Keeping Work and Life in Balance
T+D (American Society for Training & Development), July 2004
by Vicki Powers
Flexibility is not a working mother's issue as some people
seem to think. Rather, it relates to "how and when work gets
done and how careers are organized," according to the Families
and Work Institute. Everyone has the need for flexibility in the
workplace— whether it's to care for an elderly parent,
take college classes, take a sick child to the doctor, or get a
haircut. More and more, work is "interfering" (as some
people would say) with life and is creating overscheduled, stressed
"Flexibility isn't going to be an option in the future," says
Lois Backon, co-director of When Work Works, a Families and Work
Institute project on workplace effectiveness and workplace flexibility. "It's
just going to be the way good, competitive businesses operate." Fortunately,
many large and small organizations have adopted and perfected innovative
programs and opportunities that encourage employees to better balance
their work days with their home and family life.
Lancaster Laboratories: Intergenerational
Young children and older adults smiling and laughing during "Show & Tell." Children
blowing kisses to mom from the playground while she works in her
office window. Parents sharing lunch with their kids in the middle
of the workday. Those are some of the opportunities that Lancaster
Laboratories offers its employees and their families through on-site,
intergenerational child and adult daycare centers in Lancaster
, Pennsylvania .
"Founder Earl Hess always believed that if you take care
of your people, the bottom line will always take care of itself," says
Margaret Stoltzfus, manager, human resources and safety, at Lancaster
Laboratories. "He would often state that a decision he made
with his heart was one of the best business decisions he ever made."
With annual sales of approximately US$50 million, Lancaster Laboratories—a
provider of chemical and biological laboratory services in the
environmental and pharmaceutical industries—has grown since
its beginnings in 1961, when Hess, his wife, and a technician started
the company on the family farm with the Hess children right in
the workplace. Even as the organization has grown to more than
700 employees, it still operates with a people-first approach.
By the mid-1980s, Lancaster Labs recognized a need for its young
workforce, made up of more than 60 percent women. Twenty-five percent
of its 100 employees surveyed at the time said they expected to
start a family within five years. Lancaster realized that it needed
to do something quickly to ensure retention of those employees
and not risk losing the chemists and biologists it had relocated,
employed, and trained. Employees expressed an interest in on-site
child care, which at the time was pioneering and bold.
"Certainly, a lot of companies questioned what we were
doing when we started [on-site child care], based on concerns about
liability and keeping employees focused on work with their kids
here," Stoltzfus says. "Those same companies several
years later were calling us."
Lancaster Laboratories provided the space and partnered with
an external provider that ran other child-care centers. Lancaster
renovated the front part of its original building for the center
and moved the president, vice president, and other administrative
offices to another area. Lancaster Laboratories Child Care Center
opened in August 1986, with a license for 29 children. Early on,
the community filled most of the spots, but that gradually changed
as employees started their own families. Stoltzfus says Lancaster
Laboratories was the third company in the United States to provide
on-site child care. Now, it offers a licensed program for 161 children
from infants to school age, along with a full-day kindergarten
program and summer daycare. Employees receive a discount averaging
25 percent. Lancaster Labs subsidizes the center each year and
paid approximately $141,000 in cash and in-kind services in 2003.
Lancaster Laboratories made another pioneering decision, in the
late 1980s, by surveying employees about the issue of adult daycare.
Though there wasn't an immediate need, there was a planned
need. With adult daycare, Stoltzfus notes, many people find out
they need it and then that they need it immediately. Lancaster
Generations Adult Day Care Center opened in late 1991, with space
for up to 40 individuals. This center has served more of the community
population enrollment rather than employees, but it is providing
a necessary niche and partners with the child-care center in several
activities and events. "It's neat for those in the
adult daycare center because they look forward to the kids coming
over," Stoltzfus says. "Their eyes light up when these
kids come in and do activities with them. That's an unbelievable
benefit for both."
Jill Wolgemuth, senior specialist in Lancaster 's Environmental
Client Services, believes the organization's generous and
diverse employee benefits have given her family a level of comfort
and confidence. Her son began on-site daycare at age two months,
which gave her comfort knowing he was close by. Wolgemuth can work
30 hours a week and be considered "fulltime," which
lets her take advantage of benefits as well as have more "mommy" time.
