Why Work-Life Benefits Matter
People make various life-changing decisions over time and their priorities shift when the need arises. Similarly, institutions go through a series of transformation that reflects the nature and dynamics of the people who comprise them, as well as the environment they are situated in. These changes ultimately impact society in general.
Juggling Work and Personal Life - A Daily Exercise of Employees
Among millions of workers, some give primary value to their professional growth, sacrificing time for themselves and their loved ones. Employed mothers and fathers skip teacher-parent conferences or are unable to witness their baby's first walk.
On the other hand, there are workers who give utmost concern for the welfare of their families at the expense of losing their jobs. They miss reporting to work not because they are ill, but because they want or there is no other person to look after a sick loved one.
Nonetheless, there are workers who take great efforts to harmonize the demands of their "bosses" both at home and at work - even to the extent of doing their work at home or performing domestic responsibilities at work, such as child care. Others would pay for services to provide tutorial help or to do house chores for lack of time for domestic concerns.
Undoubtedly, a person juggles her/his work and personal life roles everyday. And such process is not an easy to do.
Work-Life Balance - A Myth or Not
I believe that people are capable of balancing work demands and personal responsibilities.
Making the Workplace More Humane through Work-Life Benefits
Traditionally, the world of work used to remain blind from the fact that workers have a life outside the realm of their being "capitalist slaves". Many companies offer inadequate rewards to their employees for their efforts to achieve a corporate goal.
Managers and business owners give more focus on other business issues like improving productivity and sustaining profitability. They consider tardiness, absenteeism, and inefficiency as bad work habits. Employees who commit these acts are deemed worthless and are either penalized or terminated.
Karen Newman and Stanley Nollen (1993) noted how a confluence of factors, ranging from depression to a negative work climate, could effect a negative work performance. Moreover, family concerns permeate individual and job problems that each worker finds necessary to address.
These exigencies influence an employee's self-perception, as well as her/his work performance. Hence, it is a welcome change to witness the shift in some companies away from the traditional corporate paradigm into one that embraces the need for workers to balance their home and work life.
As one of the major structures of society where people merge and create outputs of their collectivity and resources, the workplace has become a virtual extension of the basic social institution - the "family". Employees have other concerns that may either directly or indirectly affect their performance at work.
Thus, it is important that work and family life issues be addressed and integrated into the set of rewards and benefits that companies provide their employees. This step helps ensure organizational progress and survival.
Early Work-Life Benefits - Making Life Better for Employees
Company-based day care centers are said to be the first kind of work-life benefits. These were started during world wars when women were hired to take over jobs left by males who joined the military to train and fight as soldiers.
An early counterpart of workplace day care centers is paid paternity leave. As Ann Zofie Duvander, Tommy Ferrarini, and Sara Thalberg (2005) reported, Sweden offered paid paternity leaves in 1974, making it the first country to implement such a policy.
Prior to these benefits, however, trade unions fought for eight-hour work hours, increased salaries, health benefits, and other humane work conditions. Socialists Robert Owen and Charles Fourier, as well as William Wilson and Benjamin Lancaster of Price Patent Candles Company exerted unprecedented efforts to protect the well-being of their workers. Among their humane provisions their businesses promoted or exercised were cooperatives, shorter work hours, equal rights for women, unemployment allowance, free meals, and pension plans.
In One World of Welfare: Japan in Comparative Perspective , Gregory Kasza (2006) wrote that during the Tokugawa era, Japanese warlords received land grants, while samurai defenders had rice stipends. Curtis Andressen's A Short History of Japan: From Samurai to Sony (2002) cited how the government under the Meiji Restoration Period supported the education of scholars overseas.
Likewise, the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA) identified Japan as the first to offer a social insurance system in the Asia Pacific region through its Factory Law, which provided injury benefits for workers in the 1890s, following the policy that made employers accountable to workplace accidents in the 1870s.
The Value of Company Benefits to Work-Life Balance
Are you satisfied with the benefits/privileges that your employer gives you?
Beating the Competition: Current Work-Life Benefits
Fortune Magazine recognizes Google, Inc. as the top company to work for in 2013 and in 2012, following a similar feat back in 2008 and 2007. The company adopts a business philosophy that focuses on creating and sustaining an environment where employees enjoy doing their respective jobs and get to have fun during breaks. Google offers well-equipped pantries, subsidized massages, several wellness centers, and a huge sports complex, among other perks.
SAS, a software company, achieved Fortune Magazine's top spot in 2011 and in 2010, while NetApp ranked 1st in 2009. SAS's low turnover rate was attributed to: "high-quality child care at $410 a month, 90% coverage of the health insurance premium, unlimited sick days, a medical center staffed by four physicians and 10 nurse practitioners (at no cost to employees), a free 66,000-square-foot fitness center and natatorium, a lending library, and a summer camp for children." For its part, NetApp employees received paid volunteer work days, adoption aid, and autism coverage.
For Working Mother Magazine (WMM), the following companies top the charts for 2013:
- Best Buy for hourly workers due to "a slew of coaching initiatives, leadership development programs, on-site job training sessions and workshops on career-related topics..."
- Allstate Insurance for multicultural women who are given ample consideration for "top jobs", as well as "...receive appropriate training."
- Abbott for executive women who are given the opportunity to mentor other aspiring female executives. WMM also named this company as the best of working parents in 2012 and in 2009. Fortune Magazine supported this distinction when it named Abbott as 2010's most admired in the pharmaceutical industry. Its benefits include maternal and child care, workplace flexibility, and a "comprehensive suite of wellness and fitness programs."
In 2009, automotive firm Chrysler qualified as among WMM's best workplaces in the United States. The company offered employee counseling and dependent care benefits. Cornell University was the only academic institution acknowledged for its family-friendly benefits which included flexible work schedule, child-care subsidies, and paid parental leaves for its employees.