What you can do in your workplace
In recent years, modest progress for families and children has been made in the
workplace. But progress is slow.
In the current recession, workers are finding they can't be choosy; many
companies have tightened or eliminated whatever flexibility they might once have
offered their employees. Also, the quality of jobs, measured in pay, pensions, health care
and other benefits, has declined. In May 1979, 23 percent of
job openings in 1979 offered health insurance compared with only 15 percent in
1988, the latest year measured.
Given the economic context, one might be discouraged from expecting companies to
become more family-friendly. However, family-friendly policies in the workplace, along
with a priority on education, are essential if the country is to achieve any kind of long-term
- The first step to making your company family-friendly: establish a checklist of goals
Simply providing paychecks to parents no longer qualifies a company as family-friendly.
- Employees: get organized!
If family policies are rhetorical or nonexistent at your company, parent groups can get the message across to management about the success of other firms with progressive family policies.
- Employers: get ahead of the curve
By stressing productivity over hours on the job, employers show respect for employees and provide them with the flexibility crucial to healthy family living.
- Change the rules of the road
Now more than ever, parents must accommodate their families in work travel or relocation, and companies can go a long way to making it easier.
- Formalize employee support
Programs offered through the company to address family and parenting issues have wide-reaching effects--including fewer mental health insurance claims.
- Embrace children
Employees are more likely to go to the wall for companies that expressly support both the joy and stress of parenting.
- Create a Family Track (for employees with family needs, whether or not they have children)
Family policies must be equal for all people--no matter the composition of their families.
- Work for flexibility, flexibility, flexibility
As work hours lengthen, flexible work hours become imperative.
- Explore the homework option
Some workers may be more productive working from home, especially if standards are in place from the start.
- Adopt a cafeteria approach to benefits
Family needs change and benefits packages must change with them.
- Re-examine the child care dilemma
If providing on-site child care is prohibitive, there are many other ways to help employees find and pay for child care.
- More visiting hours, please
Don't rule out parent-child interaction during the work day -- a little flexibility can go a long way.
- Assist the sandwich generation with their parents
Include allowances for elder care in company policies.
- Create Family Ties time
The best donation a corporation might make to kids and families is time.
- Offer corporate support to public schools
Exchanges of talent between students and professionals can enrich both--and give kids their first peek at "life after school."
- Reduce the hours you spend at work
Don't let your work day overrun family time.
- Family Leave: don't take maybe for an answer
A well-laid family leave plan adds security to employees' personal decisions and increases their company loyalty.
- Last resort: take your family rights to court
It does no good to keep quiet about the stress of family life.
- Vote with your feet -- and your resume
Ask about family policy during interviews and make it clear that company support of families is a make-or-break issue.
In 1991, The Corporate Reference Guide to Work-Family Programs was
compiled by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute in New York. The study, one
of the first efforts to measure what U.S. companies are doing for families,
reviewed the personnel policies and benefits of 188 of the largest Fortune 500
industrial and service companies in 30 industries.
The survey identified 30 family-friendly programs offering everything from
part-time work to child care. None of the companies surveyed offered all 30. The
maximum number reported by any company was 19; the median was eight. Only 2
percent of 188 companies surveyed have implemented major family-friendly
Some American companies are making enormous contributions to the lives
of children and family, particularly in the 1990s. Hal Morgan and Kerry Tucker,
authors of Companies That Care, published by Simon & Schuster in 1991,
visited small and large companies throughout the United States, researching
employer and employee attitudes and progress toward enacting family-friendly
"We found companies of every size, in every region of the country, in almost
every industry moving forward to meet the challenges posed by the work force of
the 1990s," Morgan and Tucker report. "We also found that these businesses are a
part of a growing trend." The authors included 124 family-friendly companies in
their book and say that at least 30 of those companies would not have been
included if their research had been compiled three years earlier. "Had we written
the book five years ago, we would have been hard-pressed to come up with fifty
names," they write. "The fact is that the American workplace is in the early
stages of a fundamental revolution . . ."
Bay Area Employer Child Care Coalition
The Coalition has compiled a list of 38 child-care options available to employers.
Families and Work Institute
A nonprofit research and advisory organization; studies what companies are doing
for families and how they can do more. Publishes the Corporate Reference Guide to
Work-Family Programs and conducts the Fatherhood Project supporting men in
Institute for Workplace Learning
nonprofit research group
Mothers' Home Business Network
Offers advice and support services on starting home-based businesses, provides
forum for members to communicate with each other; publishes a quarterly
newsletter, Homeworking Mothers, and several informational booklets.
New Ways to Work
Offers guidelines for judging flex-time requests and other work options.
Nine to Five
National Association of Working Women.
This Boston company offers SchoolSmart, a telephone consultation service offered
by employers to employees that helps parents learn how to motivate their children,
solve learning problems, and select schools. Corporations subscribing to the
service include Eastman Kodak, Hewlett-Packard, and others. Also helping with the
American Business Collaboration for Quality Dependent Care.
The Home and School Institute
A Washington-based nonprofit organization that offers workshops on fostering
motivation, problem-solving and teamwork skills in children. Employers host
workshops and give workers time off to attend; clients include IBM and Minnesota
Mining and Manufacturing (3M). Also publishes the booklet “Home Learning Recipes”
to help parents work with children on homework and “The Survival Guide for Busy
Parents.” Trinity College, Washington, DC, 20017.
Work & Family, Wall Street Journal
Sue Shellenbarger. Newspaper column covering trends, programs, and private and
public sector policies.
Work & Family Life
Newsletter on balancing job and personal responsibilities, published by Bank
Street College of Education. 610 West 112th Street, New York, NY
The Conference Board
A business research group that operates the Work & Family Information Center and that
publishes the Work-Family Roundtable.
Work/Family Elder Directions
A nationwide referral service with information on care for elderly. Boston, MA.
Companies That Care: The Most Family Friendly Companies in America--What They
Offer and How They Got That Way, Hal Morgan and Kerry Tucker, New York:
Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1991. 351 pp. $12.95.
The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home, Arlie
Hochschild, New York: Viking, 1989. $18.95.
Working From Home: Everything You Need to Know about Living and Working Under
the Same Roof, Paul and Sarah Edwards, Los Angeles: Tarcher, New York: St.
Martin's Press, 1985. 436 pp.
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