Work-Life Issues

A growing number of employees are facing the challenge of balancing their employment and their family responsibilities.  This phenomenon has created a need for and growing interest in workplace policies and programs to enable workers to balance their work and family responsibilities. The appearance of family-friendly policies provides employees balance in their lives between work and their families. That can mean higher productivity, better morale, and fewer turnovers among staff.

A variety of different family-friendly programs and its application will be discussed in this paper.  These family-friendly programs are designed to provide flexibility to enable employees to achieve a balance among their work, family and personal responsibilities.  Accordingly, some of the flexible work arrangements may enable employees to pursue educational or career development interest, or to devote time to other activities of their choosing.

Importance of family-friendly workplace

Family-friendly policies are the blending of family and work, which has increased significantly in the last 20 years. Corporations seeking to attract new employees and hold onto their existing work force are attempting to be creative with the promise of flexible schedules, job sharing, onsite day-care facilities, telecommuting, special deals on parental leave, generous family health care packages and numerous additional individualized incentives that respond to the work- and home-life balance.

Today, companies are competing for valuable employees. Offering family-friendly benefits, many companies say, helps them develop a loyal and motivated work force that results in low turnover – a major plus in today’s tight labor market. It’s management’s job to help employees be successful in their work life and in their personal life. Researcher says, “People are more motivated given this kind of control over the scheduling, over their job. And it doesn’t cost anything. It is based on the trust factor; it puts a lot of responsibility on the part of the employee.”

Analysis of family-friendly workplace

“In a company with 20 employees, work-family issues can arise about five times a week,” says Thaxton. “In a company without family friendly policies, these issues can result in absenteeism, and an employee’s inability to focus on his/her job.”

Office team, a staffing service specializing in skilled administrative professionals, developed a survey.  It was includes responses from 150 executives with the nation’s 1,000 largest companies.  Executives were asked “With so much attention given to the need for work-family balance, how successful do you think today’s companies are in creating and maintaining a family-friendly environment for employees?”

Very successful             3%

Somewhat successful       54%

Somewhat unsuccessful      40%

Very unsuccessful           3%

Thus, it is generally believed that companies, which offer family-friendly policies, are at a distinct advantage in today’s competitive employment market.

Types of family-friendly workplace initiatives

Efforts to improve the balance between work and family life generally fall into two categories: work reorganization programs and employee benefit policies.

Work reorganization initiatives include:

*·Flexible scheduling arrangements

*·Restructuring of jobs and job duties

*·Telework

*·Job sharing opportunities

Work and life benefit polices include:

*·On-site childcare and/or eldercare

*·Information services and resources on childcare and/or eldercare

*·Paid family and medical leave

*·Release time from work to participate in school and community events3

*·Benefits for part-time workers

Work reorganization initiatives

One of the easiest ways to commence your family-friendly effort is with work reorganization. There are many options, such as job restructuring, telework, job-sharing or flexible work arrangement. However, there are some guidelines and limits to be sure the office is properly staffed so that business continues to run smoothly. Many companies that have implemented such arrangements would notice that there is a change in the employees’ performance level. One positive outcome is that many employees express a greater level of commitment to the company in return for the company’s flexibility.

Flexible work time

Flexible work time allows employees to adjust their start or finish times at work while maintaining a specific number of hours per week.  Inspired employers use a range of flexible work options to meet the demands of employees and gain a competitive edge in retaining and recruiting skilled employees.

The West Group is an Eagan-based company that offers flexible work schedules, and more than 400 employees are on such schedules. When the business and legal publisher implemented its pilot program for flexible and alternate work schedules in 1997, it did so primarily because its business needs were changing, said Maggie Debner, the company’s director of human resources. “Some businesses were operating 8 to 5 and it didn’t need to be done that way,” she said. “So we were looking at the different composition of our customers’ needs.”  There is a great satisfaction among the employees and the employers.

Restructuring of jobs

Rationally, companies will have to redesign many jobs to take advantage of changes in technology, some of which will result from the skills shortage. But changing worker values and needs will also drive restructuring the jobs.

