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.
2. Employers are open to government playing a
role in work life issues. 1 Managing work
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
far enough in helping them manage their work
5. Forward-looking employers can gain
3 Finding flexible
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.
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%
Off-ramping / on-ramping programs 5%
Most Popular Flexibility Programs Reported by Employers
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.
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%
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
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