Family Friendly Companies: are they still out there?
Family-friendly can mean different things depending on the company, but generally speaking, the following policies are what place a company into the “family-friendly” zone: flexible schedules with varying shifts, a generous family leave policy, liberal time-off, telecommuting options, and support for new moms, lactation rooms, discounted tuition for daycare, parenting groups and compressed work weeks. These are just some of the things that companies put into place to retain their working mothers.
Before the recession hit, finding a company with family-friendly policies and a company culture that fostered a healthy work-life balance seemed like an easy thing to do. Once the layoffs began, everyone hunkered down and clung to what was important: keeping their jobs. In 2011, of the 5.3 million job postings on the hiring website SimplyHired, only 5.4% of the postings were mom friendly. Now that the economy seems to be on the upswing, women are beginning to job hunt again in the hopes of finding the best job for them and their families. But are family friendly companies still out there? How do we find them?
Every year magazines like Working Mother and Fortune produce lists of family-friendly companies. There are also databases of job postings, like SimplyHired, that allow you to search specifically for those companies that have policies and programs in place that will help you achieve a good work-life balance. When searching through job postings, look for words like “flexibility” in the description or “telecommuting.” However, experts advise that the best thing to do is talk to management at your current job.
“Getting more flexibility depends partly on your status in the company. ‘Stars’ have more leverage. But in general, directness is worth a try,” says Daniel Greenberg, chief marketing officer at job-search portal SimplyHired.
“Employers really value experienced people, and they would rather not have to replace you. So it may be a lot easier to negotiate more work-life balance where you are now than to go somewhere else where no one knows you — and where you may end up putting in long hours, at least at first, to prove yourself.”
If you still want to hit the pavement and start exploring other job opportunities, make certain to do your research. Remember that a current employee can often give you clues about the work-life culture at the company way beyond what you’ll read in a job posting. LinkedIn can help you find and reach out to a potential co-worker. Or arrange to go to lunch with a potential co-worker after your interview.
Be careful asking directly about “long hours,” because you don’t want to appear like you’re lacking a strong work ethic. Instead ask about the company culture and what a typical work day looks like. And if the company you interview with offers compressed hours or a redistributed work week for new mothers reentering the workforce, also ask about the statistics of promotion for women working a compressed work week. You won’t want to take advantage of the flexible scheduling if it means a dead-end in your career.
Family-friendly companies may be harder to find these days, but there are more sophisticated ways to locate the job of your dreams that allows you to advance your career while keeping a healthy home life. Networking in person and through social media and on job search-portals will help you find those great companies. And maybe through a conversation with your current employer will help you keep the job you have and make it even better.
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