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If you were a CEO or business owner, what strategies would you employ to help increase productivity, improve your bottom line and decrease employee turnover?

One might think it all boils down to money. But what if the answer was to simply help your employees have a more fulfilling life and be better spouses, parents and grandparents?

Studies consistently indicate that the key to higher productivity and a better bottom line is a family-friendly workplace.

In a 2009 study conducted by the Sloan Center for Aging at Boston College, 90 percent of workers said workplace flexibility moderately or greatly contributes to their quality of life. A 2010 study of IBM employees suggests that telecommuting workers find it easier to balance work and family life.

Recently, Working Mother magazine released its annual "100 Best Companies" list. When these companies were asked why they invested in work/life benefits such as on-site child care, flex time, job sharing and telecommuting, the unanimous answer was, "It benefits the bottom line."

Still, while more companies are seeing the benefit in adopting these practices, only a small percentage of U.S. companies have incorporated family-friendly policies into their benefits package. Some companies cite cost as a reason for not doing so.

Professors from Stanford, the University of Munich and the London School of Economics conducted extensive research to determine if family-friendly workplace practices are worth the money. Their findings show that firms implementing such practices saw results in areas such as employee retention, improved attitudes and behaviors. Interestingly, the amount of money spent equaled the financial benefit derived from these practices. According to the researchers, providing family-friendly workplace practices may not increase profits, but they at least pay for themselves.

And there is a downside to not adopting family-friendly workplace policies. According to "The Business Case for Work-Family Programs" in Lynchburg Business magazine, employees who experience work-family conflict are three times more likely to think about quitting their jobs than those who do not have that conflict. A story in Working Mother noted that turnover from work-family issues costs companies about three times the job's annual salary for an executive or managerial position and 1 1/2 times the salary for line positions. Hidden costs such as delays and training time also affect the bottom line.

The change doesn't have to be all at once; employers can take steps to make their company more family-friendly. When implementing family-friendly policies, it is important that employers communicate with and include workers at all business levels.

* Offer child care in the workplace and encourage both parents to utilize it. An employee child-care center allows workers to be near their children during the day.

* Offer flex-scheduling so parents can participate more in their child's schooling, doctor appointments, social activities, etc. This means giving employees more control over when and where they do their jobs, an important element of reducing the work-family conflict. It allows the employee to feel better about his or her job because it is not taking away from family time.

* Develop family-friendly policies for both parents that cover arrangements for the birth of children or a family illness.

* Survey employees to assess their needs to provide a clearer picture of what families need. It also cuts down on wasted time and energy establishing unnecessary programs.

October is National Work and Family Month, a time recognized by businesses, academic institutions, federal agencies, members of Congress, work-life advocacy groups and individuals who want to make it easier for employees to succeed at work and at home.

How is your organization's work-life effectiveness?

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at