By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large
Chances are, you’re reading these days about companies that are offering more in the way of programs designed to improve the so-called “work-life balance.” Whether it’s the option to telecommute, paid maternity leave for either parent when there’s a new addition to the family, or reduced schedules, more of Corporate America seems to be catching onto the idea that a happy employee is a productive, loyal employee, and that the way to help encourage more of that productivity and loyalty is to shift to a more employee-centric model at the office. It all sounds great, and who wouldn’t like to see more of this kind of thing made available? Well, as it turns out, while the availability of these kinds of programs is certainly on the rise, the number of workers actually using them remains fairly insignificant, overall – according to a new study conducted jointly by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co, only 12 percent of employees to whom these kinds of programs are available actually use them.
The problem, it seems, is this: It turns out that while more employees are inclined to taking advantage of these flexibility options, there is a strong feeling among that group, as a whole, that anyone who does is simply not as committed to his job…and who in the workforce wants to be dogged by that perception, particularly while the country remains mired in a sluggish economy?
The underlying issue, say experts, is that while companies are offering these types of opportunities on an increasing basis, few are truly committed to them in a way that would inspire more confidence on the part of the staff to use them. Put another way, these kinds of programs have largely failed to weave their way into the fabric of a given company’s culture, and until that happens, we can all expect the number of employees asking management about becoming a telecommuter, or requesting to use a unique, family-friendly paid leave option…to remain very low.