SHRM's When Work Works Project Promotes Flexibility

National Work and Family Month prompts HR pros to help employees achieve balance

By Cassidy Solis, SHRM-CP, and Beth Day Oct 5, 2017
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​Balancing work and family responsibilities has become increasingly difficult in the modern workplace, as advanced technology, economic concerns and societal pressures make it hard for people to keep the concepts of job and home separate. October, which is National Work and Family Month (observed since 2003 pursuant to a U.S. Senate resolution), is a good time for HR professionals to consider creating or enhancing programs that will help reconcile work/life issues in their organizations. A project of SHRM called When Work Works (WWW) promotes the creation of effective flexible workplaces; the WWW initiative's annual awards recognize groundbreaking ideas and promising or successful practices in this area. 

Flexibility is vital to an effective workplace, and yields positive outcomes for both employers and employees. Workplace flexibility programs can include family leave, flex time, compressed workweeks, telecommuting, employee-managed time, reduced hours, welcoming environments/worksites, coaching to assist parents' transition back to work and other innovative solutions. Employees at flexible workplaces report greater job engagement and satisfaction, increased desire to stay, lower stress and better overall health. Employers that implement effective workflex programs are more likely to attract and retain the right talent, build a thriving and energized workforce, and develop useful performance expectation strategies.

Effective workplaces are not one-size-fits-all scenarios, however. Employer and employee needs are determined by a multitude of factors, including company size, type of business, operational hours and available resources. Fortunately, SHRM-CPs and SHRM-SCPs have the applied knowledge and situational judgment to create and implement individualized workflex solutions. Workplace flexibility programs are key concepts of Employee Engagement & Retention and Total Rewards, two functional areas of HR Expertise described in the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (BoCK), the foundational document of SHRM certification. Familiarity with workflex is an indication of a SHRM certificant's technical proficiency in HR management. 

As HR experts, leaders and innovators, SHRM credential holders have the ability to think creatively while helping their organizations stay ahead of the latest workplace trends. They have much in common with winners of the 2017 When Work Works Awards. This year's nearly 300 award recipients addressed work/life concerns with pioneering efforts tailored to their employees' particular needs. Most included benefits that embraced a family-first approach to work. Some of their notable programs are highlighted below. 

More information about workflex resources, research and best practices—and the next WWW awards cycle—are available through When Work Works

Notable Winners of the 2017 When Work Works Awards 

  • American College of Healthcare Sciences, Portland, Ore.; Boly:Welch, Portland, Ore.; DMLO CPAs, Louisville, Ky.; and The Frontier Project, Richmond, Va.: All provide family-friendly perks, such as on-site breastfeeding rooms, playrooms, comfortable seating, group-dining-style kitchens, nap spaces, and a homework room stocked with books, art supplies, computers and toys.
  • Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Phoenix: Created an "infant at work" program allowing both mothers and fathers to bring their newborns to work. The program has enabled mothers to remain on their career tracks.
  • Bora Architects, Inc., Portland, Ore.: Enacted a flexible work policy under which all new mothers have returned to work. Before the policy's enactment, 13 female staff members who had babies had left the firm permanently.
  • British Consulate General, Chicago: Offers mothers three full months of paid leave. Events during the organization's "work/life balance week" highlight flexible working; stress management; learning and development; and health, fitness and wellness.
  • DesignHammer, Durham, N.C.: Offers paid maternity and/or paternity leave. When school is closed, parents may work from home or bring their children to work. As a result, the firm reports reduced employee turnover as well as increased efficiency and profitability.
  • EDSI, Dearborn, Mich.: Designates two female employees to reach out and offer support to mothers who are transitioning back to work. Encourages "schedule shaping," whereby supervisors and employees discuss the schedule that works best for them.
  • Fortune Title Agency, Inc., Roseland, N.J.: Celebrates an employee's transition to parenthood. Offers maternity leave; new parents can adjust schedules and have the option to work remotely and/or gradually re-enter the workforce.
  • The Hello Foundation, LLC, Portland, Ore.: Provides unlimited time off; most employees with young children at home work virtually. The firm attributes its high retention rate—only 7 percent to 9 percent turnover in an industry that averages 70 percent—to its family-friendly environment.
  • Lockwood Group, Stamford, Conn.: Employees support new mothers returning from maternity leave by taking on their travel responsibilities.
  • Work Skills Corporation, Brighton, Mich.: Offers access to a success coach to help employees and families manage home and work/life demands.

Cassidy Solis, SHRM-CP, is senior advisor, workplace flexibility at SHRM, and Beth Day is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance writer and When Work Works contributor.
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