South-Western - Management  
Firms Can Boost Productivity by Reducing Parental Stress
Topic Human Resources Management
Key Words Flexible schedule, telecommuting, productivity
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News Story

Celeste Suchko at accounting firm Alpern Rosenthal works a flexible schedule that accommodates her professional demands as well as the needs of her sons’ school calendar.

Over the summer, while her boys are out of school, Suchko works three days a week. When school starts in September, she adds another day to her schedule. And during the intense tax period from January to April, she works a five-day schedule. Even during the most stressful times at work, Suchko works at least one day from a home office so that she can make sure that her children get to their sports activities and guitar lessons.

A new study by Catalyst suggests that companies could improve productivity if they followed Alpern’s model, and reduced the time that parents spend worrying about what their children are doing after school.

Catalyst is calling the phenomenon PCAST, or Parental Concerns about After School Time. Catalyst estimates that PCAST affects at least 35% of the workforce and puts it among stress factors that cost $50 billion to $300 billion in lost productivity annually.

The study found that three-fourths of respondents felt that their concerns were reduced when they could work flexible schedules to meet their children’s needs. Yet, many worried that these arrangements would hurt their careers in the future. Parents with children in grades 6-12 have some of the highest levels of stress, because their children no longer attend after-school or daycare programs and are likely to be unsupervised. The study also showed that women worry more than men about child care arrangements.

Catalyst recommends a more flexible approach to work that includes a focus on results rather than time spent in an office. Companies need to find more creative ways to help parents with the problem by helping provide resources for after-school activities or transportation to activities. Del Monte Foods in San Francisco, with 550 employees is already doing this. It offers flexible scheduling and telecommuting and also offers an assistance program that helps parents find child care and summer camps.

Questions
1.

What is the connection between flexible schedules and telecommuting and employee satisfaction and productivity? Is there any downside for companies that use these types of programs?

2.

What kinds of management techniques can be used to make sure that productivity is not lost when a company implements flexible work rules?

3.

Besides offering flexible hours and telecommuting, name at least three additional strategies companies can use to retain good workers.

Source “Study: Firms Can Boost Productivity by Reducing Parental Stress,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 6, 2006, pNA.
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