The most important asset of an organization is its workforce; the organization would therefore ensure that it fulfills the needs of the workers to enable that they work effectively for the benefit of the organization. On the other hand, the most important factor that affects productivity of the workers is their motivation. Generally, highly motivated workers would have high productivity.
In addition, if a company were able to effectively motivate the workers while giving them the necessary incentives, the workers would be loyal to the company, while employee turnover would reduce drastically. Organizations therefore having policies that facilitate the working of the employees, rather than to control their actions, as happy employees would be able to function effectively (Halpern & Murphy, 2005, p. 68)
Different organizations have different methods of motivating their employees to enhance productivity. Some organizations have a scheme ensuring that the high performing employees are rewarded (reward based performance appraisal) while denying some of the benefits to the employees who fail to meet their set targets (Grote, 1996, p. 348).
In addition, companies have ensured implementation of policies, which not only consider employee who works in the company, but take a holistic approach that takes into consideration the employee as an individual who faces different other pressures related to his/her personal and domestic life (Hacket, 1998).
Most organizations therefore have a family work policy that caters for the needs of employees and ensures that there is no conflict between the employees’ job and their family needs or requirements. This policy does not only target employees who have children but also employees who do not have children (Rosenbloom, 2005, p. 423).
Even the US government considers the policy vital in the productivity of employees such that it allocates a certain amount of money in its annual budget to cater for family work policy of different states (Washington family leave coalition, 2010, p. 1).
The work family policies of governments vary from giving cash incentive to the parents who have children, provision of care to the children or allocating leave allowance to the parents of the children in question (Lewis, 2009).
Motivation and morale of the employees undoubtedly affects their productivity. These two lead to increased job satisfaction and loyalty of the employees. Organizations therefore take the issue of motivation of the employees very seriously. There are many different theories that are used to explain the motivation of individuals. These theories include:
- Jeremy Bentham’s “the carrot and stick” motivation theory
- Abraham Maslow’s “need hierarchy” motivation theory
- Douglas McGregor “theory X and theory Y” motivation theory
- Vroom’s “Valence x Expectancy” motivation Theory
However, the mostly widely accepted motivation theory is the Maslow’s “need hierarchy” motivation theory. This theory was put forward by Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, who was of the perception that the needs of individuals form a hierarchy, ascending from the lowest to the highest.
Maslow was of the view that when a set of needs is satisfied, it stops being a motivator to the individual. According to this theory, the needs of individuals are as follows
Generally, every person will primarily seek to satisfy basic needs, which are normally vital for human life sustenance; they include food, water, shelter, clothing, education, and healthcare.
Maslow was of the perception that, until these needs are met, no other motivation factors can be effective (Shah & Shah, n.d., part 3). Organizations therefore ensure that these needs are met to enable the employees to function effectively. Organizations would therefore provide housing, education, and healthcare to both the employee and members of his/her family.
Security or safety needs
Following the satisfaction of physiological needs, a person will seek to be secure physically, psychologically and emotionally. In this case, a person needs “to be free of physical danger and loosing a job, food or shelter” and protection against any emotional harm (Shah & Shah, n.d., part 3). Organizations would therefore try to take several measures to ensure that the job of the employees is secure to enable them to be fully motivated.
This refers to the social needs of acceptance, affection, and friendship (Shah & Shah, n.d., part 3). To facilitate this, organizations ensure that they involve the employees and members of their families in various social functions some of which may not be work related to make the employees and their families have a sense of belonging to the organization.
This refers to the need to be held in high esteem by both themselves and other people. This need usually arises after the person has satisfied the need to belong. This need produces satisfaction, prestige status, and self-confidence, all of which are very important to employees (Shah & Shah, n.d., part 3).
Organizations usually have put in place measures that ensure employees who perform better are promoted to increase their self-esteem and enable them to have better productivity.
Need for self-actualization
According to Maslow, this is the highest need, and it refers to the internal drive, which makes one to achieve full potential and self-fulfillment and aspire to become what one is destined to be (Shah & Shah, n.d., part 3). This is the most important aspect that ensures the productivity of employees.
All the measures that are taken by the company are to enable self-actualization of the employees, which would make them to have productivity at their best possible levels for the benefit of the organization and the employees themselves.
Most managers ensure that motivation of employees is intrinsic as opposed to being extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the person and is therefore stronger. The managers generally provide conditions that ensure employees motivate themselves.
Extrinsic motivation is the motivation where the managers try to motivate the employees through different mechanisms and is generally not as strong as intrinsic motivation, as it is difficult to know what motivates each individual (Employee Motivation in the Workplace: Different Types of Motivation Theories Part 3, 2009)
There has been a general argument by many experts involved in the field of management that companies need to put in place family responsive programs to enable them retain and attract highly qualified employees for competitive advantage building. Work family conflict has been shown by research to lead into decreased productivity of the employees, loss of work time, absenteeism, job dissatisfaction, and poor morale.
