vocational behavior, 54(3), 392-415.