Alec Rodger Memorial Lecture sheds light on work-life balance

Professor Ellen Ernst Kossek delivered the lecture, held in honour of Birkbeck’s first Professor of Organizational Psychology, discussing the positive impact of a healthy work-life balance for both employees and organizations.

Birkbeck’s Department of Organizational Psychology hosted its annual Alec Rodger Memorial Lecture on Thursday 29 June, with international guest speaker Professor Ellen Ernst Kossek from Purdue Krannert School of Management. Professor Kossek, a specialist in the areas of work-family and work-life balance, delivered her keynote lecture ‘New Frontiers in Work-Family Research: A Vision for the Future in a Global World’ to an audience of academics, alumni and professionals. The Alec Rodger Memorial Lecture has been held annually since 1983 in honour of Birkbeck’s first Professor of Organizational Psychology, Alec Rodger, and speakers are chosen on the basis of their distinguished record in academia, public service or industry in the field.

The annual lecture was delivered as part of the Organizational Psychology summer seminar programme. Vision and future-focus were at the forefront of this year’s seminar, which had a new, interactive format to give participants a chance to get involved in debate and panel discussion. The day’s events covered a broad range of leading-edge topics, from thought-provoking assessment centre validity research to broad discussion about the contribution of work psychology to organisational settings, with presentations on departmental research from Dr Almuth McDowall, Dr Duncan Jackson and Dr Chris Dewberry, as well as a whistle-stop tour of PhD student research in the department facilitated by students Mark Stringer and Christine Brown. This was followed by a keynote delivered by executive coach Monique Valcour on ‘Learning to Thrive in an Uncertain, High-Demand World’, where the audience was invited to consider their own ‘energy barometers’, prompting much interaction and great reflection.

Drawing on decades of her own research in managing organisational change on workplace flexibility and the employment relationship, Professor Ellen Kossek discussed the challenges of establishing a healthy work-life balance, and how small interventions to improve employee motivation can have a big impact throughout an organisation. Her research in varied settings, including retail and care homes, has shown that training a manager to be more supportive of their direct reports’ work-life issues and flexibility can be a simple and effective route to improving an employee’s health and satisfaction. The engaging presentation encouraged the audience to think about their own work-life relationships and provided useful strategies to mitigate an unhealthy balance.

Professor Kossek then shed light on future avenues of research in Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behaviour, particularly in an interdisciplinary context. These included the critical need for elder care in an ageing society and the role of artificial intelligence and technology in work-life relations.

Videos of previous Alec Rodger Memorial Lectures and this year’s presentations are available online. If you would like to receive updates about the 2018 Summer Seminar and Alec Rodger Memorial, you can sign up for our mailing list and explore further information on research and events listed on the Department of Organizational Psychology website.

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