SpirE-Journal 2013 Q2

Side Click: Family-friendly business models

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Side Click: Family-friendly business models

Family-friendly business models are all the rage. Helping employees to balance work and family responsibilities are known to improve employee relations and enhance productivity. What does the future hold for family-friendly business models in Asia? Are they sustainable?

As the education level of women meets or even surpasses that of men world-wide, women have increasingly become more involved in the workforce. Dual-income families are now the norm in many countries, requiring many women to juggle work and family responsibilities in a way that men do not have to, thanks to entrenched social expectations and cultures. Problems arise when these responsibilities and priorities clash.

Even Marissa Mayer, Chief Executive Officer of Yahoo, who came under harsh criticism when she banned her employees from working from home , had recently announced a family-friendly policy for her employees. New parents are now entitled to 16 weeks of paid maternity leave and eight weeks of paid paternity leave, as well as a gift of USD500.

Benefits of having a family-friendly workplace

A family-friendly workplace helps address employees’ need to take care of their families, be it men or women. With a supportive work environment, employees will feel cared for and their work productivity may increase – benefiting employers in return.

For instance, in Hong Kong, the renowned Fuji Xerox company in China provides a range of programs for employees with families. These include counselling services on family issues, gifts for employees to highlight their achievements, annual trip allowances and so forth. They also allow employees to knock off early for both Western and Chinese festivals; placing more emphasis on employees’ family bonding time. Their efforts were duly recognized when they were one of the recipients of the “Distinguished Family-Friendly Employers Award” organized by the Family, an advisory body to The Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

In Singapore, there is an accreditation programme known as “Business for Families Mark” led by the Businesses for Families Council. Businesses can sign up as pledgers and undertake a commitment to make their businesses more accommodating to families. At present, there are over 5,600 Pledgers and more than 430 Markers under this programme.

In the eastern European country of Slovenia, the Ministry of Labor, Family and Social Affairs, and The Ekvilib Institute have jointly introduced a family-friendly enterprise certification scheme in 2007. Under this scheme, employees with children have the option of flexible work arrangement, including flexible working hours and additional leave days. A special team is also established to introduce enhanced methods and services to co-ordinate family and professional life, including childcare, counselling, babysitters, vacation offers and spaces for children in the company.

In the long-run, family-friendly business models are commercially sustainable because research demonstrates that the benefits to employers are tangible:

Overall decrease in sick leave
Less staff turnover
Rising productivity
Increased satisfaction and level of commitment
Enhanced brand image of the employer

The number of dual-income families in emerging economies can only increase, as aging populations provide fresh impetus for governments to coax women back into the workforce. The Abe government in Japan, for example, has announced a raft of new measures to support the re-entry of women into the workforce.

In this climate, the business and brand image advantages of companies introducing family-friendly practices are too compelling to ignore. The sun is only just rising on the trend of making business more family-friendly.

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