Reams of papers and articles have been written on the stress of managing a career and a home life.
Often, the discussion is framed as a battle of work vs. family.
Julie Wayne has taken a different approach to these twin demands on our lives, studying ways that work and family can peacefully coexist rather than create turmoil.
“ I felt like in the work-life picture, we were looking at it half-empty, through this negative lens. I got in interested in: Can there by synergy across roles?” Wayne said.
Wayne, who lives in the Oak Valley neighborhood in eastern Davie County with her husband, Michael, and three children, is an associate professor in the School of Business at Wake Forest University, specializing in organizational behavior.
Her paper on the attitude of spouses toward their partners’ workplace was recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, one of the leading academic journals in the field of psychology, which led to greater national recognition, including an article in Forbes.
Beyond the halls of academia, Wayne practices what she teaches.
Wayne is one of the founders of DC Moms, a coalition of mostly moms, but some dads, too, who are advocating for a new high school in Davie County.
Davie County voters will decide in a bond referendum in May whether to support construction of a new $56 million high school to replace the current one in Mocksville.
Wayne has attended and spoken at several meetings of the county's Board of Education and Board of Commission in support of a new high school.
Busy with work and family, Wayne said she decided to become so involved in the issue because it fits in with her values and priorities.
“ I look at my priorities, which are family and work,” Wayne said. “So if there’s an opportunity that presents itself that doesn’t involve those priorities, I say no. So if someone asks me, ‘Will you be on the board of the homeowners’ association?’ The answer is ‘no’ because that has little to do with family and nothing to do with work.”
Wayne often advocates with her children beside her, taking them to board meetings. In late July, she took her daughter with her to a march in Raleigh to show support for public education.
“ That’s synergy. That’s doing some for DC Moms but I’m also very much a mom in that role, and I’m teaching her that when you care about something and you think something is broken, you need to lead,” Wayne said.
A South Carolina native, Wayne moved to Davie County in 2002 after living for four years in Winston-Salem. She and her husband came to the area from Georgia, where she earned a doctorate in industrial/organization psychology.
At Wake Forest, she started in the psychology department then later moved to the School of Business.
Her field, organizational behavior, merges psychology and business, with the goal of improving the workplace environment, which ultimately results in happier employees and an increased bottom line.
Organizational behavior, she explained, is simply the study of people in the workplace.
Its roots can be traced to a series of pioneering studies, called the Hawthorne studies, which looked at the relationship between workers’ productivity and their physical environment.
During the Industrial Revolution, Wayne explained, management viewed workers as they would machines, concerned chiefly with efficiency.
But the Hawthorne studies, she said, revealed that people have attitudes toward their work.
“ Increasingly, businesses have realized that employees matter, and we have to understand how to manage them effectively,” Wayne said.
Companies across the board have embraced this approach, most notably Google, SAS, Zappos and Southwest Airlines. Those companies are often rated highly in “Best Places to Work” polls.
“ The evidence behind this is pretty strong,” Wayne said. “And that’s what I like about my field. It’s not that we’re going to talk about what do you think is the best way to manage. We conduct tons of research and we make a consensus based around those ideas. And we tell people, ‘You should manage based on evidence that investing in people will result in a good return.’”
Wayne said she was drawn to the field to help people.
“ It's really, for me, about training people who will become leaders of organizations so they can create a more successful organization and create environments where employees will thrive and be happier employees and human beings,” she said.