AbstractThe term “work family balance” entered the labor vernacular several decades ago and has become exceedingly important as a point of discussion in the labor market. While there is no exact definition of the term “work family balance”, it is generally recognized as a way in which employers can encourage employees to focus on their family and leisure time in a way to improve their quality of life. For many years, individuals focused on their work to the point of believing that they needed to sacrifice their family obligations. The term tends to focus on how individuals can achieve a semblance of balance in their professional and personal lives. Many companies now strive to create a positive work family balance for their employees, and even focus on these possible benefits when they seek new talent. However, not all companies are as family-friendly. Two companies that are wonderful in offering work life balance help are Wegman’s and Google.
Work Family Balance
The term “work family balance” entered the labor vernacular several decades ago and has become exceedingly important as a point of discussion in the labor market. While there is no exact definition of the term “work family balance”, it is generally recognized as a way in which employers can encourage employees to focus on their family and leisure time in a way to improve their quality of life. For many years, individuals focused on their work to the point of believing that they needed to sacrifice their family obligations. The other aspect was that many companies did not want individuals who were on the “mommy track” or focused on becoming mothers to the detriment of their employment obligations. The term tends to focus on how individuals can achieve a semblance of balance in their professional and personal lives. Many companies now strive to create a positive work family balance for their employees, and even focus on these possible benefits when they seek new talent. However, not all companies are as family-friendly.
Prior to the 1970s, women did not enter the work force at significant levels. While there have been periods of time, such as the 1940s and World War II, when women were required to work, they tended to return quickly to their domestic roles. However, when the women’s rights movement began, women were told that they could “have it all.” Gender roles were fairly established, and women were expected to perform the domestic chores. A popular commercial from 1980 informed women that they could “bring home the bacon [and] fry it up in a pan” while still treating men like men, and being viewed as feminine themselves. The reference indicated that women could earn the family income of “bringing home the bacon” and they could still do the cooking (Dunleavy, 2007). However, this soon led to the recognition of “second shift” for women. After working eight hours in a job, women were still supposed to work eight hours at home to perform the domestic chores (Dunleavy, 2007). The family division of labor was not adapted to recognize the increased workload on women. This has changed significantly since 1980, and men now engage in a higher percentage of home chores. However, women still perform the majority of childrearing chores. These domestic jobs are not paid, and rarely receive the same level of respect as a “paying” job (Goldscheider,, Bernhardt, & Lappegård, 2015). Family work is often trivialized. Furthermore, men may feel that their roles are diminished in a society where women can provide for themselves. Their role as the provider no longer seems secure.
What all of these issues have amounted to are overtaxed individuals. Parents may feel pressured to be the perfect “soccer mom and dad” while still putting in a sixty hour work week in order to advance their careers. As a result, individuals are exhausted and burned out. Businesses recognized the need to improve work life balance for their employees. The issues in work life balance include the need for family time, the recognition that both parents should have family leave after the birth of a child, and the federal government intervening to allow employees in larger businesses to take time away from home to care for personal or family illness. While some companies have done well with pro-family programs, other companies still have to recognize the importance of establishing a work-family-friendly environment.
One company that is well-known for treating its employees well is Wegman’s, a grocery store chain popular in the Northeastern part of the United States. Wegman’s has been named the second best Fortune 100 company to work for in the U.S. The company offers tremendous family benefits. Upon examining the company’s benefits page, there are sections for “life benefits” and “wellness program” in addition to the usual health insurance and retirement planning. Under the “life benefits,” it become apparent that the company recognizes the modern day struggles of families. There is a section for adoption assistance, as more couples adopt children. The company also offers dependent care savings accounts. Unfortunately, many adults find themselves in a vise. They are between their children who need to be cared for, and their elderly parents, who also need assistance with care. This puts modern day Americans in a serious financial pinch. Before women entered the labor market in droves, many women cared for the elderly parents at home. They had more time to dedicate to the care of elderly parents. Elderly parents did not have to be placed in nursing homes and assisted living facilities at such a high rate. Since both spouses often work today, there is no one at home to ensure the safety of elders. This is a vital benefit. The company also provides employee assistance plans (EAPs) which provide for a wide range of services. While traditionally EAPs offer counseling services for stress and depression, their EAP also offers child care help, elder care help, and financial counseling. They also offer vacation, paid holidays, and sick time. Health discussions are available with their pharmacists, and nutritional advice from their registered dieticians is available. These benefits are most certainly not offered at many companies. Their 401K match is 50% up to 6% of the employee’s salary (Wegmans, 2017).
Google is also recognized as a top company for which to work. The company is one of the most prestigious companies to work for, and its perks are well known. Google’s benefits are beyond extraordinary. They will match contributions to charity up to $12,000 per year per employee. They encourage their employees to bicycle to work when possible. It is environmentally conscious and healthy. To encourage this, they have a bicycle repair specialist on standby for emergencies. In 2010, they gave a ten percent raise across the board. While many companies offer an on-sight basic gym, they offer rock climbing, billiards, and a swimming pool on site. They have long recognized domestic partnerships for benefits. They offer a free lunch with first class dining (CBS News, 2011). They encourage individuals to bring their dogs and their kids to work, thus saving pet sitting and babysitting fees for the employee. It is rather easy to have a healthy work life balance when going to work sounds like a picnic. They also offer some of the most generous vacation packages, and offer paid parental leave for both parents. Google makes a point of saying that its employee’s families are important to them. A healthy person makes a better employee. They also offer free massages (Google, 2017).
It is readily apparent that both of these companies are top companies to work for when examining the work life balance issue. Both of these companies recognize that family is important and a less-stressed employee is a better employee.
Unfortunately, not enough companies recognize the struggles on families today. There are child care issues, elder care issues, financial problems, personal stress, death, illness, and the birth of a new child. If more companies gave their employees better balance, their productivity might improve. Google has the right attitude. A company should care for their employees. Wegmans also recognizes that their job is to take care of the employee, and then the employee will take care of the customer. This is a winning attitude.
- CBS News. (2011). Why we want to work at Google. Retrieved from: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/google-job-perks-top-10-reasons-we-want-to-work-there/
- Google. (2017). How we care for Googlers. Retrieved from: https://careers.google.com/how-we-care-for-googlers/
- Dunleavey, M. P. (2007). A breadwinner rethinks gender roles. New York Times, 156(53837), C6.
- Goldscheider, F., Bernhardt, E., & Lappegård, T. (2015). The gender revolution: A framework for understanding changing family and demographic behavior. Population and Development Review, 41(2), 207-239.
- Lyness, K. S., & Judiesch, M. K. (2014). Gender egalitarianism and work–life balance for managers: Multisource perspectives in 36 countries. Applied Psychology, 63(1), 96-129.