ARTICLE: “Keep Your Job, Your Family, and Your Sanity”
Study after study testifies to the results of work/life programs, ten of which are outlined below.
1. Employee Time Saved
Many family/personal issues must be dealt with during the normal weekday and may result in lost work hours. The U.S. Department of Labor for example found that 75% of employees with children under the age of 18 tended to family issues during work hours. Elder care issues may require similar attention during the workday. Therefore, programs like a resource and referral service that helps employees manage family/personal needs more effectively can save employees time and decrease lost work hours.
Evidence of this savings is Work/Family Directions’ conservative estimate that employees save an average of 14.7 hours per year by using their resource and referral service, with at least 80% of this time expected to have been spent during the workday.
2. Increased Output Due to Increased Focus and Motivation
Work/family programs can also increase productivity by decreasing distractions/concerns, increasing motivation, and improving working conditions. Workplace assessments for example show that 33% of working mothers with children under 12 had a sick child in the last three months, and while 51% missed work to care for the child, 49% went to work and worried. Elder care concerns can have a similar impact as evidenced by a Bureau of National Affairs survey that found 67% of respondents with eldercare responsibilities reported feeling exhausted at work occasionally or often because of caregiver activities.
Work/family programs that help employees manage these issues appear to not only improve one’s ability to focus because of the decreased distractions, but they also appear to increase employees’ motivation.
DuPont found in a ten year study of 18,000 employees that employees utilizing or aware of work/family programs were the most committed employees and the least likely to feel overwhelmed or burned out. Employees using the programs were also 45% more likely to “go the extra mile” to ensure their company’s success than employees not using the programs.
Fel-Pro, Inc., an automotive products manufacturer, commissioned the University of Chicago to study work/family policies and found that workers using benefits and programs were more committed to the company, participated in changes at the company, were more active in team problem solving, and more likely to submit suggestions for improvements. Use of work and family benefits helped create a strong, constructive working relationship with employees and boosted worker support for quality improvement.
Telecommuting programs have also been associated with increased output with companies reporting productivity gains of 5 to 20% for employees who participate in the programs. The improved work performance has been attributed to a decrease in the distractions normally found in an office environment and the fact that employees are more motivated, work longer hours, and work at times of peak productivity.
3. Increased Employee Retention
Turnover can be extremely costly to an organization as evidenced by estimates that turnover costs from 93-150% of the departing employee’s salary and up to 200% of the salary for highly skilled or senior people. The costs include not only recruitment and retraining costs, but also costs associated with work inefficiencies and with coworkers’ inability to function effectively.
Work/family conflicts may increase the likelihood that an employee will quit, and therefore can increase a company’s turnover costs. This was evident in one study that found 43% of employees with work/family conflicts had considered quitting their job, while only 14% of those without conflicts had considered quitting. Family-supportive programs may however reduce turnover costs, help retain top performers, and help an organization become an “employer of choice.”
Corning, for example, estimates that it saves $2 million a year because of increased employee retention attributed to career and family initiatives. Aetna estimates savings of $1 million a year due to increased employee retention attributed to their policy of allowing part-time return to work after family leave. NationsBank reported that two-thirds of employees on flexible schedules would have left without those work options, and several studies found that the top-ranked benefit of on-site childcare centers was decreased turnover.
Johnson and Johnson found that 71% of employees using family-supportive policies and 58% of employees not using the policies rated them as very important in their decision to stay, and nearly 9 out of 10 women using or hoping to use the policies reported they were very important in their decision to stay.
Also interesting was IBM’s finding that the highest performers were most likely to rate the ability to balance work and personal life highly in a decision to stay at IBM. Top performers rated work balance 2nd in importance of 16 factors impacting their decision to stay, while overall work balance was rated 6th of the 6 factors by all employees.
According to research conducted in January 2000 by the International Telework Association and Council (ITAC), employers also use telecommuting to retain workers who consider working from home an important job consideration. By retaining the employee with this alternative work arrangement, the employer saves $7,920 per employee in replacement costs. This number reflects the assumption that organizations spend, on average, one-third of an employee’s salary to recruit and train and employee.
4. Increased Income
Work/family related programs might also allow organizations to increase their bottom line. This may occur for example if an organization is able to increase revenue by extending hours of operations or improving worker availability. This was the case for a small CPA firm in California, which estimated that it netted an additional $25,000 in income by providing seasonal on-site childcare. At UT-Houston, it might be possible to increase clinical income by extending the hours of operation of clinics.
A Ford Foundation study found that policies that help employees integrate their work life and personal life can actually improve business performance.
5. Decreased Expenses
Work/family related programs might contribute to the bottom line by decreasing expenses. This has been found for example with telecommuting programs that save overhead costs because of a decreased need for office space or use of less expensive office space.
