More Employers Strike Work/Life Balance Chord

January 15, 2004 ( - Over the past two years, more than half of the 600 companies polled by Mellon Human Resources & Investor Solutions (HR&IS) have increased the number of work/life balance programs available to employees.

Fifty-one percent of companies have expanded their work/life offerings, while only 5% have cut back and 45% have maintained the status quo over the past two years. With more offerings, it comes as little surprise that an almost identical number of companies noticed an increase in enrollment (49%) and a decrease in enrollment (4%) in work/life programs over the time period, according to the results of the “Work/Life-A delicate balance” survey released by Mellon Financial Corporation’s HR&IS business.

The increase in work/life programs was most profound in employee assistance programs – now offered by 81% of employers from 70% in 1996, family sick days – now offered by 54% of the survey sample up from 42% in 199, and domestic partner benefits – now offered by 35% of employers, up from 6% in 1996.

Additionally, 2003’s poll shows 88% of employers offer work-related tuition reimbursement, 55% provide general resource and referral services, and 47% provide unpaid family leave beyond the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requirements. Other increases in work/life balance programs when compared to 1996 include:

  • 71% offer flex-time, up from 32%
  • 50% offer telecommuting , up from 9%
  • 44% offer compressed work weeks, up from 16% .

“Work/Life programs help employees manage the broader and more complex challenges and responsibilities they now face on the job and at home,” said Mellon HR&IS principal Allison Levin in a news release. “And for employers, they usually provide a cost-effective way to energize and support key performers, especially during periods of economic uncertainty.”

When it comes to getting the good word out to the masses, most employers reported publicizing work/life programs through new employee orientations (88%). E-mail was also a common method of publicizing programs (62%). Other companies turned to managers and supervisors (53%), newsletters and brochures (52%) and the company Web site (50%).

Work/Life Reasoning

Employers are also increasingly turning to work/life balance programs to enhance recruitment efforts, cited by 73% of the respondents as the reason for adding to their work/life lineup, raise morale (74%), and remain competitive (72%). Other reasons for offering these programs include:

  • 55% – response to employee inquiries
  • 54% – increase productivity
  • 53% – lower employee turnover
  • 44% – lower absenteeism.

Yet, the majority of companies (77%) have not attempted to measure the impact of work/life programs on their organizations. Of the 23% of respondents that did measure the effect of these programs, respondents most often indicated measuring their impact on turnover (57%) and competitiveness/industry image (49%). Other impacts gauged by companies were morale (43%), recruitment efforts (40%) and absenteeism (33%).

Even without the quantifiable data, most respondents (48%) believe that work/life programs have a favorable impact on their organization’s bottom line. Comparatively, 27% have not noticed an effect, 22% said work/life programs offer no noticeable effect and 2% think these programs have had a negative effect.