In addition, work family conflict may also lead to other family related issues such as poor parenting and depression (Brush, 1993; O’Laughlin & Bischoff, 2005, p. 80). Hence, tensions between work and home life increases stress and are generally bad to the employer, employees, and their families (Kolb, Williams & Frohlinger, 2009).
Most people used to believe that family work issues are mainly a problem that mainly concerns women. However, organizations are slowly starting to realize that work family issues are not only concerned with the women in their staff, but it also involves men.
These organizations have therefore put in place programs that would help in the reduction of work family stress to ensure optimal productivity of their employees (Worell, 2001, p. 1183).
There are usually several work/family conflicts that have been shown to affect the work/family life of the employees of an organization. One such conflict is the time-based conflict, which occurs when the time pressures required to fulfill a certain role make it impossible for a person to fulfill another role. These roles are mainly between work and family.
Time-based conflict occurs mostly if the number of hours an employee is required to work in an organization to have good productivity are so many such that they deny the employee time to cater for the family related issues. Another type of conflict is the strain-based conflict, referring to a conflict in which stress of a certain role performed by the employee affects the performance of duties in another field.
This strain is most common in professions that require an individual to perform several different tasks. An example is in the field of academia where lecturers engage in teaching, research, service and sometimes even private consultation i.e. private practice. This leads to the creation of family stress in the particular employee’s family.
The last type of conflict is the behavior-based conflict, which occurs when the behaviors supposed to be exhibited while performing a certain role conflict with the behaviors of another role performed by the same individual. A good example of the occurrence of behavior-based conflict is when an employee works from home.
The focus and energy that the employee requires in order to accomplish the work expectations is liable to conflict with the demand for attention from the children and/or spouses (Williams & Alliger 1991, from: O’Laughlin & Bischoff, 2005, p, 80).
Models of work family issues
To determine how work/family issues affect employees, different models and perspectives can be used. The models used mainly focus on the following
- Job type characteristics: this mainly concerns the flexibility of the job and personal control of the employee.
- Individual characteristics: this concerns the level of commitment and satisfaction towards the roles of parenting or the work, which the individual performs.
- Quantitative factors: this is mainly concerned with the time, which an individual spends catering to wok related issues, or time that he has to meet parenting or household needs (O’Laughlin & Bischoff, 2005, p. 81).
However, various scholars have suggested that time demands does not primarily predict the work family stress. The role of strain and work family issues have been explained to be as a result of a person being overly committed to one role while neglecting the other, hence leading to the strain in the neglected field.
Greater commitment in the specific field makes the individual dedicate most of the time to the specific field hence making him/her to have less time for the performance of other roles, leading to poor performance of the neglected role (O’Laughlin & Bischoff, 2005, p. 81). In most situations, the neglect is mainly in the family roles of the employees hence leading to the strain by the members of the family.
The rational method clearly explains work/family related stress. According to this model, employees may spend many hours in meetings or at their work place to the detriment of the family roles that the employee must perform. The greater investment result in stress is one field.
This type of stress is most common in women employees who are in high control positions, as they are unable to meet their domestic obligations (O’Laughlin & Bischoff, 2005, p. 81).
This paper will discuss work family issues of the employees of Microsoft, the global leader in computer software development. The company has among the most flexible employment opportunities available to its employees, making the company to be ranked among the 100 best employers by the Fortune magazine (Erb, 2011).
The employees can work from home, design their own offices, schedule their own leaves, and have access to unlimited broadband connection if they live within the campus of the company. The company considers the work family issues a very important aspect, which ultimately determines the productivity of its employees.
This paper will consider work family issues of the employees of both genders so as to get a clear picture of the work family issues of the employees. In addition, the paper will also consider the employees in different ranks within the organization as they are usually exposed to different working condition.
To get a clear understanding of family work issues, questionnaires that were posted in the company website regarding the same were analyzed. The questionnaires were answered by employees in all the ranks of the company. An analysis of a sample that contained 200 employees, 100 of who were female was made.
The employees questioned ranged in rank from the software programmers to the people who were involved in the management affairs of the company. The analysis of the results was clustered into two; gender of the employee and the rank of the employee in the organization, as this would give a clear picture of the work family issues.
In addition, the respondents included both the employees who were living in the company’s quarters and those who were living outside the company quarters. Nevertheless, all the respondents asked the questionnaires were either married or parents as these are the people who are mainly affected by family work issues.
The following questionnaires were posed to the employees of Microsoft via the company website.
- Have you ever been absent from work due to family related issues?
- Do you think that your job is affecting your parenting or family related issues?
- Does your spouse complain that you are spending too much time working from the office?
- Have you ever worked from home? If yes how often do you work from home?
- What reasons made you work from home?
- Do you prefer working from home?
- Does working from home affect your parenting abilities?
- Does your spouse complain you are neglecting your parenting or family roles due to working from home?
