Family has always been important to Debra Schmidt, but she has gotten a lot clearer on her priorities since September 11th. Owner of Spectrum Consulting Group, a company that helps companies build customer and employee loyalty, she wants flexibility in her schedule and the ability to spend time with her son, David. “I turn down business that does not work for my family,” she says. “I’m no longer willing to miss special events to make a few more dollars.”
She is not alone. Employees have long struggled with the need to balance work and family, but more and more workers are making family the priority since 9/11 and the downturn in the economy. Disillusioned by downsizings, corporate greed and a lack of company loyalty, many workers have come to the conclusion that no job is worth sacrificing family time. “Working 70 hours per week no longer makes a difference for compensation or job security,” according to Schmidt. “Employees want to establish their own priorities.”
Finding family time is more of a concern for workers than layoffs. According to a poll of 1,626 respondents by the online service, TrueCareers, 70% of workers feel the scale is tipped towards work instead of family. Over half of the participants indicated that they are looking for a new job because of the difficulties with coping with workplace demands. That shadows the 22% who cited job security as their top concern.
Looking for balance has resulted in nearly twice as many employees using sick days for personal needs in 2002 than the previous year, according to a survey of 333 human resource professionals in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The survey found that workers seek to reprioritize their lives even in inflexible work situations.
Part of this change is also generational. Many baby boomers are facing the “sandwich” of caring for elderly parents while raising their own children. The Gen X and Gen Y generations are beginning to start families and are questioning whether career should be the primary focus. More than 85% of Gen X women say having a loving family is extremely important as opposed to 18% who feel that money is the priority, according to a research study by the New York based group Catalyst.
The new focus is also a result of September 11. The passage of time has not changed the resolve of many citizens to put family first. Nearly 80% of Americans say their family is more of a priority since September 11, according to a recent report in American Demographics. This compares with the 70% who said the same in October 2001. The report found that couples with children were even more determined to control their time and maintain a focus at home.
This emphasis on family is not lost on employers who want to retain quality people. According to a May survey of 945 major U.S. companies by Hewitt Associates, nearly all benefit programs that support work-life issues showed growth in the past year. Benefits, such as flexible work schedules and job sharing cost little but are valuable in employee retention. Nearly 70% of employers are offering flexible spending accounts with 37% offering telecommuting and compressed workweeks.
The workplace has also become friendlier for children. Nearly 30% of employers now allow parents to bring children to the workplace in an emergency as opposed to 19% in 1998. More than 21% of organizations have designated areas or programs for nursing mothers. Even the “sandwiched” workers are finding relief with over 30% of companies providing eldercare referral service.
It is helpful to remember that the best employees always leave first when there is a lack of organizational attention to retention. Now is the time to reevaluate the work/life balance at your company. The employees of the new millennium don’t want to be so busy making a living that they forget to make a life.
For more tips to balance you life, please visit: www.101stressmanagement.com
. Barbara Bartlein, CSP, is the People Pro. She is an expert on stress management and balance and offers keynotes, seminars and consultation. Contact Barbara at 888-747-9953 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.101stressmanagement.com
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