When employees were able to manage their personal lives more easily, the result was shown to be reduced absenteeism, improved well-being and increased productivity.



The recession of 2008 and 2009 produced a unique productivity phenomenon: fewer employees, higher productivity. Throughout the recession, employers became leaner and meaner, with wages flat or falling. But in November of 2009 it was reported that productivity had jumped at the fastest pace in six years, up 9.5%. Many large corporations reported that while revenue was down, profits were up as layoffs reduced labor costs. And because those who were left produced more, productivity jumped, giving companies good earnings figures. Fear of layoffs was obviously playing a role.



In October 2009 a study by UK firm Morgan Redwood found businesses would benefit financially from helping their employees achieve work-life balance. Those that helped workers achieve good work-life balance enjoyed average net earnings per employee of 23% more per year than those that didn’t. The boost in the bottom line, they say, was because when employees were able to manage their personal lives more easily, the result was shown to be reduced absenteeism, improved well-being and increased productivity.

The Corporate Executive Board agreed, finding earlier in the year that productivity is helped by work-life benefits. Employees who are happy with their work-life benefits work more than 20% harder and are a third more likely to stay with the organization, said their study of data collected from more than 50,000 employees. Just 16% were satisfied with their organizations’ current work- life practices. Flexible schedules and an appropriate amount of work were top choices for nearly two-thirds of those in the study. The report suggested employers not only need to provide more work-life programs but do a better job communicating about what’s there.





Over the past 15 years, research has given us a handle on which efforts have proven to be effective at accomplishing that goal. This document goes back in time to search out the programs, policies and practices that have made a difference. We’ve listed 13 ways that have been found to increase productivity.


1. Telecommuting

We probably have more evidence related to the impact of telecommuting on productivity than any other offering. We used to say that the increased productivity that came from telework was kind of a halo effect − people were so grateful they just put out more effort. That's probably partly true and partly a case of having fewer distractions. And it also might be the result of what Corel reported in 2003. Their study found that if you allow people to work when they feel most productive, even if it's at 6 a.m. or the middle of the night, you get more good work out of them.

Cisco studied its telework program and reported in August of 2009 that it significantly increased productivity and job satisfaction and saved $277 million a year by increasing productivity. Their study of nearly 2,000 employees found 69% saying their productivity increased when they worked from home; 75% said the timeliness of their work improved and 83% said their ability to communicate and collaborate with coworkers was the same, if not better than it was when working onsite. More than two-thirds said their overall work quality improved when telecommuting and 80% said the ability to telework improved their overall quality of life.

The office of the Inspector General for Tax Administration may be the current federal champion when it comes to teleworking, with 86% of its employees now working remotely. The agency has been able to close a few offices, and “productivity levels have gone up every year exponentially,” says Jennifer Donnan, who helped get the program going.

More than two-thirds of companies believe telecommuting has led to greater productivity, lower costs, and better recruiting and retention, said a 2008 survey by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). The increased productivity, said respondents, was due in large part to workers spending less time going to and from work.


2. Try focusing on Results Only

The “Results Only Work Environment” at Best Buy led to a 35% increase in productivity, a vast reduction in voluntary turnover and a much happier workforce. New rules: employees have the freedom to work any way they want, and an unlimited amount of “paid time off,” as long as the work gets done. No one should be overworked, every meeting should be optional, no work schedules should be imposed and there should be no judgment about how you spend your time.

A related suggestion came from Semco, a Brazilian manufacturer which at one time was traditional and autocratic, with a rule for every contingency. Now they have no rules at all, just a Survivor Manual with lots of cartoons and few words. The company has “absolute trust” in its employees, said CEO Richard Semler. Employees decide on their hours, their production quotas, and even their salaries. The result: a “moribund” company has grown six-fold, increased productivity sevenfold, and with a backlog of 2,000 job applications, has gone as much as 14 months without losing an employee.


3. Train managers to be more supportive

In 2000, a 25-year Gallup study of more than two million employees and managers found a significant relationship between employee satisfaction and productivity, and found both were determined by whether or not the employees' supervisor was caring and supportive. The sample included both exempt and non-exempt employees.

4. Implement flexibility

In 2001, Brigham Young and IBM researchers compared employees with and without flexibility, but with the same workload. Those with perceived flexibility were able to work eight more hours a week without losing their sense of work-life balance.

5. Strive for Loyalty

After studying nearly 100 employers, Frederich Reichheld reports that loyalty boosts productivity. Staffing expert James Challenger agrees, pointing out that the surge in productivity that was taking place in 2000 coincided with a 50% increase in employee tenure and a 254% jump in employees who have worked for just one company in their career. "The longer an individual stays with the firm," said Challenger, "the better the productivity."
6. Fewer hours, more pay

In 1996, Metro Plastics was seriously understaffed and getting no response to their ads. So they began to offer 30-hour weeks for 40 hours of pay. Precision Plastics, Columbia City, IN, had the same problem and tried the same solution. Both companies began immediately to have more qualified applicants than they could use, and managers of both companies report productivity gains offset the higher payroll costs; quality is up dramatically.

In 1999 a United Nations study reported that Americans were working the longest hours in the industrialized world, but hours worked were not necessarily indicators of productivity. According to the study, Key Indicators of the Labor Market, Japan, France and Germany all surpassed our productivity gains and put in fewer hours.



7. Employee ownership

Employee ownership improved productivity at 52% of firms polled in a survey by the Employee
Ownership Foundation. The Employee Stock Ownership Plan Association says its study found
60% of companies offering employee ownership reported improved productivity and were able to show a relationship between the two.
8. Clear work-related goals, less bureaucracy

An employee survey has asked 1,000 employees which workplace factors would have a positive impact on their productivity. The survey, by Training Magazine, found 54% said having clear, work-related goals would do the trick and nearly half said less workplace bureaucracy would make them more productive.

9. Family-supportiveness

A study by Wharton School’s Peter Capelli found that those employees who were encouraged to invest more time in family life were more productive.

10. Music at work

Allowing employees to listen to personal stereo headsets could dramatically improve their productivity, says a study by University of Illinois researchers. Among 75 employees who wore headsets an average of 20 hours during the workweek, productivity increased by 10% over a
four-week period.
Among 181 employees who did not wear headsets during the same period, there was no change in productivity. The headset wearers were less nervous, less fatigued, more enthusiastic and more relaxed at work than were the employees in the control group.


11. Paid Time-Off banks

Putting leave days together in one unallocated pot not only reduced absenteeism, it raised productivity and morale, cut replacement costs and improved customer service. The study, by CCH Inc., a Riverwoods, IL HR consultant, surveyed 327 organizations in a variety of fields.

12. Pay for performance

Safelite Glass Corp. tracked numbers before and after its execs decided to pay workers a bonus based on installing more windshields. Productivity went up 36%, absenteeism dropped, paid sick hours fell by 61% and turnover among the company’s most efficient workers was reduced. Net results: the average worker earned 10% more and productivity — output per hour — went up 20%.

Research has shown that these initiatives also may increase productivity: onsite childcare, part- time work, union shops in a non-adversarial atmosphere, time off as a reward for increased productivity. Collaborative workspaces, engaged workers, quality after-school programs and work redesign.



Upskilling current employees can make a real difference. Providing relevant, role-specific training to your employees will improve company productivity. The quality of the training is important, not the quantity. In addition, investment in learning and development can yield potentially large productivity and output returns for firms.




At IBI Global, we believe that education drives technology not technology drives education since good teachers and experts inspire learners to be lifelong learners.



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