Workers who have caregiving responsibilities for children, aging parents, or other family members sometimes cannot meet the traditional expectations that apply to “good employees”—that they will put their jobs first and that someone else in their lives (traditionally, an unemployed spouse) will provide caregiving and other necessary support. This can lead to work/family conflicts.
Is it possible to reduce the level of conflict between work commitments and family commitments without compromising the work that needs to be done? Many studies have shown that it is possible—interventions that reduce work/family conflict can positively affect the health and well-being of workers and families while enhancing productivity.
A new study published by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has shown that such programs can offer a significant return on investment (ROI) with estimated cost savings of $1.68 for every dollar spent.
Benefits of Reducing Work/Family Conflict
The study evaluated the ROI of one specific program for reducing work/family conflict: the STAR program, published by the Work, Family, and Health Network (WFHN). The WFHN is an interdisciplinary team of researchers assembled by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tasked with finding ways to improve the health of workers and their families while benefiting employers.
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For purposes of the study, the STAR program was implemented by a U.S. information technology employer over a period of 18 months. The program cost was estimated at $690 per employee.
As a result of the program, the employer saw:
- Reduced employee turnover. The greatest cost savings witnessed as a result of the program resulted from a substantially reduced rate of voluntary termination among employees.
- Reduced “presenteeism.” Workers were more productive while they were at work after the program was implemented.
- Reduced health care use. Other studies have shown that programs that reduce work/family conflict result in improved health markers for workers like reduced systolic blood pressure and cortisol levels. This study revealed that health care use decreased as a result of program implementation.
The net result of the intervention was a savings of approximately $1850 per employee (in 2011 dollars) for a positive ROI of $1.68 per dollar spent.
Studies of other interventions aimed at reducing work/family conflict have teased out additional specific health benefits, including statistically significant effects on:
- Smoking and alcohol use. Workers in one program increased their odds of quitting smoking and decreased their odds of excessive drinking.
- Sleep. Multiple studies have demonstrated that workers enrolled in programs aimed at reducing work/family conflict have better sleep habits and report better sleep quality.
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- Dietary habits. Healthy decision making, including food choices, is positively affected by programs that reduce work/family conflict.
- Safety compliance and organizational citizenship. Both of these metrics improved significantly for workers enrolled in a program to reduce work/family conflict.
- Family members. Workers’ family members, including children and elders, also benefit from these kinds of interventions, reporting better sleep, increased parental involvement in their education, and less conflict in family interactions.
The programs seem to have the greatest effect on workers who are at the highest risk. That is, workers who have the highest levels of work/family conflict benefit disproportionately from these interventions.
Tomorrow we’ll look at some specific strategies that have been used to successfully reduce work/family conflict.