Center for Work and Family Celebrates 10th

Center for Work and Family Celebrates 10th

Research group holds conference, releases study on employee productivity

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

Celebrating its first decade, the Center for Work and Family last month co-sponsored a conference on balancing productivity and employee happiness, and has published a study citing the positive impact of flexible work arrangements.

"As the center begins its second decade," said CWF Director Rachel Pruchno, "we are excited and energized by our potential to serve as a catalyst for innovation in the work-life field."

Located in the Carroll School of Management, the center is a research organization dedicated to increasing the quality of life of working families by promoting the responsiveness of workplaces and communities to their needs. Besides research, the center is involved in partnerships and communication and information services as part of its mission.

Scholars, managers and other business professionals attended the CWF conference on Oct. 17-19, sponsored with Fast Company magazine. The opening session of the event was a forum that addressed concerns of employers and workers on a variety of contemporary workplace issues and topics such as flex-time, telecommuting, technology, recruitment, retention, productivity and workload.

Kathy Lynch, director of marketing and communications for the center, said technology was a much-discussed subject throughout the conference.

"Technology has blurred the lines of the traditional workday," Lynch said. "People are in touch with their workplace 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"This has become a way of life for many younger workers," she said. "It changes our views of the nature of work and makes us ask: What is work? What does work mean? Is work only done at your desk?"

Lynch said that many new economy employers have changed the definition of how, where and when employees do their work and this has resulted in a new flexibility in work and life habits for the newest generation of workers.

"The event reaffirmed that our partners are engaged in our mission," Pruchno said. "They have recommitted to working with the center to introduce strategies that lead to happier and healthier employees and more productive and successful workplaces."

The center's recently released report, "Measuring the Impact of Workplace Flexibility," reflects another aspect of that mission, Pruchno added. Of the more than 1,500 workers and managers surveyed in the study, almost 87 percent reported that flexible work arrangements - such as varying their hours on a daily basis - had positive effects on their productivity.

The report's finding on telecommuting was more mixed. Telecommuters reported some of the same positive impacts on their productivity, quality of work and plans to remain at the company. But they felt less satisfied with their life-work balance, saying they tended to work longer hours and spend more of their vacation time on job-related tasks.

"The story here," said CWF Director of Research Leon Litchfield, "is that flexible work arrangements are a valuable part of an employer's work-life strategy, and an effective tool for attracting and retaining talented employees."

He added, "It is crucial, however, that managers, co-workers and the employees themselves be trained regarding how and when to use flexible work arrangements. It is this 'coaching' and education that will help employers retain the best and the brightest."

Corporations taking part in the workplace flexibility study were Amway, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Honeywell, Kraft Foods, Lucent Technologies and Motorola.


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