One of the most widely publicized examples of job restructuring is G.E.’s Work-Out Program. For a number of years the giant corporation has been pursuing a systematic attempt to eliminate, or at least reduce the labor and inefficiency of work by using employee involvement. In 1988, G.E.’s chairman, Jack Welch, and its director of corporate management development, James Baughman, both came up with the concept. The idea was to trim G.E.’s extensive bureaucracy by having employees basically question the way the company and they themselves go about their daily business. Through a series of “town meetings” held with departments throughout the company, G.E.’s Workout sessions are used to inspect and confront all kinds of company practices. Those who take part in these sessions are pledged there will be no retribution. They are also guaranteed instant feedback and action by management. The sessions, which usually last three days, cover up everything from the number of management approvals needed to how budgets and resources are proposed.

Telework

Progression in computer and telecommunications equipment represent increasing numbers of jobs can be done off-site. Canada is the notion of flexiplace, which is the decentralization of work into locations remote from a head office and often closer to employees’ homes.  Work-at-home or at satellite offices is the version of flexiplace that has been tried on the largest scale.  A diversity of clerical, professional and industrial jobs have been transferred to home locations.

Minnegasco customer information representative David Tousley had an office in downtown Minneapolis.  Minnegasco allows seven inbound phone representatives, four part-time billing representatives and one other employee to work out of their homes in a telework program that is highly successful, according to Lori Schletty, director of customer relations at the Minneapolis-based company. The telecommuters have exposed productivity improvement when compared to their office workload, and they reduced by half their number of sick days.

Job sharing

Job sharing is a voluntary work arrangement in which two people share responsibility for one full-time position. Job sharing may combine the advantages of full-time and part-time employment, in that the job is continuously staffed and the organization has access to the resources of two workers rather than one.  Job sharing also is a benefit for employers and managers. They will have happier, more productive employees who are likely to stay on the job for the long run – probably going back to a full-rime position when their family responsibilities have relieved.

Two people shared the VP/marketing position for about three years at Silicon Valley Credit Union in Palo Alto, Calif. “They both communicated with each other very well and were able to play off each other’s strengths,” says Steve Johnson, CEO of the $80 million credit union with 10,000 members and 31 employees. ” In a sense, it was like getting two for the price of one. One was a great writer, while the other was strong in graphics.”  Both individuals wanted to spend more time with their families, they were trying to manage multiple roles, and job sharing allowed them to do that without being so stressed out.

Work and life benefit polices

Another area where companies can become more family-friendly is in their benefits packages. If it is cost-prohibitive to offer a comprehensive health-care package at the company’s expenditure, look for a provider that will provide family-friendly programs that allows employees to choose the alternatives they need and pay for whatever they entail outside the company’s standard offerings.  This flexibility will let employees to select the plan that best meets their needs, while still keeping expenses in line for the company.

On-site childcare / eldercare

Childcare recognizes the needs of working parents and encourages businesses to assist employees with those challenges. The most popular childcare arrangement among full- and part-time employees would be a center located at the workplace.  The center’s on-site location means that parents and their children can spend time together during the day. (e.g. lunch break or coffee break) The idea for the eldercare function similarly.

One example of the on-site childcare is Little Wings Daycare Society in Richmond, B.C., which is officially opened in November 1991.  The center provides cares for children of Canadian Airlines International Ltd.  (Canadian)  employees.  Canadian employees with infants and toddlers at Little Wings describe particular advantages of workplace day care for children of the different group.  Parents of infants feel secure in being close by in case their child happen to be sick, or in case any question should occur about the child’s care.  Those with children in the toddler group value that the center’s proximity to the parent’s workplace helps give the child a sense of where the parent works and what that work is regarding.

Information services and resources

The information and educational services provided by the organization take numerous forms, including the childcare and eldercare information services.  Any employee looking for information about child development, adoption, referrals to a caregiver, selecting and monitoring care, childcare options, parenting and education issues can access that information through telephone.  Moreover, personalized information correspondences are forwarded by mail to each caller.  Nevertheless, the type of services and resources may be varied in different type of organization.

Information and education on work and family issues are key forms of support that can be delivered through the workplace.  Through Royal Bank of Canada’s comprehensive Work ; Family program, employees are provided with assorted forms of information on dependant care and work and family issue. Royal Bank also makes available to employees the Work ; Family Resource Libraries introduced in 1992 as part of the Bank’s Information Resource Centers, placed in the Montreal and Toronto corporate offices.  These resource libraries give every bank employees in Canada free access to an widespread collection of books, magazines, reports, reprints of articles, videos and bibliographic materials on topics relating to parenting, child care, elder care, health and wellness issues, stress-management techniques, workplace supports for families and other work and family subject matters.

