October is National Work and Family Month; Are Employees Penalized for Balancing Work and Family?

Sep 13, 2011, 09:01 ET from WorldatWork

Study finds gap between what managers believe and how they behave

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A global survey reveals a growing imbalance between what employers say about work-life balance and what they actually do. Every October since 2003, WorldatWork's Alliance for Work-Life Progress (AWLP) has led a national awareness campaign that promotes work-life effectiveness as a key contributor to productivity and success in the modern workplace. This year the campaign is calling attention to a troubling gap between leaders' beliefs and behaviors at many organizations.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20110913/DC67051LOGO)

Access the survey here: www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimLink?id=51556

"We set out to study men and work-life integration, but instead uncovered workplace trends showing employees suffer a variety of job repercussions for participating in work-life programs, even when their leaders insist they support the business value," said Kathie Lingle, executive director of WorldatWork's Alliance for Work-Life Progress. "This conundrum can be so oppressive that some employees go underground, resorting to 'stealth maneuvers' for managing their personal responsibilities."

"The good news is that 80 percent of employers around the globe avow support for family-friendly workplaces. The bad news is they are simultaneously penalizing those who actively strive to integrate work with their lives," said Lingle.  

Employee respondents reported repercussions that included:

  • Overtly or subtly discouraged from using flexible work and other work-life programs
  • Received unfavorable job assignments
  • Received negative performance reviews
  • Received negative comments from supervisor
  • Denied a promotion

The study found the following prevailing leadership attitudes in developed countries (United States, United Kingdom and Germany):

  • More than half of the surveyed managers think the ideal employee is one that is available to meet business needs regardless of business hours
  • 40% believe the most productive employees are those without a lot of personal commitments
  • Nearly one in three think that employees who use flexible work arrangements will not advance very far in their organization

The same leadership attitudes prevailed in emerging countries (Brazil, China, India) but on a larger scale.

"While the HR department designs and administers work-life programs, it's the managers who have to implement it," added Rose Stanley, work-life practice leader for WorldatWork. "Our studies find that a culture of flexibility correlates with lower employee turnover. Specifically, those with training and experience managing employees on flexible work arrangements are much more supportive of work-life than those without that training and experience. Closing the gap between what managers believe and how they behave will make every workplace a better place to work."

Anyone with experience managing or implementing work-life programs is encouraged to participate in the discussion on the WorldatWork Online Community or post a comment on Facebook.com/WorldatWorkAssociation.

In honor of National Work & Family Month, WorldatWork is offering a free webinar on Workplace Flexibility. Webinar attendees will be able to download an e-book, "Workplace Flexibility: Innovation in Action" (WorldatWork Press, 2008). The webinar can be accessed by visiting: www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimLink?id=48794&from=webinar_wl_demand

For Kathie Lingle's bio and photo, visit http://www.worldatwork.org/waw/pressroom/html/pressroom-bio-lingle.html.

For Rose Stanley's bio and photo, visit


WorldatWork (www.worldatwork.org) is a not-for-profit organization providing education, conferences and research focused on global human resources issues including compensation, benefits, work-life and integrated total rewards to attract, motivate and retain a talented workforce.

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