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Family-friendly policies improve productivity

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Two new reports by researchers from the Judge Institute of Management have given intriguing insights into the results of family-friendly policies.

Boosting productivity through flexibility
According to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, firms that take a family-friendly approach to working hours and other employment practices are more likely than others to rate themselves ‘above-average’ on financial performance and the productivity of their workforce. They are also more likely to report that the sales value and quality of their work have improved during the past year.

Researchers from found that policies which helped employees to balance work and family responsibilities were associated with small, but significant levels of improved performance in the private sector. For example:

– Employers offering paternity leave provision and job-share arrangements were more likely than others to state that their firm’s financial performance was above average.

– Parental leave beyond the minimum legal requirements, paternity leave and enabling staff to switch from full to part-time work, were associated with employers reporting above-average labour productivity.

– Enabling parents to work during school term-time only, offering help with child care and enabling staff to work part-time were linked to employers reporting that their firm’s product or service quality had improved in the past year.

– Flexitime working, job share arrangements, help with child care and support for employees working at home were associated with lower staff turnover.

Nine out of ten establishments with some experience of flexible working arrangements considered them cost-effective. However, not all the findings concerning family-friendly arrangements were positive. Certain types of policy were associated with reductions in some of the performance measures in the survey. For example, flexitime was linked to perceptions of reduced financial performance, while emergency leave provision (before the 1999 statutory time off for dependents leave) was associated with increased labour turnover.

The researchers also found that the associations between family-friendly policies and improvements in employee commitment seen in the private sector did not apply to public sector staff. This was in spite of the fact that public sector organisations were more likely to offer flexible working arrangements to all their staff than companies. Staff outside management were also more likely to be covered by flexible working policies if their workplace was part of a large organisation, or one where trade unions were recognised.

Small and medium-sized enterprises
A second report by Judge Institute researchers examines the way that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 500 employees offer flexible working arrangements. The in-depth study of practice and attitudes in 23 organisations based in East Anglia found that:

– Employees displayed the strongest levels of appreciation, loyalty and trust in organisations that made flexible working generally available.

– Some employers did not offer flexible working arrangements because they believed their staff did not want them. Interviews with employees showed they were mistaken.

– Employers opposed to flexible working feared that introducing a policy would add to administrative burdens and reduce productivity. However, comparisons between similar organisations with or without family-friendly arrangements suggested that flexibility could, in principle, be introduced without harming productivity or staff morale.

The report, concludes that flexible working, as well as greater involvement of employees in the business, could result if employees were given a legal right to ask for the arrangements they preferred, by making a business case to their employer.

One Response

  1. Flexible working and the bottom line
    Very interesting to note that employers who were resistant to flexible working felt that it would create more administrative burdens – as opposed to the administrative burden of tackling absence, arranging cover, continual recruitment etc! What impact do all of these things have on the bottom line!

    There is a costbenefit analysis to do on this which can be used as an assessment tool to make the case for flexible working.

    To obtain a free copy email Rob on [email protected]

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