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President Obama takes a stand for family friendly work policies

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Tessara Smith, PayScale

During the crash of 2009 almost all industries faced a serious decline in revenue resulting in some substantial cut backs when it came to employee’s benefits packages; at least, for the employees that companies were able to keep. Long hours, making up for the work of their laid off co-workers, and reduced vacation time became the standard for employees in still in the workplace. Fortunately, the recuperation of the market means that things are finally looking up for dedicated workers. Still, job security is the top priority for employees who have to bring home the bacon and take care of their families. But are companies taking advantage of the fact that employees are willing to work harder for less to maintain their jobs? 

President Obama seems to think so, and he is calling on companies around the nation to start adopting new policies that promote a better work-life balance.

In response to the economic rollercoaster, employees have started to prioritize their family life. They feel that their career path might fall out from under them at any given moment. Most people will tell you that having a job gives them a sense of purpose and direction, but the saying goes “family first”. Sure, employees need an income to survive, but this doesn’t mean they are willing to toss their personal needs out the window. No matter how wonderful a job seems, nine times out of ten family matters will trump work priorities. There are many hardworking Americans, who are not only struggling to pay their bills but are also struggling to find time to care for their family members. Although most people are more than willing to prioritize their work life, more and more employees are saying they won’t do this at the expense of spending time with their spouse and offspring. Whether they are the CEO of a multi-million dollar company, or working three minimum wage jobs to stay afloat, work life balance is becoming more and more critical to employees of the United States. Drawing from his own personal experiences, Obama is suggesting that companies make a few family-friendly reforms. The three key issues that he feels need to be addressed, are flexibility, paid family leave, and childcare options.

When you have kids, things come up; illnesses, school plays, volunteering for field trips, are all matters that require the flexibility to take a few extra hours off from the work day without much advanced notice. There are some days when employees need to skip out of work in the middle of the day in order to meet the demands of their family lives. Unfortunately, not enough employers allow for this kind of adjustable work schedule in spite of evidence that greater flexibility leads to a lower turnover rate. Additionally, many employers are not able to adequately honor parental leave. Women can’t even get paid for missing work the day they give birth let alone compensated for three short months of maternity leave, and forget about paternity leave. There is simply no room for employees to take care of family needs while still raking in the dough. Furthermore, companies are also failing to take into account the outrageous costs of childcare. Putting a kid in daycare for eight or more hours a day while both parents are working is extremely costly, and is rarely subsidized by companies. 

When it comes to work life balance, clearly something’s got to give. However, it’s not just employees who can reap the benefits of more family friendly policies, companies may find that willingness to compromise on Implementing new policies surrounding family work life balance won’t just benefit employees however; many companies are reaping financial benefits from providing more family friendly options to their employees. For example, Google recently adjusted parental leave policies to accommodate the needs of their female employees who were leaving the company at twice the rate of their male counterparts. This shift in policy has allowed the company to retain talented individuals; saving thousands of dollars that it would cost to replace these individuals. Another company, Cisco, has managed to save millions every year by permitting employees to conduct business from home via telecommunicating.

Overall, employers are becoming fed up with the lack of recognition that they have family members who need them and that they are not just a name on the payroll sheet. They might need to keep their job just as much as the next person however; it seems ludicrous that companies can’t provide them with the resources they need to take care of their personal lives. Hopefully with President Obama standing behind them, employees will start to see more family friendly policies spring up in the work force.

Learn more about what employees of all generations want from their employers in this helpful whitepaper: Compensation Challenges for a Multi-generational Workforce

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