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With workers’ welfare taken to heart, the road to productivity improves

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With workers’ welfare taken to heart, the road to productivity improves

/ 12:00 AM September 15, 2014

Coined in the 1970s, the term work-life balance—referring to the practice of prioritizing aspects of work and lifestyle—has become a familiar concept in the corporate world.

Over the years, different cultures have applied it in their particular settings, from the Western solution of creating in-office daycare centers for employees with children, to the more local one of allowing leaves of absences for family emergencies.

Today, about four decades after its inception, companies still report low productivity, employers still have the problem of losing talent, and countless employees still suffer stressful pace of work.

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“During my corporate career,” recalls one mother of five who has worked in the corporate world for 20 years, “work-life balance is just a buzzword … good for discussion, but not really practiced.”

Having left her job as a computer specialist three years ago, she became one of many Filipino women who felt the need to resign in order to be able to find more time for the family.

Clearly, it’s not just lifestyle that matters. People are looking for balance between building a career and building relationships; hence, work-life balance has grown synonymous to the idea of work-family balance.

Proper balance

Since 1999, Nuria Chinchilla and her team at the International Center for Work and Family of IESE Business School (IESE-ICWF) in Barcelona have strived for a better understanding of how the successful integration of work and family life leads to improvements not only in homes but also in business and in society. And this is the heart of what the IESE-ICWF now promotes: Corporate family responsibility (CFR).

CFR is an “internal, essential and nuclear dimension of corporate social responsibility,” writes Chinchilla.

CFR considers the employees’ families an important stakeholder of business organizations. The families are the most important partners of the companies in forming a new generation of workforce committed to improving their competitiveness and sustainability.

Helping employees to nurture a healthy balance between career and family is considered a smart business investment because a happy family person is a productive employee.

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Family-responsible worker

To quantify corporate family responsibility, IESE-ICWF created a research tool called IESE Family-Responsible Employer Index (IFREI).

IFREI measures CFR and its impact on people, company outcomes and society. A low level of CFR hinders work-family integration, thus producing “polluted environments” that create dissatisfaction, stress, demotivation and turnover intention among employees.

On the other hand, companies that promote CFR nurture “enriching environments” that, in turn, create high levels of commitment, quality of life and general health.

This year, IFREI 2.0—the latest version of the diagnostic tool—has become available for Philippine companies through IFREI Project in Asia, headed by Maria Victoria Q. Caparas, associate professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific.

“The objective of IFREI 2.0 is to deepen the analysis of an individual company’s working environment through multiple stakeholders, such as the human resource director, the managers and collaborators or employees,” says Caparas. “IFREI 2.0 has revealed that, even in companies that generously provide HR programs designed to improve work-family balance, there are packets of toxic cultures. The diagnostic study will help companies to identify the causes of toxicity.”

Once a company attains good results, it may gain “Family-Responsible Employer accreditation,” Caparas adds.

Accreditation benefits

The Philippines is the first country in Asia to use IFREI 2.0.

The study’s activity here opens new doors for Philippine businesses. An IFREI 2.0 diagnosis is required of companies that are hoping to apply for accreditation from the Work & Family Foundation Canada (WFFC)—a nonprofit organization created to promote work, family and personal life balance.

Companies with results of over 70 percent of employees in Enriching (A) and Favorable (B) environments may gain accreditation.

“WFFC accreditation attests the company’s excellent diagnostic results in corporate family responsibility,” states Caparas, who is also a member of the academic committee of the WFFC. “When a company gets accredited, it is a clear sign that its employees are working in enriching and favorable environments—some characteristics of such are they have reasonable work hours, enjoy flexible working policies, have supportive supervisors and work within a culture that is not prone to burnout. That in itself is attractive for a lot of talented individuals looking for work. In this way, accreditation makes hiring talent and talent retention easier.”

WFFC grants accredited companies the use of IFREI family-responsible company logo. The logo not only marks the company as one that has the characteristics mentioned above, but also adds to the establishment’s prestige.

The logo identifies the company as an innovative leader in developing solutions to promote positive changes that affect the quality of life of its employees.

To be recognized a company that promotes CFR has many benefits:

It improves the organization’s positioning in the sector, as it is a veritable indication of flexible culture, politics and leadership;

It allows the organizations to compare their policies or other work environment factors with that of other companies here and abroad;

It enables companies to network with others that are also recognized for their CFR and share best practices;

It allows the company to reap economic benefits—after all, a company that promotes CFR is likelier to retain talent, increase productivity and lessen the costs of absenteeism.

Just one company setting up the standards for CFR in the local business sector can create ripples, influencing others to strive towards a more family-responsible direction in order to reap the same economic benefits.

PH firms may be accredited

Philippine companies that have undertaken the IFREI 2.0 diagnostic study may apply for accreditation from WFFC.

The accreditation certifies that they have been diagnosed according to the IFREI research model and found to comply with required conditions, demonstrating a commitment to promote CFR.

Companies that qualify for accreditation may apply to WFFC by presenting a solicitation for accreditation, along with the final report of their IFREI 2.0 results.

Once granted, the accreditation is valid for three years from the date of the final report, during which the company may use the “Accredited Member” seal, a mark that identifies it locally and internationally as a firm that truly fosters work, family and personal life balance. Accredited members also receive a diploma from WFFC and a trophy attesting to the company’s excellent diagnostic results in the IFREI.

“With IFREI 2.0 and the WFFC accreditation, we are looking to change this mindset and promote a more balanced work culture that helps both employer and employee,” says Caparas. “So far, we have companies from Latin American states that have been accredited. As Philippine companies join their ranks and become accredited members, there shall be more local examples of productivity increase, which should help build a stronger case for successful work-family integration as key ingredient not only in improving business, but also in building a more sustainable society.”

For more information, visit the website of IFREI Project in Asia at www.ifrei.asia.

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