Bell Atlantic found that telecommuting programs saved not only several hundred dollars a year per telecommuter due to office consolidation, but also significantly reduced disability costs because workers not able to function in an office environment were able to work at home. Telecommuting also has allowed some companies to utilize independent contractors or temporary workers who cost less money and allow workforce adjustments to meet seasonal needs or fluctuations in demand.
6. Decreased Health Care Costs and Stress Related Illnesses
Employee stress can increase absenteeism and health care costs, and one common source of stress is work/family conflicts. A study by Northwestern National Life Insurance Company found that 7 out of 10 workers reported stress decreased productivity, provoked health problems, and caused missed days of work, and 72% of all workers experienced three or more stress related illnesses somewhat or very often. Employees from companies with supportive work/family policies however were half as likely to experience stress-related illness or job burnout, regardless of whether they participated in these programs.
In another study, Waste Management Inc. found a 50% decrease in benefits usage among employees using parenting support groups, and this translated to a savings of $1,600 for each participant.
7. Reduced absenteeism
Absenteeism is a problem all companies face with the average employee missing work seven to nine days a year. Approximately half of those absences are estimated to be due to family problems. Merck found that employees who felt supervisors were unsupportive of family issues had higher levels of stress and absenteeism, and lower job satisfaction.
A Families and Work Institute survey found that 25% of employees with children under 12 had child care interruptions two to five times in a three month period, and these were linked to absenteeism, tardiness, lower concentration on the job, and less marital and parental satisfaction. Employees experiencing work-family conflict are three times as likely to think about quitting their jobs as those who do not (43% versus 14%). The U.S. Department of Labor found that 40% of working parents missed at least one day of work every three months to deal with family matters.
Elder care issues also impact work as evidenced by a Bureau of National Affairs survey that found 67% of respondents with eldercare responsibilities reported feeling exhausted at work occasionally or often because of caregiver activities and that 57% of respondents surveyed with eldercare responsibilities missed work occasionally because of those responsibilities. AARP found in its survey that 33% of employees reported coming in late or leaving early because of elder care responsibilities, and, among employed caregivers, an average of 7.5 days were missed each year to deal with elder care issues.
Work/family programs can however help mitigate family-related absenteeism. Honeywell estimated that it saved $45,000 over and above the cost of its sick child care programs during the first 9 months of implementation, and an urban university found that classified staff who were satisfied with their child care arrangements had lower levels of absenteeism. Flextime also was reported to significantly decrease absenteeism in a national survey of 92 employers.
According to the International Telework Association and Council (ITAC) survey, employers salvage 63 percent of the cost of absenteeism per telecommuting employee, or $2086 per employee per year, based on the average number of days absent on which telecommuters were still able to work from home.
8. Improved employee morale and loyalty
Family supportive programs and cultures also appear to improve employee morale and loyalty. A GAO study of federal employees found that 75% of workers on flextime reported the program had a positive effect on morale.
Johnson and Johnson found that 53% of employees noticed an improvement in their work environment because of the company’s work/family initiatives, and employees utilizing work/family programs were more committed and loyal. They also found that, while the work/family initiatives were important, the factors most often associated with an employee’s ability to balance work and family were a supportive supervisor and workplace culture.
The Families and Work Institute found that monetary rewards to improve performance and loyalty have limited impact if the quality of jobs and work life is poor, and they also found that organizations build loyalty by providing employees more control over jobs and family-supportive policies and programs.
Fel Pro Inc. found a link between the use of work/family benefits and good corporate citizenship, increased initiative, and greater willingness to help coworkers.
9. Enhanced Employee Recruitment
Work/family programs may also have a positive impact on recruitment. Johnson and Johnson found that 57% of employees using work/family benefits were significantly more likely to recommend Johnson and Johnson as a place to work. A national study found that 60% of respondents cited “effect on personal/family life” as a very important factor in deciding to take a job.
10. Enhanced Public and Community Relations
Some organizations experience enhanced public and community relations as a result of their work/family programs. Work/Family Directions estimates that over 50% of their clients were featured in the press for dependent-care programs, and IBM estimates the value of their positive media exposure for work/family initiatives at over $600,000 a year.
While in previous decades employers maintained a hands-off approach when it came to employees’ families, today’s employers are reexamining their social responsibility in helping employees balance the multiple demands of work and family life.
I applaud organizations that through various work/life programs have made good strides in addressing the needs of employees who seek balance. But we must work harder. We have an opportunity to facilitate a global transition. We need to move from a time when work/life policies were seen as “exceptions to the rule” or as special accommodations to a time when such policies are regarded as core business strategies. The payoff for business and our communities will be positive and truly a win-win strategy for all of us worldwide.
© 2000 Laura Stack. All rights reserved. You are free to use portions of this publication in your company newsletter, provided the following credit is listed at the bottom:
Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is “The Productivity PRO,”® helping people leave the office earlier, with less stress, and more to show for it. She presents keynotes and seminars on time management, information overload, and personal productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or visit her website at http://www.TheProductivityPro.com.