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Taking on more work/Life duties? Start by collecting data

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

by Arlene Johnson, VP of WFD Consulting

As work/life benefits have become mainstream, organizations have shifted their administration from stand-alone work/life departments to their employee benefits specialists.

The good news is that the same management skills that contribute to an outstanding comp or benefits program also make for the best work/life programs.

If you’ve inherited your organization’s work/life programs (or soon will), apply the lessons you have learned about good data and clear objectives as a comp and benefits pro to work/life. First, I’ll offer three cautions:

  1. Forget the stereotypes about work/life benefits. Such benefits are not primarily for women or even for parents. Employees of every age, marital status and gender are candidates for flexible schedules, telework, convenience services and other work/life benefits.
  2. Avoid making a laundry list of programs you might implement. First you need to assess the needs of your employees and the business reasons for each benefit.
  3. Benchmarking other organizations’ work/life programs can mislead yours. While one company might have a reason to focus its work/life benefits on young parents, yours might not. Tailor your benefits for your organization.

With that out of the way, you can begin to craft a new work/life program or revise an old one.

5 ways to kick-start your program

  1. Identify the business goals for the work/life program. Will you offer work/life perks because your competitors do and you must have them to attract and retain employees? Or is your aim to improve health or boost productivity? Once you know why you offer work/life perks, it’s easy to figure out which ones to offer.
  2. Collect data about your employees. Are they mostly young or are they ready to retire? Do their incomes vary widely? This will help you determine if child care or elder care will be more valuable or if you need to offer both.
  3. Gather data from outside your organization. In the past five years, the library of work/life data—from return-on-investment information to evidence of benefits-related productivity gains—has ballooned. To a comp and benefits specialist, work/life might seem less tangible than benefits like health insurance or a 401(k). After all, it deals with employees’ private lives rather than their work. A survey of the literature will reveal that work/life’s impact is measurable and can have an enormous impact on health and productivity.
  4. Attend a work/life conference. There, you will hear from organizations that treat work/life not as a collection of programs, but as a part of the corporate fabric. Three good ones: The Alliance for Work/Life Progress (www.alwp.org, Feb. 21-23, Phoenix); Families and Work Institute (www.familiesandwork.org, June 12-13, New York); Working Mother (www.workingmother.com, Oct. 1-3, New York).
  5. Communicate with employees continually. One of the most common pitfalls of work/life programs is that employees don’t know what their organizations offer.

Like comp and benefits, work/life programs must be integral to the organization’s philosophy: a necessary investment in its people rather than something extra or “nice” for employees. Treat them as equals, and you’re likely to see that the two are a good fit.


Arlene Johnson is vice president of WFD Consulting in Newton, Mass. Contact her at arlene.johnson@wfd.com.

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