In the UK, we work too hard, we give lousy customer service, worry too much,
spend too little time with our children, eat poorly, and we don’t produce
enough. And we share the blame. Somehow we expect people to separate their
heads from their bodies, and working lives from their families. Children need
time, attention, meals, and homework support, not just plugging into the
cigarette lighter socket to be recharged like a mobile phone.
Three out of four senior managers would refuse a job that damaged their
family. One in four has used their ‘get stuffed’ funds, a Australian phrase, to
walk away from such employment saying: "I led a team in an engineering
consultancy. I also have two teenage children. My bosses didn’t listen to my
pleas for two days working from home. I resigned. My boss was shell-shocked.
They could have easily retained me with a little flexibility."
Or how about the man told, at interview with a consultancy, that, "his
weekends were his own, but that the rest of the week belonged to the
company"? A bad joke? Unfortunately, CMG wasn’t joking and did not see the
connection between life-last, family-last policies and impending commercial
And what happens to workers at the frontline who don’t have ‘get stuffed’
funds? Do they have to leave their lives at their door and their children in
the combined care of the Tweenies, Buffy, MTV, and the after school club?
One company that doesn’t think so is Loop, part of Yorkshire Water. Mike
Smith, Yorkshire Water’s HR director explains: "Loop has seen its sales
increase 9 per cent in one year as a result of the family-friendly,
people-friendly culture we have put in place."
Remarkably for a call centre, "79 per cent of staff say they are not
under too much pressure at work and feel able to take their holidays". In
addition, Loop has gone beyond benefit-by-hierarchy by offering half of its
workers flexitime including job share, annualised hours, term working and
working from home.
In complete contrast, the CBI seems proud that 70 per cent of companies
offer one extra family-friendly benefit above the statutory minimum.
Think about it. Why should six in 10 workers be unable to take leave even in
an emergency? The impact on the productivity of your organisation is immense.
If you employ staff on low incomes, a third of those worry about not being able
to feed and clothe their children. Doesn’t it make sense to try and minimise
The remarkable truth is that payback on being ‘family friendly’ is well
proven. In Australia, for example, DuPont got back £4 for every £1 spent, while
NRMA got back £14 for every £1 spent.
Why aren’t staff allowed to choose the most effective location in which to
work? Why can’t they have support and freedom to meet family needs? Why do
three in four get no support when adopting? Why do only 5 per cent of men dare
to ask for flexible working?
It’s our fault collectively so let’s do something about it. Life must come
first. And that’s not just being nice, it’s being smart.
By Max Mckeown, Corporate activist and author of Unshrink the People