Could keeping it in the family mean happier workers?

A survey suggests employees in family businesses are happier and more loyal. What's not to like?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 02 Nov 2011
You might have thought that with all the potential for bickering, working in a family business would be something of a stressful experience. Apparently not, though, according to research by the University of Birmingham for business organisation  the Unquoted Companies Group: it suggests that those who work in a family-run or -owned business are actually more loyal, and feel more secure and included than those in other businesses. Although they may also be more likely to throw dinner plates at each other, too…

According to the research, although people in the private sector stay in their jobs longest (8.9 years), those in family businesses actually feel more secure – despite the fact that the average post is held for a ‘mere’ 6.2 years. The research says it’s all to do with attitudes: a third of managers in family businesses place a strong emphasis on providing long-term employment, compared to just a quarter of managers in the public and private sectors.

The research also provides an indication that this feeling of security inspires a stronger work ethic: apparently, those who work in family businesses tend to work for longer, putting in an average of 38.4 hours a week, compared to their private sector counterparts who do 32.9 hours. The UCG is keen to point out that that’s almost an entire extra day. Not bad.

What’s also interesting about the research is that family businesses seem to excel in exactly the sorts of industries that the Government is currently keen to promote. Apparently, 18% are in manufacturing (an industry David Cameron reckons can single-handedly save the economy) compared with just 8% of non-family businesses. And a tenth are in construction, against just 2% of other public and private sector businesses.

Which just goes to show that in so many ways, our children really are our future. Although we’d advise a cautious approach: if you and your siblings didn’t get on in the first place, it’s unlikely that subjecting your relationship to the rigours of starting a business is going to make things any better…

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