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Flexibility and the right work-life balance deliver real business benefits


Launched at the Chartered Institute of Personel and Development, (CIPD) National Conference yesterday, a new report – 'Getting the Right Work-Life Balance' – reveals that managers who use flexible working report significant benefits.

Organisations implementing family friendly policies in the workplace cite the reason for the move as being

  • the need to retain staff
  • the need to meet operational requirements and flexibility
  • the desire to be seen as a good employer

Users of family friendly policies say that they enjoy lower rates of absenteeism, higher staff retention and higher staff motivation and productivity.

However, managers can seldom claim responsibility for the welcome results. It was discovered that often flexible working was introduced as a result of employee requests rather than through the formation of new company policy. Entry of 'flexible working through the back door' with individual negotiations between employees and line managers was a recurrent theme.

The findings are based on the results of a study by the Judge Institute of the University of Cambridge, carried out within 12 organisations in East Anglia.

The main findings of the study are that flexible working can have positive benefits for the organisation, but obstacles are created by the negative feelings of managers who assume that flexible working will lead to changes and problems.

Mike Emmott, CIPD Adviser on Employee Relations said, "This report shows that the psychological contract between employer and individual employees can be strengthened by the introduction of work-life measures. Even where flexible working leads to increased costs, these are marginal, and generally felt to outweigh the gains"

"The findings show that people management and development professionals have a key role to play in changing attitudes. Where the final decision on whether to agree to flexible working is left entirely to individual line managers, this may often lead to unfairness and inconsistancy. Employers need to adopt specific policies and embed these into the organisational cultures. Formal policies also encourage employees to take avantage of family friendly arrangements and help dispel negative attitudes.

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