Corporate advertising of work-life balance benefits is becoming more prevalent. However, I can’t help wonder what is behind some of the great “work flexibility” programs companies offer. It seems like the working mothers I know are largely unsatisfied by their companies’ attempts at flexibility. I have heard that “Half day Fridays” means “Ten-hour Thursdays” and “You can work part-time” really means “You can work forty hours per week for 50% of your former salary.” Further, and I know from personal experience, using some of these programs is fine if you are an administrator, but career suicide if you are considered “high potential”.
Work-life balance is such a hot topic these days. With the growing labor shortage, and with the emergence of a younger, less work-oriented generation “Y”, more and more companies are advertising new, innovative work flexibility benefits to lure employees. However, it seems some companies get kudos for programs that may not be all they are advertised to be, while other companies deliver work-life balance without the recognition. Here are some real life examples from my small corner of the universe:
My husband has been working for Disney for 5 years. Our daughter was born the same month he started, so he put us on the waiting list for the on-site corporate daycare at that time. We were informed last month that our spot is now available. Too bad she starts kindergarten this fall and won’t really be needing daycare anymore. On Disney’s website they advertise “Childcare centers in Burbank and Orlando” as one of their “Life at Disney Perks”. I am not sure they should get credit for offering a work-life benefit that, in reality, very few people can use.
A friend of mine worked full-time for a similar company. She was good at her job and recently beat out a male peer for a promotion to management. When she returned from maternity leave she asked to step back her hours and travel temporarily. The request was granted, but in return she was demoted and her male colleague promoted to her job. Needless to say, she soon left the company. The company is quick to tout their flexible hours and part-time work programs, but strangely, no career track professionals are using them.
On the other hand, my friend Marty owns a wholesale wellness company in Los Angeles called “Herbs of Mexico”. One of his managers recently had to leave her home overnight with her child to avoid a nasty domestic situation. Not only was she given unlimited time to take care of her personal situation, but also Marty personally helped her move, solicited donations of furnishings from friends, and installed a security protocol to protect her. While his company may never make a “Best Places to Work” list, his management team is surely dedicated to their employer in a way most companies would envy.