By: Kate Lorenz
Do you feel like the single workers without kids in your office have an advantage over you because they can work late and get more time to suck up to the boss? Does it seem like all the plum projects are going to this gung-ho set of go-getters? These observations could be legitimate complaints, or maybe they’re just another excuse for you to grouse about work.
Here’s a look at some long-held assumptions about marital and familial status in the workplace and how they hold up in today’s corporate environment.
Assumption: Employees who are married with children utilize more benefits at the expense of the organization.
Reality: Not true. Today most companies offer a wide array of benefits to appeal to a diverse set of employees. Whether it’s a temporary leave of absence to study for a professional certification or paternity time off after an adoption, companies today are working to appeal to many different segments of the working population.
“Most companies today examine the demographics of their employee base and design their benefits accordingly,” says Frank Scanlon of the Human Resource Society of America. For instance, if there is a need for on-site daycare or continuing education assistance, a company usually will look into providing such a benefit. This type of responsiveness to employees’ needs makes for happier, and therefore more productive, employees.
“It’s important for companies to support the whole person, not just the work person,” says Marna Hayden, president of Hayden Resources, a human resources consulting firm. “When companies show an understanding for the need for work/life balance, they create an extremely loyal and dedicated workforce.”
Assumption: Flexible working arrangements are dead-end options for workers on the “mommy track.”
Reality: False. Telecommuting, job sharing and flexible scheduling are increasingly being utilized by more traditional employees, not just those seeking to keep a toe in the corporate pool while they are home with their kids.
Tina, an underwriter at a national insurance firm, was single with no children and was able to set up a telecommuting arrangement based on her outstanding performance record. And more and more, sales representatives work out of a home office, especially when extensive travel is required.
Assumption: Working parents take too many sick days to care for their children who seem to catch every virus that’s going around.
Reality: Yes and no. Scanlon notes that more companies are moving away from applying specific labels to time off and instead are creating “banks” of paid time off for each employee. That way everyone gets the same amount of time to use as they wish, whether it’s vacationing in Italy or tending to a sick little one at home.
In addition, Hayden notes, “many employees now have the option to work at home if a child is sick,” therefore decreasing the amount of work missed due to family illness.
Assumption: Employees who have family responsibilities don’t put in enough hours.
Reality: Not true. While working parents often must leave the office promptly to pick up their children from daycare, laptops and e-mail allow these employees to continue their work at home in the evening, often once their child is safely tucked in bed. It’s an arrangement Scanlon says he and his wife take advantage of frequently with their young child. All in all, companies seem to be making an earnest effort to be fair to all their employees. And while it’s true that some benefits are structured for working parents, while others are a better fit for single workers without family responsibilities, it all seems to even out in the end.