(Update 2024) Case study in flexible working: Frank Russell company | IELTS Reading Practice Test

Case study in flexible working: Frank Russell company


A.  Two phrases that Frank Russell Company uses to identify itself also suggest why flexible work options are a perfect fit for this American financial services firm. ‘The sun never sets in Russell’ means this 24-hour, multi-country organizations’ flexible work hours are essential to conducting its business. ‘Employees first, clients second’ expresses the bottom line worth that management sees in employee satisfaction and creating an excellent work environment that includes opportunities to work from home. Telework, (i.e. working away from the traditional office) compressed workweeks and flexitime serve Russell both as strategic business tools and valued employee benefits. ‘ Of we have happy staff first, we will have happy client,’ says Mike Phillips, the company’s chief executive.

B.  Flexible work options are offered in all departments, but the level and type of use vary widely among the 970 employees based at the company’s headquaters in Tacoma, Washington State. In the early 1990s, several work groups pioneered various forms of flexible working, including telework. As the programs spread, management discovered one size does not fit all. Rather than attempt to cover every possibility, Russell now provides general guidelines under which departments customize plans to accommodate individuals’ personal circumstances.

C.   Implementing telework becomes less of a leap when a company’s staff and clients are already scattered around the world. Pam Johnson, Manager of International Assignments, works in Tacoma but reports to a supervisor based in London. She is responsible for transfers of staff from one country to another, including negotiating the terms, shipping belongings and obtaining work permits. She works from home several times a month. Johnson says, ‘I take homework that involves reading, writing, creating spreadsheets and answer emails.’ Johnson says she is a more loyal employee because of the combination of benefits, flexibility and trust her employer offers. ‘I’ve been here 11 years. Once in a while I wonder if I should look elsewhere, but the opportunity to flex my hours and work at home are part of the formula that always ends up on the Russell side.’

D.   Email and technology such as remote network access not only transformed the office environment and the communication abilities between branch offices, they supported the growth of telework. Mike Phillips is as reliant on email and remote access as anyone, regardless of whether he is working in Singapore, Tacoma or from home. ‘Email is our primary means of communication,’ Phillips says. ‘I can get up two hours early Singapore and respond to 20 emails from associates around the world or send a company-wide memo from home.’

E.   The ability to vary start times or work the longer days of a compressed workweek are a way of doing business at Russell. An earlier start or a longer day increases telephone communication with international staff. In addition, since the New York Exchange opens at 9 a.m, traders on the West Coast need to start by 6 a.m local time. Another group, which provides desktop computer support, finds four 10-hour days make it easier to accomplish some tasks before or after employees need to use their computers.

F.  The larger consulting department offers compressed workweeks to administrative staff. Administrative Assistant Jean Boelk works different proportions of alternate weeks in order to receive one extra day off every other week. She is part of team of four administrative staff who jointly support a work group of four executives. People are more willing to help each other because we’re dependent on each other on our days off, Boelk says. Increasing the hours of coverage, plus the idea of cross-training and shared work, results in less overtime. So long as coverage is adequate, staff can change days off from one pay period to the next.

G.  What motivates teleworkers is usually a combination of work and personal needs. Senior Technical Analyst Scott Boyd, who is in the Computer Operation section, works at home twice a month. Boyd’s job involves responding to telephone requests, and in the office it’s hard to work longer than 10 minutes without getting interrupted by the phone. It’s an incredible relief to be so productive for one day at home,’ he says.

H.  A number of managers also find that working at home improves their overall performance. Sales and Marketing Services Manager Tricia O’Connell works at home approximately two days a month. She gives staff her home telephone number and advance notice of her plans, then checks voice mail every half hour and email every hour from home. In addition, she schedules weekly meetings in her office with each of eight members of her team to discuss challenges and encourage top performance. ‘This means I am more able to focus on staff when it counts,’ she says.I.   In the end, management asks two questions when making decisions about work option requests: 1) Will it improve overall employee satisfaction or job performance? and 2) Will it hurt performance of duties in some way that it not acceptable or is not offset by other improvements? For Frank Russell Company, the answers these questions show that flexible working is highly satisfactory for business.


Question 27 – 34

IELTS Reading Passage 3 has nine paragraphs, A-I.

Choose the correct heading for paragraphs A-D and F-I from the list of headings below.

Write the correct number i-xi in boxes 27-34 on your answer sheet.

                                      List of Headings

i     Flexible working meets differing business needs

ii    The disadvantages of flexible working

iii   The process of organising flexible working has changed

iv   Involving clients in deciding how best to serve them

v    Technical developments have facilitated flexible working

vi   The cost/benefit analysis of flexible working

vii  Flexible working increases co-operation among staff

ix   Flexible working encourages commitment to the company

x    The workforce is the company’s top priority

xi   It’s easier to get on with the work at home

Example           Answer

Paragraph  E         i

27. Paragraph A

28. Paragraph B

29. Paragraph C

30. Paragraph D

31. Paragraph F

32. Paragraph G

33. Paragraph H

34. Paragraph I

Question 35 – 37

Match each description with the correct person, A-E.

Write the correct letter. A-E in boxes 35-37 on your answer sheet.

List of Staff

A.    Mike Phillips

B.   Pam Johnson

C.   Jean Boelk

D.   Scott Boyd

E.   Tricia O’Connell

35. provides contact details when working out of the office

36. is convinced that staff feelings have an impact on company

37. performance has responsibilities which are shared with certain colleagues

Question 38 – 40

Complete the sentence below.

Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each answer.

Write your answer in boxes 38-40 on your answer sheet.

38. The Frank Russell Company aims to ensure that staff gain a sense of  from their work.

39. Mike Phillip mostly uses  to contact staff.

40. In the consulting department flexible working reduces the amount of  done by staff. 


27. x

28. iii

29. ix

30. v

31. vii

32. xi

33. viii

34. vi

35. E

36. D

37. C

38. satisfaction

39. email

40. overtime

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