Students in Dr. Stephen Sweet’s Sociology of Work and Family course at Ithaca College were encouraged to write editorials on how work-family practices can make sense not only for working families, but also for employers. The blog posts in this “Millennial Voice” series were identified by their instructor and peers as offering strong cases for the business benefits of work-family practices.

Each post is informed by 35 articles read as part of class assignments, as well as an additional 10 to 20 articles independently researched by the authors.  Links to relevant references offer additional exploration for interested readers.

Today’s post was written by Olivia Abry. Olivia is a sophomore student at Ithaca College majoring in Sport Management.  Her career goal is to work in basketball operations for an NBA team. Read more from Olivia.

Every company wants to maximize profits, minimize costs, and attract the best workers. One way of achieving this objective is to ensure that employees enjoy their job and the people they work for. When companies care about their employees and their families, this helps increase the quality of work and decrease the turnover rate. Offering flextime to employees is a great way for employers to show their workers they care about their lives outside of the workday. Allowing workers to have some control over when they work and how they work gives them freedom and a sense of trust. When people feel they are being treated well it makes them want to return the favor. Studies have shown that workers are willing to reciprocate the support given by the employers. This benefits the employer by motivating employees to do their best work and to be loyal.

Many people in the workforce have family or elder care responsibilities. Offering employees flextime or flexplace options shows the employee that their employer cares about their outside needs. Many companies don’t want to offer these accommodations because they assume that employees who use flexible work options are less productive. But as a case-study from ARUP Laboratories (a medial testing company) shows, flexible work schedules can have positive effects on employee productivity, job satisfaction, satisfaction with work schedule, and employee absenteeism. More companies are offering these accommodations to decrease work-family conflict.

For people with children, a flexible work schedule reduces stress. Because they don’t have to worry about how their kids will get home from school or paying a babysitter, they are able to put all their focus on their work while on the job. If employees have to bring their work home they with set boundaries with their family. The majority of the parents who go to work every day are working so they can provide their children with everything they need. These employees want to fully care—both physically and emotionally—for their children. Flextime gives the parents the opportunity to attend their children’s events and give them that emotional support. This helps their productivity because they focus on getting their work done in order to attend such events, instead of regretting not being able to go. Employees return the favor by being more productive with the time they have.

If employees’ needs are met then they are less likely leave their company, but there are many ways of arranging work that makes this possible. For example ARUP cut their turnover rate from 22% to 11% after offering compressed workweeks. By reducing turnover, ARUP significantly limited its expenditures on performing new job searches and training new employees.

Offering these types of arrangements can create positive rapport between the employee and employer, thus the employees return the favor and help the employers when necessary. In the ARUP study, a manager describes, “Employees want our flexible work arrangements to be successful, so they readily readjust when work demands require changes.” Indeed, the flexibility goes both ways. “If our DC colleagues come here for a visit, or a manager needs to see people on the East Coast, people change their schedules on a dime and do what needs to be done.”

As promising as flexible work arrangements might be, the options are not realistic for every labor market. But sometimes seeing the potential requires re-imagining the best way of working.  For example, schedules on some hourly jobs are sporadic and posted just days before. In an hourly wage job predictability is incredibly important. If companies have some consistency and more notice this can alleviate work conflicts. Posting schedules a week in advance is one way to help. Another solution might be to have the same schedule on the first and third weeks of the month and then the second and fourth. This way the employee is not working the same schedule all the time, but changes can be anticipated. This predictability allows the employee to make arrangements if needed, and it decreases the chance of a worker simply electing not to show up for their assigned shift.

Flextime can be very beneficial when presented and used in the correct ways. For example, Google is the highest rated company to work for because they are so family friendly. Their employees commonly work at least 40-hour weeks, but they happily do so because of their compensation and the family friendly work environment. Employers need to recognize that parents—including single parents—are now in the workforce. Flextime can help increase production and minimize turnover in a way that is beneficial for both employers and their employees. One size does not fit all.  Just because one type of flexibility is not viable, does not mean that flexibility is not possible to implement.  Sometimes it just takes imagination.

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