Trends Work/Life Balance

According to a recent study published by the Journal of Accountancy, balancing work and family has overtaken benefits and compensation as a key factor in employee satisfaction.  Writing for the New York Times, Judith Shulevitz cited a Families and Work Institute study  (www.familiesandwork.org) that found younger college-educated workers were less willing “to sacrifice everything to advance their careers” than baby boomers were. People entering the workforce today are more likely to turn down promotions in the future if the new job means longer days and having to bring more work home.

Younger workers, known as Gen Y or millennials, are more likely than their older colleagues to go after what they want and do whatever it takes to get it.  They are more concerned with work/life balance than the boomer generation before them.  Millennials know that they have transferable skills, are prepared to make changes, and strive to find a work environment that offers the work/life balance that is so important to them.  They prefer jobs that accommodate their personal and family lives, expect greater control over the structure of their jobs, and prefer to focus more on life outside of work.  They also strive for jobs with telecommuting options, the ability to work part time, or to leave the workforce temporarily when children become a priority.

Today’s legal marketers are more diverse, especially in terms of age and gender.  In order to retain quality employees, employers need to look for approaches that make work/life balance a reality for everyone in the organization ­whatever stage of life they may be in or whatever their care-giving responsibilities may be.  Not only are there more families with both parents working outside the home, but as the workplace ages, care responsibilities for parents are becoming more widespread.  In fact, the demand of attending to aging parents is one of today’s most significant trends. More organizations recognize that accommodating diverse caring responsibilities is an important factor in attracting and keeping quality employees.

Key trends in evolving work/life balance programs that address some of these issues include: flextime, a flexible work week, part time work, telecommuting, and job sharing. Technology makes it easier to manage and work within this more flexible work environment.

Informal queries to some LMA members revealed that many firms have at least a few employees either working part-time hours, or telecommuting for some of their hours. While firms may not have formal policies, there seems to be an effort to accommodate the needs of a staff member where it’s mutually beneficial.

Today’s employees juggle a wide range of factors:  work, family, friends, and self.  The achievement of better work/life balance can yield dividends for employers in terms of having a more motivated, more productive, and less stressed workforce that feels valued.  Work/life balance programs offer a strong opportunity for firms to improve the bottom line while increasing employee satisfaction.   Employers with effective work/life balance programs attract a wider range of candidates, such as older part-time workers, and they obtain increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and better client retention, as happier employees provide better client service.

By Ellen Katkin, Director of Marketing, Gilbert LLP, for the January/February 2014 Issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.

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