- Have you ever worked while you were on a family holiday? If yes was it due to pressures on work which you knew was awaiting you or were you doing it simply because you loved the work?
- Have you ever requested leave to attend to family matters? If yes, were you granted the leave or not?
- Which company practice do you think takes into consideration the work family issues of the employees?
- Has the company ever involved you and your family in its social activities?
- How many hours do you have to engage in family or private matters?
- Does your boss complain that your family issues are interfering so much with your work?
- Does your work hinder you from performing certain family issues, which in your opinion are very necessary?
- Does more time to spend with your family enable you to perform your duties effectively or does it hinder you from performing you duties and produce the desired results?
- In your opinion, do work family issues affect your productivity?
- Do you think the company is doing enough to address the work family issues of the employees? If yes, does the knowledge that the company caters for your work family issues give you motivation in your work?
- Do you think that having a family work policy is a privilege to the employees or do you think it is a right, which the employer must grant the employee?
The results were presented in two different parts. The first part of the results showed work family issues based on gender of the employees whereas the second part of the results was on family work issues based on the position of employees in the company. Similar answers were clustered into one group and an analysis of the results was made based on the answers, which were most common among the employees of the company.
Effects of family work issues on productivity
Most of the respondents were of the view that family issues affect their productivity. In fact, almost all the respondents had missed a few days of work to attend to family issues. The employees who were mostly affected by family issues were women as they were generally considered to have the highest responsibility in catering for children. Single parents faced the most work/family related stress.
The ability of the company to cater for their family issues in the employees working time made most of the employees feel motivated and loyal to the company. Most of the respondents praised the flexibility of working hours that the company offers, with the ability to work remotely from home being wide regarded as a factor that made many employees to have high productivity.
However, the ability to work from home made spouses or children of most respondents to complain that they were spending less time with their family. This was made even worse by the fact that, in some cases, employees were transferring work from their office to home, making them to work even during family times.
The tendency of the company to evaluate the performance of employees based on their output rather than time spent behind their desks was regarded by most of the respondents as the practice that made the employees to have time to cater for family issues. Hence, most of the employees were able to attend to family issues, which they regarded as important provided that they could create time to complete their office work.
Work/family policy a right or a privilege
Most of employees were of the view that the company ought to have a work family policy. The policy was not necessary a privilege to the employees. However, certain features of the work family policy enabled employees to cater for their individual needs and to have better job satisfaction.
In fact, almost all the respondents were of the view that the work family policy affects their loyalty to the company. The good work family policy of the company was a motivating factor to the employees just like higher pay or recognition for achievements of the employees.
Work/ family issues and employee position
The position of employees was regarded as the factor that increased work/family related stress. Workers who were generally in higher management positions were generally under more work related stress due to the higher responsibility associated with the positions.
Employee who faced the most work related stress were women who were in higher management positions. Single parents who had children in their teenage years faced the highest work/related stress, as they had to juggle between parenting responsibilities and job responsibilities bestowed upon them due to their position.
The results underpin the importance of work family issues for employees and the human resource managers of most organizations. Work family issues are mainly significant if the employees of a company are mostly married or have children. Microsoft was initially a company that was mainly made up of employees who were in their twenties. However, there has been a general shift in the average age of employees of the company.
Most of the employees of the company are now in their thirties. This facilitated the company to be responsive to the family work issues, as most employees in this age group have children or are married (Work-life balance newsletter, 2004, p. 4).
In addition, the company does not judge the work of the employees based on the time they spend in the office i.e. the employees do work by the clock. The flexibility of the working of Microsoft enables the employees of the company to manage their work to fit their individual needs.
Employees can therefore create their own working patterns. In addition, employees are given the flexibility of scheduling their own appointments to a time which best suits them (DTI, 2004, p.14). Thus, employees are able to schedule their own time to cater for family or personal issues without having to ask for formal permission or undergo the long bureaucratic process of asking for leave, which is present in most companies.
The knowledge that the company caters for the work family issues of the employees makes most of the employees to be motivated and hence enabling them to perform at their very best. Among the most important aspects that help in motivation of the employees was the fulfillment of their needs.
By fulfilling some of the needs of the employees the company was able motivate the employees and have them performing at their very best. The factor that mostly catered work/family issues of the employees was the flexibility in the working hours of the employees. The company generally uses its work family policy to intrinsically motivate the employees and therefore ensure that they have high productivity.
It is obvious that most of the employees in companies involved in highly specialized activities are usually at the stage in their life where family issues affect them to a very high extent. Work family issues significant affect the productivity of the employees.
Human resource managers of various organizations have come to this realization and have therefore ensured that the company puts in place policies that cater for the work family issues of the employees to prevent the employees working under undue stress, which may be created by either of the two.
Family work policy is regarded by most of the employees as a factor, which largely influences their decision to work in a certain company. Companies that have good family work policies are able to have their employees working at their highest productivity level are also able to retain the employees.
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