Five Signs the Work/Life Benefits Equation is Changing

work/life benefits Can Family Responsibilities Get You Fired?

Once upon a time, work ruled. But times have changed. Maybe that's because employees have changed - working dads want more family time; working moms want more successful career time; everybody wants more time, period. And smart employers are listening.

Our inboxes have been filled with news showing work/life benefits are shifting.

What do we hear?

It's Not about Parental Leave

Flashy leave policies may get all the press, but Forbes and the Chicago Tribune showed companies like KPMG and PNC Bank are investing heavily in the important job of helping parents come back - with things like flex time and coaching topping the list. Good idea since our Modern Family Index shows the real risk of new-parent exodus happens after return. "Hopefully," wrote Forbes blogger Georgene Huang, "improved employee engagement and retention from these return-to-work initiatives will build a clear business case that supporting new parents at work is a win-win for everyone involved." We couldn't agree more.

Dads want to be Dads

Give up pay for work/life balance? Working dad Tor de Vries did. The New England dad told the Boston Globe he left a lucrative corporate paycheck for a job that offered him the flexibility to be with his kids. That makes him a living illustration of what working dads told our Modern Family Index - that they're determined to be more involved with families than their own dads, and they're willing to downshift to prove it. "Do I occasionally go, ‘Man, that could have been me?' Yeah, once in a while," Tor told the Globe about the loftier career trajectories of some of his peers. "But I get over it. I wouldn't have this great relationship with my kids if I hadn't made that decision.

The XX Factor

The word's out: women are good for business. That's why companies are putting renewed vigor behind strategic work/life benefits to keep them. Flex time is a key. And don't be surprised to see more lactation and pumping rooms - the answer to the problem of women nursing in broom closets. "Many employers don't realize the hidden challenges we face after having a baby," one new mom told United's Hemisphere's Magazine. Thanks to her company's supportive environment that included a pumping room, she succeeded at working and parenting.

Child Care Matters 

Staples told online pub MassLive that its own secret to hanging on to working women is child care. The office-supplies retailer has had a center for employees since 1999 and says the big winners are more than just the working families. "If you feel good with your child care," Staples Director of Benefits Susan Rodriguez told writer Michelle Williams, "you feel good about the job." Staples leadership is feeling pretty great about its on-site center, too, since it's delivered on recruitment, retention, absenteeism, productivity, and morale. One Staples mom sums up the work/life benefits this way: "People get pregnant and realize, ‘thank god I'm here.'"

Location, Location, Location

Bosses aren't the only ones who see the value of child care; these days, landlords see it, too. The Wall Street Journal says sagging occupancy in office buildings has owners competing for tenants with perks. Today, smart buildings offer tennants work/life benefits like child care and back-up care. The executive vice president of the group that owns the Empire State Building told the Wall Street Journal that, "Companies are paying attention to the things that affect their employees' happiness." We think child care's a great way to do that.

What Smart Companies Know

Our own research says the work/life benefits trends are on target. As author Lisen Stromberg put it in her "Beating the Parent Trap" article in Hemisphere, "With 64 million members of the Millennial generation expected to have children in the next decade, smart companies are doing all they can to support new parents - mothers especially."

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.