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AICPA Journal of Accountancy Reports on Work Life Balance Trends

The August 2006 issue of the Journal of Accountancy published by the AICPA has a wonderful article entitled: The Retention Factor: How Employers Use Work/Life Balance to Keep Top People. According to the article, "balancing work and family has overtaken benefits and compensation as a key factor in employee satisfaction." As support, the article cited a Families and Work Institute study that found younger college-educated workers were less willing “to sacrifice everything to advance their careers” than baby boomers were. Similarly, the study found that people entering the workforce today are more likely to turn down promotions if the new job means longer days and having to bring more work home.

A sidebar in the article listed these six basic categories of work/life programs (source: Catalyst):

  • Flextime. Employees choose starting and ending hours, but typically must be present in the office during “core” periods, such as 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Flexible week. Sometimes called a “compressed workweek,” this approach allows employees to work longer hours over a smaller number of days. That could be 10 hours a day for four days a week or, alternatively, fewer hours in a given day over a six-day workweek.
  • Work-at-home, flexplace or telecommuting. Some or all of the work is done off-site at the employee’s home or at local satellite offices set up near where clusters of employees live. Typically the employee is connected to the office by computer and virtual private network (VPN). Be mindful of the need for insurance protection in establishing a telecommuting arrangement.
  • Part-time. Most familiar to employers, this option offers employees a reduced work schedule (such as post-family leave for child-care reasons).
  • Job sharing. Two employees share or divide the workload of a single job
  • Part-time telecommuting. A combination of part-time or reduced hours coupled with an off-site working location.

It seems that large accounting firms are ahead of large law firms when it comes to addressing work life balance issues. The article cites Ernst & Young and Deloitte & Touche as two large accounting firms that have implemented successful work life balance programs. For example, Deloitte & Touche's mass career customization (MCC) program was launched based on the idea that every employee’s life goes through a range of changes over a 40-year career, and that some of those predictable life events such as childbearing require more personal time. The MCC program institutionalizes accommodation for those different phases so staff can pursue an extended long-term partnership path.

At Ernst & Young, the EasyLife programme offers employees practical services at the office such as: ironing, dry-cleaning, catering, shopping, photo development, carwash, massage, postal services -- and perhaps most importantly for working parents - emergency childcare.

Large law firms - take note.

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