An effective program to reduce work-family conflict (WFC) leads to reduced turnover and other cost savings for employers, reports a study in the September Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

"An intervention to reduce WFC can enhance both employees' health and employers' business," according to the new research, led by health economist Carolina Barbosa, PhD, of RTI International, Chicago.

18-month experiment

The researchers evaluated the return on investment (ROI) of the STAR intervention — "an innovative process for creating an effective and productive work culture," developed by the federally funded Work, Family & Health Network. The study used data from an 18-month field experiment among employees at a US information technology company.

The costs of the WFC intervention were "more than offset by cost savings." At an estimated cost of $690 per employee, the STAR program yielded savings of $1,850 per employee (in 2011 dollars). The program had a positive ROI of 1.68 — for every dollar spent on STAR, average organizational costs fell by $1.68.

Lower turnover results in savings

The greatest savings were achieved by reducing the rate of voluntary termination, leading to reduced employee turnover. The intervention was also associated with reduced "presenteeism" — that is, better productivity while at work — and reduced health care use.

While previous studies have shown that WFC interventions such as STAR can positively affect the health and well-being of workers and families, the new study is the first to estimate the ROI of such programs.

"The positive ROI indicates that employers' investment in an intervention to reduce WFC can enhance their business," Dr. Barbosa and coauthors conclude. Their study "provides further evidence to policy makers who are interested in aligning the social welfare objective of improving workers health and wellbeing with the need to make the business case to employers."

Citation — Barbosa C, Bray JW, Dowd WN, et al. Return on Investment of a work–family intervention: evidence from the Work, Family, and Health Network. J Occup Environ Med. 2015;57(9):943-51.