All entries for Sunday 19 October 2008

October 19, 2008

Human Resources Management: Lesson 8 – Exercise:

Question 1: With reference to your own experience, critically evaluate the idea that there is a business case for family friendly working practices

Two concepts have to be defined in order to correctly answer this question:

  • What “level” of “family friendly working practices” we want to deal with

  • What do we mean by “there’s”: in my personal experience? In my country? In my actual position? Generally specking all over Europe? ...

I mentioned the “level” of “family friendly working practices” because, in my opinion, the concept of all those policies that helps in responding to employees' needs for what concern their “private” life is quite simple and shared all over the world. It includes the “common issues” of: childcare, home working, flexible time, old/ill parents take caring… What really changes and make the difference among countries and among companies operating in the same territory is the degree this policy can reach.

This level is influenced by several factors:

  • Country environment (individualistic or collectivist[1]?? just an example: the leave for pregnancy may last from 3 to 12 month depending on the European country you live in)

  • coercive framework: what the national law requires companies to do

  • ethical framework: what the social values a requires companies to do

  • what kind of job we’re dealing with (obviously a job in direct contact with the public offer less opportunities then an operational/management one)

  • the facilities the company you work with offer (a mobile phone, a fast intranet connection from home, a laptop…)

  • the company's policy itself (there’re still companies where employees are obliged to daily claim their presence in office)

  • the relationship of trust you’ve with your management

  • … this list may continue…

I personally strongly believe in the benefits taken by the adoption of family-friendly policy BUT only

  • if the contest allows it

  • after a period in the company in which each employee can show his/her “commitment”, “intentions”, “seriousness”…

Among the main benefits it takes I recognize:

  • for the company: higher productivity (i.e. personally I work harder from home then in the office), higher employees commitment and trustness, lower absenteeism

  • for employees: higher job satisfaction and morale, increase in the “pay” (no expenses to go inside the office and lower expenses in baby sitters / housekeepers)

For sure this policy cannot solve at all the conflict between family and work that exist when single or couples have to work more then 10 hours a day but it really helps (in my personal experience and actually I've not found strong critics in the literature proposed).

For sure the flexibility and availability (of both employers and employees) are the keys word to solve issues and request. An employee usually allowed to work from home, has to understand that, in particular critical period, has to be present for the whole time he/she’s needed and according to management requirements/expectations.

The risk is for sure that some employees (less motivated, less committed) may take advantages from this “freedom” despite in my opinion the same employees would have done the same (i.e. nothing at all!) staying at office sites!

In my personal experience I’ve seen a quite good level of “family friendly working practices” in IBM Italy. I’ve to admit that usually we’re required to work more then 10 hours/day but we’ve all the facilities to work from home and we’re usually allowed to do it (except in peak periods).

[1] Trompenaars, 1996


  • The Warwick MBA for IBM – Human Resource Management (IB811Z), Lesson 8

  • Mick Marchington and Adrian Wilkinson, Human Resources Management at Work. People Management and Development, Third Edition, CIPD, 2007

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