One of the greatest ironies in the work/life arena is that most companies considering such initiatives want data to substantiate the potential return on investment, but many companies that have implemented such initiatives do not evaluate them. "They are satisfied knowing that employees use the programs and are generally pleased with them," says the just-released Bright Horizons Family Solutions/Mercer Inc. 1998 survey of work/life initiatives. That's despite the fact that flexible work arrangements were deemed the third most valuable work/life initiative after health care and time-off or leave policies. Yet the return on investment can be significant, particularly considering improved employee attitudes and how that impacts customer retention.
- First Tennesee Bank found that branch offices where employees rated supervisors as supportive of work/family balance retained employees twice as long and kept 7% more retail customers.
- Royal Bank Financial Group, Toronto, calculates that 40% of the customer experience can be traced to employee behaviors. Thus, it estimates that its flexible work arrangements (FWAs) -- which include job-sharing, flextime, compressed workweeks, and work-at-home arrangements -- added $130 million to its bottom line in 1997. Royal Bank has also tracked, with surveys, the business impact of its initiatives that are used by 30% of its workforce. For example, 37% of its managers in 1997 -- compared with 25% in 1994 -- said that employee efficiency has increased. One reason: lower absenteeism (63% of the users of FWAs said their absenteeism was lower). And 70% of managers agreed -- compared with just 57% in 1994. What's more, 30% of managers said they believed that FWAs increased employees' ability to meet deadlines. Significantly, 81% of users believe that FWAs have helped them become more effective in managing work, family, and life; 76% of managers agreed. Similarly, 70% of those who take advantage of FWAs said their stress levels were lower, and 72% of managers felt that employee stress levels were lower. And that's critical because a wellness survey of employees last year by Royal Bank found that the higher the level of stress reported by an employee, the more absences he or she had. Indeed, 36% of the Royal Bank employees using FWAs said they would leave if such arrangements were not available.
- Aetna Life & Casualty Co. decreased its rate of resignations among new mothers in half when it extended its unpaid parental leave to six months a few years ago.