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Family dinnertime is known to be good for children, and now research shows the family dinner hour can recharge employees and wipe away the strain of working long hours.

Brigham Young University family scientist Jenet Jacob and colleagues analyzed data from 1,580 IBM employees who are parents. Their study, which appears in the June issue of Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, found that employees who could get home for dinner felt they worked in a healthy environment.

“In our study, the level of interference with dinnertime was related to a perception of a healthy workplace, and that’s connected to job retention and productivity,” Jacob said.

The study also found that making it home for dinner evened the scales for women trying to balance long work hours with family life. Normally the level of perceived work-family conflict directly increases with each hour worked. In this study, work-family conflict remained the same for women working up to 60 hours a week, so long as work did not interfere with dinnertime.

“This shows bosses can get more out of employees if they’re having dinner,” Jacob said. “Parents, not just kids, benefit from time spent eating together.”

Jacob’s BYU colleague and co-author on the study, E. Jeffrey Hill, collaborated with IBM on the design of the company’s Global Work and Life Issues Survey. The researchers say employers could take advantage of their findings through options like telecommuting and flexible work schedules.

Writer: Erika Riggs