Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

The Business Case for Work-Family Programs

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

The Business Case for Work-Family Programs

Article excerpt

Businesses that don't have policies and programs to help employees manage their home and work roles probably aren't keeping up with their competitors--and they could be losing money and productivity. So-called family-friendly programs now are an integral part of human resources conferences, and most major newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, have assigned reporters to cover work--family issues--not just on the "living" page but also in the business section.

The heightened interest in an employer work--family agenda (see exhibit 1 on page 55) is fueled by changing workforce demographics as well as by a growing understanding of the bottom-line benefits to employers for acknowledging and supporting people's personal lives. This article will examine two questions:

* What are the costs to businesses that do not take steps to address work--family issues?

* What are the meassurable business benefits of supporting people's personal lives?

Exhibit 1: Components of a Work--Family Agenda

While work--family issues once were defined primarily in terms of dependent care, today they are multifaceted. Some initiatives apply mainly to large organizations, but many that focus on changing firms' attitudes and practices are just as practical for smaller businesses. Managers' attitudes and the general work environment have been shown to be even more important than specific policies in helping staff balance work and personal responsibilities.

Managerial initiatives and organizational development

* Audit of company culture and work environment.

* Training for managers on work--family issues.

* Assigning work--family program coordination duties.

* Handbooks for employees and managers on family-supportive policies.

* Statement acknowledging importance of family and personal life.

Flexible work arrangements

* Part-time work.

* Job sharing.

* Telecommuting or flexplace.

* Flextime.

* Compressed work week.

* Seasonal schedule.

Dependent care supports

* Childcare information and referral.

* Elder care information and referral.

* Emergency or back-up childcare (when regular arrangements fall through).

* Provision of or payment for childcare during business travel or extended work hours.

* On- or near-site childcare center.

* School-age programs (after school, during school holidays).

* Caregiver fairs.

* Childcare discounts or vouchers.

* Dependent care development fund (to improve quantity or quality of community services).

* Training for care providers.

Leaves and time off

* Family and medical leave (beyond that required by law).

* Personal leave of absence.

* Sabbatical.

* Paid-time-off banks (combining all paid-time-off categories--vacation, sick days, personal--to allow staff flexibility in how to use it).

* Leave bank/leave sharing.

* Respite leave (to provide vacation or respite to people with intense, demanding care-giving responsibilities).

Work--family stress management

* Employee assistance programs.

* Health promotion.

* Work--family seminars or newsletters.

* Work--family resource center.

* Work--family support groups.

* Courses on life balancing, time management.

DETERMINING THE COSTS OF WORK--FAMILY CONFLICT

From numerous recent studies, several salient conclusions emerge:

* Problems with dependent care arrangements affect productivity and job effectiveness for both men and women. Workplace needs assessments have shown that more than 33% of mothers with children under 12 had a sick child in the last month; 51% missed work to care for the child but, equally important, 49% went to work and worried about the child. Of staff with children under 12 years old, one-quarter experienced childcare breakdowns two to five times in a three-month period. …

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