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Work-life balance, management practices and productivity

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  • Bloom, Nick
  • Kretschmer, Tobias
  • Van Reenen, John

Abstract

Do “Anglo-Saxon” management practices generate higher productivity only at the expense of lousy work-life balance (WLB) for workers? Many critics of “neo-libéralisme sauvage” have argued that increased competition from globalisation is damaging employees’ quality of life. Others have argued the opposite that improving work-life balance is actually a competitive tool that companies can use to raise productivity. We try to shed some empirical light on these issues using an innovative survey tool to collect new data on management and work-life balance practices from 732 medium sized manufacturing firms in the US, France, Germany and the UK. First, we show that our measure of work-life balance is a useful summary of a range of policies in the firm – family-friendly policies, flexible working, shorter hours, more holidays, subsidised childcare, etc. We show that this worklife balance measure is significantly associated with better management. Firms in environments that are more competitive and/or who are more productive, however, do not have significantly worse work-life balance for their workers. These findings are inconsistent with the view that competition, globalisation and “Anglo-Saxon” management practices are intrinsically bad for the work-life balance of workers. On the other hand, neither are these findings supportive of the optimistic “winwin” view that work-life balance improves productivity in its own right. Rather we find support for a “hybrid” theory that work-life balance is a choice for managers that is compatible with low or high productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Bloom, Nick & Kretschmer, Tobias & Van Reenen, John, 2006. "Work-life balance, management practices and productivity," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 4668, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:4668
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    Cited by:

    1. Nicholas Bloom & Raffaella Sadun & John Van Reenen, 2015. "Do Private Equity Owned Firms Have Better Management Practices?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 442-446, May.
    2. Bloom, Nicholas & Van Reenen, John, 2011. "Human Resource Management and Productivity," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 19, pages 1697-1767, Elsevier.
    3. Xiao, Hongyu & Wu, Andy & Kim, Jaeho, 2021. "Commuting and innovation: Are closer inventors more productive?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C).
    4. Flores-Fillol, Ricardo & Iranzo, Susana & Mane, Ferran, 2017. "Teamwork and delegation of decisions within the firm," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 1-29.
    5. Irina O. Volkova, 2013. "Application of data envelopment analysis in management research (case of Russian domestic energy sector)," HSE Working papers WP BRP 14/MAN/2013, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    6. Sotiris Blanas & Adnan Seric & Christian Viegelahn, 2017. "Jobs, FDI and Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from Firm-Level Data," Working Papers 152465485, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    7. Del Bono, Emilia & Vuri, Daniela, 2011. "Job mobility and the gender wage gap in Italy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 130-142, January.
    8. Stephan Humpert, 2014. "Working time, satisfaction and work life balance: A European perspective," SPOUDAI Journal of Economics and Business, SPOUDAI Journal of Economics and Business, University of Piraeus, vol. 64(4), pages 3-17, October-D.
    9. Daniela Scur & Raffaella Sadun & John Van Reenen & Renata Lemos & Nicholas Bloom, 2021. "The World Management Survey at 18: lessons and the way forward," NBER Working Papers 28524, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Yamamoto Isamu & Matsuura Toshiyuki, 2014. "Effect of Work–Life Balance Practices on Firm Productivity: Evidence from Japanese Firm-Level Panel Data," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 14(4), pages 1-32, October.
    11. Sotiris Blanas & Adnan Seric & Christian Viegelahn, 2019. "Job Quality, FDI and Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from Firm-Level Data," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 31(5), pages 1287-1317, December.
    12. Xiaoxi Chang & Yu Zhou & Chenxi Wang & Carmen de Pablos Heredero, 2017. "How do work-family balance practices affect work-family conflict? The differential roles of work stress," Frontiers of Business Research in China, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 1-22, December.
    13. Edmans, Alex, 2011. "Does the stock market fully value intangibles? Employee satisfaction and equity prices," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 621-640, September.
    14. Mohammad Jaradat & Cicioc Nicoleta & Şerb Diana, 2016. "Workplace for individuals in the context of recession," Computational Methods in Social Sciences (CMSS), "Nicolae Titulescu" University of Bucharest, Faculty of Economic Sciences, vol. 4(1), pages 52-57, June.
    15. Abul Kalam, 2014. "Social Norms and Impediments of Women Development in Bangladesh," International Journal of Social Science Studies, Redfame publishing, vol. 2(2), pages 100-109, April.
    16. MORIKAWA Masayuki, 2010. "Insecurity of Employment and Work-Life Balance: From the viewpoint of compensating wage differentials," Discussion papers 10052, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    17. Andrés J. Marchante Mera & Alejandro García Pozo & José Luis Sánchez Ollero, 2017. "Flexibilidad Laboral Y Productividad En El Sector De Alojamiento De Andalucia," Revista de Estudios Regionales, Universidades Públicas de Andalucía, vol. 1, pages 17-41.
    18. Nicholas Bloom & Raffaella Sadun & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Recent Advances in the Empirics of Organizational Economics," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 105-137, September.
    19. Van Reenen, John, 2011. "Does competition raise productivity through improving management quality?," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 306-316, May.
    20. Joyce P. Jacobsen, 2009. "Accommodating Families," Chapters, in: Kenneth G. Dau-Schmidt & Seth D. Harris & Orly Lobel (ed.), Labor and Employment Law and Economics, chapter 11, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    21. Dean, Hartley, 2007. "Poor parents?: the realities of work-life balance in a low-income neighbourhood," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3449, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Work-life balance; family-friendly work practices; management practices; productivity; competition;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor

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