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Work/Life Issues in America Whitepaper


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Results from our Work/Life Issues in America study 2008

Published in: Business, Technology
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Work/Life Issues in America Whitepaper

  1. 1. Flexing, Floundering or ‘Just Fine Thanks’: Work/Life Issues in America This study was conducted to explore the attitudes of American workers and employers regarding work/life issues. Not surprisingly, employees said they were struggling to manage their schedules, care for children and aging relatives, and balance conflicting priorities. They also expressed concern over financial and job security given the current economic climate. Employees are tired, frustrated and seeking relief, and they’re open to that relief any way they can get it—through employer concessions or government mandates. 5 Key Takeaways 1. Working Americans are struggling to manage Top three work life priorities and want both company and government support. work/life challenges 2. Employers are open to government playing a role in work life issues. 1 Managing work schedule (46%) 3. Flexibility is offered by a majority of companies, most often in the form of accommodation. 4. Employees feel that employers have not gone 2 Worrying about retirement (41%) far enough in helping them manage their work life issues. 5. Forward-looking employers can gain 3 Finding flexible work (21%) competitive advantage by closing the gap. “It’s tough to find time to take my elderly mother to the doctor, take care of my teen, husband, house and American life: everything else I have to do.” Conflicting priorities “In addition to working a Americans are managing multiple priorities full-time job which requires involving home, family, work, illness, finances me to travel, I’m attending a and job security. These challenges are not full-time graduate program.” limited to caregivers.
  2. 2. The Flexibility Gap More than three-quarters of employers (77%) said That gap in perceived flexibility means employers they offered workplace flexibility, most often in the aren’t getting the full benefit for the accommodations form of accommodation (addressing requests on an they do offer. Studies have shown that employee informal basis). And while 64% percent of employees perception of workplace flexibility is a critical reported their companies offered flexibility, only a factor in reduced stress, less absences, and greater small percent felt that was good enough. Just one- commitment to the job. fifth (20%) of employees surveyed felt their employer was supportive of work/life issues. Flexibility comes in small packages “Flex start and end times” is the most popular flexibility program Flexible start and end times 88% Access to part-time work 65% Work at home 1-2 days per week 62% Compressed work weeks 42% Telecommuting more than 2 days per week 40% Paid time off bank 33% Other 7% Off-ramping / on-ramping programs 5% Most Popular Flexibility Programs Reported by Employers BIG IDEA Take Steps to Improve Flexibility Manage to performance, not face time: Rework job descriptions to emphasize “Getting folks to pick up the slack for each other what must be accomplished and how progress will be measured. Then, manage to requires like minded those standards instead of how and where the work gets done. people—so hire for attitude, train for skills!” Resist Full-Time Employee Default: Before posting/hiring for a position, consider whether the job has to be done full-time and on-site. Could the job be performed on a part-time or project basis? Or, could it be broken in half and performed by two people? Hire based on ability to perform: Look beyond age, location, and work history We’re known for our culture. It’s a very flexible, family- gaps to the skills and experience of the candidate. Judge the candidate more on friendly work environment their ability to deliver results and less on how they’ll do it. that expects professionals to contribute at very high Communicate: Clearly communicate company’s philosophy about workplace levels, regardless of where flexibility, along with current policies and work scheduling options. Set “group they’re working.” rules” around meetings, team members’ availability, etc. Wean clients away from mandatory face-time, create client teams to handle inquiries when a team member is out.
  3. 3. Government has a role to play Flexible work options should be the biggest work/life priority for the new president, followed by equal pay (across gender lines) and affordable childcare, according to workers in this survey. Flexible work options 70% Equal pay 56% Affordable childcare 44% Paid maternity/paternity leave 33% Before/after school programs 29% Paid sick days 27% Other 6% None 4% Biggest Work/Life Priorities for the Next U.S. President When asked which issues Congress should address, equal pay and paid maternity/paternity leave topped the list for both employees and employers. Both employers and employees indicated some backing for government intervention in work life programs. Notably, both employers (63%) and employees (78%) showed strong support for the Working Families Flexibility Act which would require employers to respond to (but not obligate them to act on) employees’ flexibility requests. They were split, however, on whether caregivers should be protected from discrimination by the EEOC (similar to the protections currently granted based on race, gender, national origin, etc.) with 56% of workers expressing support compared to only 36% of employers. “When a large percentage of your salary is eaten by childcare, work becomes less attractive.” Survey Background Why: To explore the attitudes of American workers “Give tax breaks to and employers regarding work/life challenges those companies that offer flexible work When: October 7-October 20, 2008 environments.” Who: 684 people: 84% workers (employed, self- employed, unemployed, retired), 16% employers How: Online survey
  4. 4. Our take “These programs allow us to attract and retain top talent Work/life programs have a positive and well documented in our industry, and they impact on business concerns like productivity, retention reflect our culture of being and profitability. Nevertheless, there is still a gap in what very in-tune with the needs workers want and what employers offer to help manage of our employees” conflicting priorities. Employers cite several major barriers to implementing flexible workplaces that are not easy to overcome, such as: management buy-in, negative stereotypes of flex workers, manager training, and tradition. And yet, the needs and expectations of the American workforce have BIG IDEA changed. The Business Case Clearly, both sides are open to intervention and support from government, but to shift the burden of change (in short) for Flex to government is to miss the point. The case for flexibility has been well documented: Despite current economic conditions that are spurring • Attract and retain the best, most talented employees layoffs and a tightening job market, employers are going • Boost productivity and profitability to face increasing workforce pressure as baby boomers downshift and retire, and Millennials with far different • Improve employee and customer loyalty expectations for work/life balance replace them in larger and larger numbers. • Save money in utilities and overhead The responsibility rests on all parties – employers, workers • Reduce carbon footprint and government – to continue the conversation, take small, manageable risks, improve workforce productivity, and work toward a better quality of life. Contact Make sure your organization is a flexible workplace that’s prepared for tomorrow. Kyra Cavanaugh, Life Meets Work Liz Ryan, Ask Liz Ryan Life Meets Work supports flexible workers and the Ask Liz Ryan is a human resources consultancy and companies that employ them through consulting, think tank focused on the new millennium workplace. workshops, and a website that offers information, Her online community reaches over 30,000 people resources and an online job board. around the globe with business, career and life advice. 888-462-5691 303-440-0408 © Life Meets Work Inc. 2008 All rights reserved.