The work/life balance sheet so far: bottom line: create a good program and communicate its importance to your managers.

Author:Lewison, John

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

* Studies show work/life balance programs go a long way to help CPA firms of all sizes attract and retain high-quality professionals and are a key factor in employee satisfaction.

* Successful programs address elder-care as well as child-care needs. The growing demand for attending to parents is one of today's most significant trends.

* More than a decade has passed since businesses started to implement work/life-balance-friendly policies, but only a few firms are claiming success. If top managers of an organization don't support work/life programs, they are likely to fail.

* Ernst & Young rates its managers on how available they make work/life options and factors those ratings into reviews and bonuses.

* Deloitte & Touche's program helps employees tailor a partnership path through different phases of their lives.

* The business case for work/life balance programs grows stronger every day. Research shows that employers that don't consider how family and work responsibilities affect their employees are hindering their ability to operate more efficiently.

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Balancing work and family has overtaken benefits and compensation as a key factor in employee satisfaction--and a key concern for CPA firms and companies trying to attract and retain high-quality professional staff. That s the conclusion of a major study conducted by the AICPA's Work/Life and Women's Initiatives Executive Committee in 2004. In a follow-up last year, Linda Bergen, CPA, a Citigroup corporate accounting vice-president in New York, reported time spent on the job and work/life balance issues are the top two reasons CPAs change jobs.

In fact, dual-wage-earning families in general are working longer hours. Catalyst, a nonprofit research and advisory organization in New York, found the combined weekly work hours of wage-earning couples rose to 91 hours in 2002--up more than 8% in just 10 years

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 if the new job means longer days and having to bring more work home.

CHANGING NEEDS

Adapting to contemporary needs calls for more than a one-size-fits-all approach to work/life benefits programs, however. Witness the growing demand for time to attend to one's parents, which is one of the most significant trends in the area of work/life balance. Smart firms and corn panics are implementing programs that address employees' elder-care demands as well as single-parent staff members' emergency-day-care needs.

The challenge of effectively meeting workplace and personal needs continues to fall more heavily on women than men. More than 65% of families with preschool children had mothers working outside the home, according to HR Review, and if a child is sick, most often it's the mother who's called.

Roles are starting to change, though, when it comes to taking time off to deal with elder-care issues. Here responsibility is often parent-specific: The man cares for his aging parents and the woman does the same for hers.

Employees who face the demands of both parenting and elder care are sometimes called the "sandwich generation." A survey conducted by the Labor Project for Working Families in 2002 (www.laborproject.org) found that 40% of those caring for parents and grandparents had child-care...

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