Says Wolgemuth, "Rather than feeling like I should be more ‘ambitious,' the
support makes me feel proud in my role as a mom and as an employee."
Stoltzfus says that the child-care/adult daycare centers go well
beyond the people who want to start families or want care for their
aging parents. The centers demonstrate the character of the company
and make people want to work there. What's more, turnover
is 8 percent company-wide, absenteeism is lower, and 96 percent
of its new moms return to work in three months.
"For us, it has been terrific to get the caliber of people
we're looking for and to get that retention," says
Stoltzfus. "It's having happy and satisfied employees
who are going to focus and work hard to get their jobs done because
they appreciate what we do." Lancaster has earned a spot
on Working Mother's "Top 100 Companies for Working
Mothers" list for 11 years.
Ernst & Young: Advancing women
"Corporations that aren't already ‘in the game' of
actively working to recruit, advance, and retain women [employees]
won't be able to catch their competitors who are," says
Roslyn Duda, co-founder of CorporateHOPE, a Pennsylvania-based,
gender-specific talent development and consulting business. "Those
companies that heeded the warning signs and have made it a priority
to develop their female talent are already reaping the rewards." Studies—such
as the 2004 Catalyst report, "The Bottom Line: Connecting
Corporate Performance and Gender Diversity"—show a
positive correlation between the increased number of women in senior
leadership and bigger profits. Ernst & Young's strong
efforts in developing and advancing women, as well as nurturing
a culture of flexibility, have helped save the organization about
$12 million annually by reducing turnover.
"We've never presented our work-life issues as women's
issues," says Wendy Hirschberg, Ernst & Young's
Americas Gender Strategy Leader. "They are issues for men
and women, and flexibility is something everyone needs. It doesn't
just apply to working mothers, though it's critical for us
to keep our women [here] so we can continue to diversify our leadership."
Ernst & Young, a New York-based professional services organization,
provides a complete solution to help ensure advancement opportunities
for women and that all employees achieve balance between their
professional and personal lives. That includes providing flexibility
to help employees navigate how, when, and where their work gets
done. This strong commitment, begun in 1994, came straight from
the chairman at the time, Phil Laskawy, who understood the value
and diversity that women brought to the firm and wanted to keep
their ideas and experience. Several issues resulted from the organization's
high turnover among women: lost productivity, higher recruiting
costs, disruptions in client service, and organizational knowledge
loss. In response, Laskawy created the Gender Equity Task Force
comprising business unit leaders and key partners. That group commissioned
Catalyst, a New York-based nonprofit firm working to advance women
in business, to study the female retention issue across Ernst & Young.
"The underlying issues that cause women to leave our firm—such
as access to leadership, appreciation for life balance, the availability
of role models and mentors— are, of course, people issues," said
Laskawy in the "1998 Office for Retention Annual Report."
Laskawy put "people issues" as a priority and created
the Office of Retention to address the challenges and specifically
focus on retaining and advancing women. OFR, headed by Deborah
Holmes (whom Laskawy recruited from Catalyst), reported directly
to Laskawy in 1996, and provided central support for locally owned
efforts relating to gender and work-life issues. OFR evolved into
the Center for the New Workforce in 2001, and continues to focus
on implementing and supporting local change. Ernst & Young
focuses on a variety of initiatives to support women's leadership
development, including group and one-to-one mentoring for women
pursuing partnership or leadership in the support ranks, mentoring
for key women leaders by executive board members, an annual gathering
of top women with key business leaders and executive management,
women's forums, and 41 networks within Ernst & Young
to raise women's stature in the business world, both inside
and outside the organization.
Strategy focuses on initiatives that align with the firm's
values, norms, and culture.
Leverage the power of partnership. Ernst & Young
brought men into the process as champions for change around gender
equity, which continues to be a strength of the organization's
efforts to advance and retain women. "We've developed
great rapport with our business leaders and learned a lot with
them," Hirschberg says.
