While balancing work and family has received a lot of attention over the years, the truth is there’s more smoke than fire. People work longer hours in downsized and super competitive work environments that pressure people to make family a second priority. Many workers feel they must choose between work and family. Either they must conform to get promotions or sidestep their career for the family–a tough and bitter pill to swallow.
No wonder thousands of good people leave good jobs to take lower level, lower paying, more accommodating jobs elsewhere. This dilemma has fueled the dramatic rise of home-based and female-owned businesses in the U.S.
By creating a Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA), companies can keep good employees and not force them to sacrifice family life. An FWA will help them benefit personally and professionally and the result will be people who are more loyal, committed and productive.
FWA’s allow more options to employees who do not want or need a standard work schedule. A properly prepared FWA allows greater flexibility in balancing roles of work and home. It also can help prevent valuable employees from quitting and taking a less suitable position somewhere else. Most of the time a FWA involves fewer work hours and possibly a proportional reduction of pay and benefits.
A survey by Flexible Resources of more than 500 women seeking flexible work arrangements found that 64 percent of them either quit or were planning to quit because of lack of work hour flexibility. What was alarming was 59 percent of these women never asked their employers to modify their work schedules because they assumed they would be denied or lose stature. Younger women are more assertive in seeking flexible work arrangements than older women; 72 percent of women between the age of 25 and 35 were willing to request an FWA compared to only 30% of the respondents of women aged 36 to 45.
Among those who requested a flexible work arrangement and were told “no,” reasons for the refusal ran the gamut in the following priority:
- We can’t give it to you and not the others (52%)
- You will not be available to others (48%)
- We have never done it before (24%)
- You won’t be as productive as when you worked full time (8%)
- Your job is not conducive to flexible hours (5%)
- There is too much work to do (5%)
- It wouldn’t fit into a team atmosphere (5%)
But FWA’s have drawbacks. People feel that physical presence equals more opportunity for promotions and advancement. Men are particularly vulnerable to the stigma that “if you are not at work full-time you are not competitive.”
Working Mother magazine has recognized the innovative work/life programs provided by the Bank of America. Its “Child Care Plus” program pays eligible workers an additional $35 a week per child for employees earning less than $30,000 a year. After learning that turnover for participants was about half of the peer group not participating, BofA expanded the program to include workers with family incomes of $60,000 and began to allow workers two paid hours a week to work in their children’s schools. Finally, it added money for college. Bank of America gives $2000 a year for employees enrolled in undergraduate classes and $4,000 for graduate study. As a result they were able to reduce turnover by 50 percent.