Family-leave program

Family-leave program is designed since a need arises for employees to be absent from work for a lengthened time occasionally.  Most organizations will grant them the benefit of a leave of absence, and such leave is generally considered to be a form of employee benefit to the person involved.  Various types of leave such as maternity, family, person, and military leave.

One form of family-supportive benefit is to supplement or “top up” unemployment insurance benefits to a level closer to the employee’s ordinary base salary.  Such a program amounts to a mixture of public and private benefits in support of employees’ family responsibilities. The Laurentian Bank supplements unemployment maternity benefits up to the level of 95% of regular base salary.  This benefit covers up the two-week period prior to the commencement of UI benefits and the maternity leave period, to a maximum of 15 additional weeks.  Every woman who works for the Laurentian Bank is qualified for this benefit, from bank teller to vice-president.

Release time from work to participate in school and community events

Western New York companies, Fisher-Price, are zeroing in on making life better for the work force through family-friendly policies that help people balance work and home responsibilities.  In addition to the job sharing, a child-care center and wellness center, other benefits include school days, whereby workers with children are granted time off for such things as teacher meetings or school plays.  Sarah Craig, vice president of administration, said that the shortened work hours on Fridays enable people some extra time for medical appointments and errands that must be completed during regular business hours.

Benefits for part-time workers

Part-time work means employees work a specified number of hours below the standard workweek on a regular basis – not temporary or student employees.  The current terms of employment for regular part-time work permit a full-time employee to switch to part-time status without loss of service or benefits.

One of the organizations reveals this benefit is the telecommunications services company in Nova Scotia – Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Company Limited (Maritime Tel & TEL).  The first reference to part-time work appeared in January 1970 contract; current provisions regarding prorated seniority and benefits were first included in the March 1985 contract. The employee switching from full-time to part-time work continues to accrue service and to receive medical and dental benefits on the same basis as full-time employees.  Vacation entitlement stays the same, but vacation time is prorated according to ratio of time worked.  Union and management of Maritime Tel & TEL both believe that this mechanism affords employees one way of balancing work and family responsibilities.  According to a union representative, the alternative of moving to a regular part-time position can serve the needs of an employee at a time when family responsibilities are particularly demanding.

Impact of family-friendly workplace on women

The impact of family-friendly policies indicates the outcome factors that are the necessary prerequisites for career development – recruitment, productivity, and retention.  However, over the past few decades, an increasing percentage of women has remained in or re-entered the work force while raising young children.  The increased involvement of mothers in the workplace means that large numbers of women bear the double burden of employment and family responsibilities. Thus, family-friendly program is particularly significant for women.

An immutable difference between women and men is that women experience pregnancy and childbirth. Also, women maintain primary responsibility for childcare and household duties, a difference between the sexes that, although not immutable, is persistent despite women’s contribution in the paid labor force. Hence, employed women are more likely than employed men to have a spouse/partner who is employed.

Texas Instruments Inc. is a company for working mother located in Dallas.  TI has set up a range of family-friendly programs since 1992.  Programs such as parents network, life works seminars and referral programs, emergency/back-up/mildly ill childcare, on-site childcare and flexible working arrangements.  Consequently, there has been a 40% improvement in the turnover rate among salaried women between 1992 and 1996.

Conclusion

In today’s competitive employment marketplace, it is noticeable that organizations, which offer family-friendly programs, are at a diverse advantage.  Flexible hours, telework, job-sharing, family leave program, various family health care packages and child-care programs will continue to be valuable recruitment and retention tools.  There is evidence show that the family-friendly programs favor towards women than men.  However, organizations would offer these programs to their employees no matter what is the gender and status in order to maintain the equity.

There is a trend with valuable employees looking for an organization with family-friendly benefits. I think it’s good business to be as family-friendly as the business allows one’s to be.  Family-friendly programs, both employer and employee benefit. Gradually but certainly, more organizations become aware that by giving employees flexible work hours or job guarantees following childbirth leave, they are better able to retain workers. Such companies become recognized for these family-friendly benefits and attract skilled employees because of them.

In conclusion, as the world of work changes, more and more parents remain in full-time employment. The existence of family-friendly programs avoids the decision making between being a good employee and being a good parent. Individuals can do extremely well in both aspects of their lives.  As a result, family-friendly programs allow the agreements between employers and employees that promote employees’ ability to balance the demands of work and family life.  In my opinion, a family-friendly workplace is strongly recommended for most organization.

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