Sarah is a staff writer for Justmeans on Corporate Social Responsibility. She currently runs the CSR programme at her company, Munro & Forster Communications (M&F), as well as leading their environmental consultancy work. M&F is based in London and specialises in health, wellbeing and public and voluntary sector communications activity, including communications strategies, PR, media ...
CSR and family friendly policies
The UK's Family & Parenting Institute (FPI) recently did a mock school 'Report Card' for the UK on its family policies - awarding it a rather paltry C minus. The good news for CSR practitioners and consultants is that on work-related activity the UK actually came out with a very creditable B.
Family friendly and flexible working policies obviously have a place as part of a CSR strategy (particularly given the fact that UK law allows many employees to request flexible working) but their implementation needs to be carefully managed. The FPI wants all British workers to have the right to flexible working (not just the right to request it).
British firms are already the top of the European league table in offering flexible working arrangements. CSR policies need to consider the health and wellbeing of staff, so this is clearly a feather in our British cap. However, the introduction of flexible working needs a clear strategy behind it and to be fair and open to all employees.
For example, should flexible working and 'family friendly' policies solely favour parents, this could easily cause resentment among those without children. Non-parents may fear that they will be left to pick up the slack when colleagues leave earlier to collect children. A Women and Work survey conducted by the UK-based Grazia magazine in July 2010 found that nine in 10 women said that "child-free workers resented the flexi-hours and time off mothers can have".
In order for CSR strategies focused on flexible working to be successful, they need to cover some fundamental points. Firstly, the approach needs to have senior level endorsement, and be actively supported by the Board and management. Secondly, changing to a flexible working arrangement will require working in a very different way, so companies wanting to introduce it will need to look carefully at the culture of their organisation. That may prove uncomfortable but if it is not addressed at the beginning it is likely the arrangements will falter. Thirdly, flexible working cannot just be introduced and left to work itself out. It requires careful ongoing management and involvement from staff. For example, there may be frustrations around a team member working flexibly. In order to retain team (and organisational) harmony it will be important to get feedback from the team about how they feel the arrangement is working in order to manage its overall impact. This is why CSR strategies should ideally offer flexible work options to all employees to remove the separation between working parents and other team members.
Finally, it may seem obvious, but these policies need to be measured and monitored. It is easy to see if someone is at work or not if they work a standard 9-5 day, but if they work flexibly it's much more difficult to tell. A survey of HR professionals carried out by the consultancy Amano UK found that 58% stated that their organisation had embraced flexible working and offered more than the statutory minimum. However, 46% had no time and attendance system in place to manage the system. CSR professionals need to make sure that they work with HR so this is covered. Otherwise a flexible working policy risks causing resentment among employees who don't work in this way, as well as having a negative impact on a firm's productivity and bottom line.
Photo Credit: D.A.K Photography