SME study finds more workplace flexibility keeps staff happy and healthy

Providing employees with flexible work options like elastic schedules, support benefits and care arrangements for children will reap employers a return though increased loyalty and lower sick leave rates, research has found.

The findings – which reflect those from various other flexible work studies – were part of research conducted by Charles Sturt University. The study questioned 219 SME managers or owners about their strategies for keeping employees happy and motivated.

The results broke down flexible work options into four categories:

  • Flexible work options, such as flexi-time allowing staff to set their own schedules.
  • Leave programs, such as paid maternity and paternity leave.
  • Support benefits, which includes employee assistance providers.
  • Care arrangements, such as on-site childcare.

“Overall, the research showed that each of these issues had a direct and positive impact on work-life balance,” said CSU researcher and teacher Stacey Jenkins.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Jenkins said there was a clear correlation between the companies that offered these types of services, and effects such as lower staff turnover and sick leave days.

“The staff in these situations feel as though they’re less needed to take sick leave, and there is a lower likelihood they would leave the company.”

“There are definitely indirect associations you can make with stress. If someone is able to access flexible start and finish times, they’re much less likely to be stressed and that has an impact on their performance.”

While Jenkins acknowledged some of these practices are not so easy in certain industries, such as retail, they’re nevertheless important.

“Employees are more likely to stay with you if you offer these types of benefits and they have options.”

Out of the respondents, 21.9% were from the manufacturing industry, while 11.9% were from services and 10.5% from construction. The majority were family owned, at 62.7%.

Some of the major benefits that were listed as having a direct impact on performance included flexi-time, telecommuting, part-time work, shorter work days, flexible start and finish teams, and employee assistance programs.

In a statement, lecturer Pamela Matthews said businesses need to recognise the increased pressure to recognise work-life balance issues, and then introduce these types of schemes to portray themselves as desirable employers.

“With the pressure for more organisations to recognise work-life balance as a major concern, the combination of limited resources and organisational constraints makes it increasingly important for organisations to offer work-life balance options that are addressing both employee and organisational needs.”

“Identifying work-life balance practices that are effective, in addressing work-life balance issues is a first, but crucial step.”

The research comes during the Federal Government’s telecommuting week, in which it has pushed businesses to consider making more staff able to work from home.

Experts have warned businesses need to make sure they’re ticking all the boxes before they make the move to working from home.



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