Work/Life Programs: Not
by Tara Pickering
What do American Express, Goldman Sachs, Marriott International, and Texas
Instruments have in common?
They've all been recognized as an "employer of choice" on two prestigious
lists: Forbes Magazine's "Best Companies to Work For" and Working
Mother Magazine's "Best Companies for Working Mothers."
These and other progressive companies are increasingly realizing the bottom-line
benefits of programs designed to help workers balance professional and personal
demands. These include an enhanced ability to recruit and retain top talent,
reduced absenteeism and health care costs, increased morale and productivity,
and improved customer satisfaction and company image.
Some firms, however, remain reluctant to offer work/life programs because
they perceive that they are costly to develop and/or participation
is limited to employees for whom retention is not a priority. In actuality,
most work/life offerings don't require a large capital investment, nor are
they underutilized by high performers.
Work/life programs can be grouped into these five broad categories:
- "Family friendly" benefits
Meeting family obligations without compromising work quality or career advancement
has always been a major concern for employees, and day care issues undoubtedly
top the list. While an onsite facility may be cost-prohibitive for many
organizations, there are a variety of other ways to help employees find
and afford high-quality care for their loved ones. These include:
- Forming or participating in an employer consortium that sponsors a
- Providing a resource and referral service that puts employees in touch
with reputable providers;
- Making arrangements with one or more centers to provide employee discounts
and/or backup care;
- Offering dependent care spending accounts from which employees pay
expenses with pre-tax dollars.
As many of today's "sandwich generation" have both child and elder care
responsibilities, be sure that your efforts target both sets of needs.
Additional approaches for addressing the family-related interests and obligations
of your workforce include extending protected leave beyond FMLA requirements;
providing financial assistance for adoption; offering domestic partner benefits;
designating private space as a lactation room for nursing mothers; coordinating
seminars, discussion groups, resource libraries, etc. to help employees
effectively deal with family concerns and challenges; and sponsoring company
events that include spouses/partners and families.
- Alternative work arrangements and time off
Many organizations are finding that almost any position lends itself to
some degree of flexibility. When and where work is performed can often be
modified to meet the needs of both employer and employee. For example:
- Part-time schedules, including job share arrangements in which a full-time
position is split between two or more individuals;
- "Flextime" that requires employees to work certain "core" hours each
day - usually a four-to-six hour span - but gives them freedom with respect
to the remaining hours;
- Compressed workweeks in which employees continue full-time employment,
but do so by working three or four "long" days instead of a traditional
- Full or partial telecommuting.
Requests for time away from work can also be accommodated by deducting all
days off - regardless of the reason - from a single time bank (as opposed
to separate sick days, vacation days, and personal days); providing a certain
number of paid hours or days each year to participate in independent or
company-sponsored volunteer activities; and allowing and supporting sabbaticals
as an opportunity to pursue personal endeavors.
Temporary and project-based work is also gaining popularity, as it enables
an organization to expand and contract its workforce as needed. Such "nontraditional"
staffing models not only increase a company's agility in today's ever-changing
business environment, but also increase its access to high-quality candidates.
Workplace flexibility is becoming a major priority of individuals who have
much to offer, and changes to corporate practices could help companies better
compete for top Talent.
- Health and wellness
You can help employees manage stress, keep fit, and stay healthy by offering
confidential counseling provided through an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP);
medical benefits that include annual checkups and comprehensive mental health
coverage; an onsite fitness center or employee discounts at a local gym;
and health screenings, flu shots, educational seminars, etc... at your worksite.
- Onsite amenities
Installing an ATM on premises and/or coordinating with a dry cleaning pickup
and delivery service can save your employees precious time. Some companies
even offer their workforce full concierge services to assist with personal
travel and entertainment arrangements, errands, and gift giving!
- Financial assistance
While a few forms of financial assistance have already been discussed, others
include voluntary insurance policies (e.g., auto, homeowner/rental, long-term
care, and even pre-paid legal services) for which employees pay their own
premiums, but at reduced group rates; tuition reimbursement; employee discounts
to theaters, restaurants, etc.; and the ability to use "frequent flyer miles"
earned during employer-paid flights for personal travel.
While the above recommendations provide a useful starting point, you must
do more than implement a few indiscriminate benefits or scheduling policies
to be recognized as an "employer of choice." Rather, you must carefully research
and select offerings that meet the needs of your workforce, fully integrate
them with other organizational programs and procedures, and create and sustain
a corporate culture that supports the individuals who make use of them.
Undertaking a comprehensive work/life initiative is not difficult, but management
buy-in and ongoing organizational commitment are essential to success. Should
you want to learn more about best practice staffing strategies that organizations
have used to increase their access to high-quality Talent and gain a competitive
advantage, Advantage Human Resourcing would be pleased to share this knowledge
Tara Pickering is Manager of Client Services, Greater Hartford Area of Advantage
Human Resourcing®, a leading provider of professional and support-level Talent.
For more information contact Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call 800-WORKING.
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