More than three-fourths of families had at least one person employed in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For these households, what makes a company family friendly?
Kaylie Astin, the founder of FamilyFriendlyWork.org, said that depends on personal preference and priority, but she gave pointers on what to look for to maintain work-life balance.
“What is reasonable really depends on personally what you are willing to live with and what you are not willing to live with, and that is something you can only determine for yourself,” Astin said.
Flexibility in the workplace allows a parent to be there for children when they need it. Astin said one way to look for this is by seeing how many women work at a particular company.
“If (the company is) making an effort to recruit and promote women, than that indicates that they aren’t looking for the conventional type who wants to be there 80 hours a week,” Astin said. “They may be more open to looking at alternative work arrangements.”
The company’s willingness to promote women or part-time workers, allowing a parental leave program, and having paid sick leave and elder care are options that help families balance.
While most companies don’t offer on-site childcare, some do offer referral programs that prescreen child care centers for employees. However, it's best not to ask about these benefits found in family friendly companies before being given an offer.
“At the interview I wouldn’t get any more specific than ‘What kind of qualities do you look for in a leader?’” Astin said. “(The answer) might give you a hint. If they are looking for someone who works long hours, it might not be the job for you.”
Research before a job interview can be done online. A number of companies, including those on this list by Glassdoor, are rated the best places to work. For 2013, Glassdoor ranked Facebook, McKinsey & Company, Riverbed Technology, Bain & Company and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center the top five.
Astin said to check previous years of ratings because companies don’t apply every year for these kinds of lists. She also recommends talking to other employees once an offer has been made. Ask them questions like, “Does your manager trust you? Does he or she micromanage your work?”
“If they are the type that micromanage your work, they are probably the type that micromanage your time as well,” Astin said. “You want someone that trusts you and lets you get your work done on your time.”
Legally, companies aren’t required to offer employees much for work-life balance. Even the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows employees 12 workweeks of leave for a birth; placement of adoption or foster care; or caring for a spouse, child or parent with serious health conditions, has exceptions.
Despite the lack of legal obligations, employers who like and want to hire applicants are willing to negotiate more than prospective employees tend to think, Astin said. She said that even if a policy is in the handbook, an employee can still ask the employer to negotiate it.