Create local focus and ownership. A key element
in Ernst & Young's success is its annual goal-setting
meetings between the Center for the New Workforce, top leadership
in each business unit, and the local Gender Equity Task Force member.
This gathering promotes discussion around the past year's
progress and future goals regarding women's development and
advancement in that location. Ernst & Young created a Balanced
Scorecard that reveals enterprise-wide goals and the leaders accountable
for each goal. Business units maintain their own scorecards with
information and accountability at the business unit level.
Educate staff about the issues, reward contributions. Hirschberg
says that Ernst & Young has initiated some innovative aspects
around its Women's Leadership Conference that stand out from
other organizations. One is including the reverse percentage of
men at the event to put men in the minority in the same percentage
that women represent in partnership as a whole.
"We've brought in interactive discussions between
men and women and have been notably honest and very candid," says
Hirschberg. "It breaks down a lot of myths of what people
harbor as slight doubts about the reality of what ‘flexible
work arrangements' can mean." To reward contributions,
Ernst & Young created the Rosemarie Meschi Award in 1997, to
honor men and women in the organization who are doing the most
to create a level playing field for women.
Technology helps drive Ernst & Young's flexibility
options through its Flexible Work Arrangement database. This Website
has a variety of tools to help employees brainstorm and navigate
how to complete their work in a flexible manner. One component
features profiles of more than 700 employees who are actually using
flexible work arrangements. People can look up those individuals
from a specific region or practice area and find out how they negotiated
a flexible arrangement.
Research from Families and Work Institute says that flexibility
is linked to engagement, retention, job satisfaction, and employee
well-being. Flexibility represents one ingredient to an effective
workplace. The others are
- job autonomy,
- learning opportunities,
- decision-making involvement, and
- co-worker and supervisor support.
"I believe flexibility is a common-sense, obvious way to
manage a lot of the changes that our culture has gone through," says
Backon. "Flexibility needs to be more accepted by business
and more understood that it's an option to offer employees
that doesn't really cost anything but that companies can
gain from. The data consistently shows that people with flexible
options tend to be happier employees and give back to their companies."
Hirschberg believes that opening up conversations between leaders
and their staffs is one of the greatest benefits of Ernst & Young's
work-life efforts. That's one reason she favors the profiles
in the Flexible Work Arrangement database, which puts people in
touch with others directly to have real conversations about day-to-day
Ernst & Young's dedication to work-life integration
has enabled it to create a variety of flexible work arrangements.
More than 2,300 (83 percent of that number are women) participate
in a formal flexible work arrangement. As of July 2003, 44 people
(43 women and one man) have been promoted to the level of partner,
principal, or director while in a flexible working arrangement.
The strategic focus and efforts to advance and retain women have
paid off, which is critical when women account for half of Ernst & Young's
head count. Currently, women represent 16 percent of all partners,
principals, and directors, a figure that has doubled since 1996.
Women represent 25 percent of the partner promotion class. The
presence of women in top executive management positions has increased
from zero to 14.5 percent. Twenty percent of the Americas executive
board are women, which is higher than the 12 percent average, according
to Catalyst's recent study of corporate boards in the Fortune
500. Over the past three-year period, 84 percent of women professionals
who took a maternity leave returned to work.
Ernst & Young is one of only five companies to appear five
consecutive times on both Fortune and Working Mother's "Best
"While there are still challenges ahead given the nature
of our business, I think we've made some real headway making ‘real
life' feel different for our individual women—and our
men, to some extent," says Hirschberg. "The more these
things are acceptable for women, the more acceptable they become
According to John Challenger, CEO, Challenger, Gray & Christmas,
the Chicago-based "original outplacement firm," employee
perks are beginning to reemerge. But today's perks,
according to Challenger, are vastly different from those
of the 1990s. "The perks that remain popular with employers
and employees are those that help workers stay healthy, career
focused, and financially stable," says Challenger. "Perhaps
the most appreciated perks are those that help workers maintain
Free shuttle rides
On-site fitness centers
Extra day off around holidays
Matching charitable contributions
Fully paid health benefits
Bringing pets to work
Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas