It's one thing for a company to say it's "family-friendly." It's quite another when a working parent can leave the office at 4:30 p.m. each day to pick up the kids from day care and not worry about career damage.
As the American work force becomes more diverse, an increasing number of chief executives are becoming aware that workplace flexibility is essential to recruit and retain talented employees, human resources experts say. Some two-thirds of major U.S. corporations have established policies aimed at helping employees balance the demands of work and family life, according to a survey by the non-profit Families and Work Institute in New York.
But there's a big gap between that first glimmer of corporate consciousness and a real commitment.
The Big Boss can issue directives right and left, advocates of family-friendly policies say, but unless mid-level managers learn to manage flexibly, workers will see little change from traditions dictating that work and family life remain separate.
"If you have a manager who does not buy into that policy, then for the line worker it might be difficult to take advantage of that program or policy," said Janet Singerman, deputy director of the Maryland Committee for Children Inc.
The Maryland group will attempt to smooth the implementation of family-friendly policies in a daylong seminar May 29 entitled "Managing Flexibly: Meeting the Challenges of Work/Family Issues." The $100 seminar, part of a group of events planned for the 1992 Maryland Week of the Working Parent, will be held at the Sheraton Inner Harbor.
To register, call Ms. Singerman at 752-7588.
Kathie Lingle, director of training at the Families and Work Institute, cited two big obstacles to work/family policies.
One, she said, is "a perception that all this costs a lot more money than it generates" -- a view she says is mistaken. Even more formidable, she added, is the tendency to measure employee output in the number of "visible hours" they spend at their desks -- that is, hours when the supervisor is present.
For more information of work/family policies and programs, call the Families and Work Institute at (212) 465-2044.