| Studies show work/life balance
programs go a long way to help CPA firms of
all sizes attract and retain high-quality
professionals and are a key factor in employee
Successful programs address
elder-care as well as child-care needs. The
growing demand for attending to parents is one of
today’s most significant trends.
More than a decade has passed
since businesses started to implement
work/life-balance-friendly policies, but only a few
firms are claiming success. If top managers of an
organization don’t support work/life programs, they
are likely to fail.
Ernst & Young rates its
managers on how available they make
work/life options and factors those ratings into
reviews and bonuses.
Deloitte & Touche’s
program helps employees tailor a
partnership path through different phases of their
The business case for work/life
balance programs grows stronger every
day. Research shows that employers that don’t
consider how family and work responsibilities affect
their employees are hindering their ability to
operate more efficiently.
is certified as a senior professional in human
resources by the Society for Human Resource
Management and is director of human resources for
a nonprofit policy research organization based in
New York City. He also is assistant professor of
management at the University of Bridgeport,
Connecticut. His e-mail address is
alancing work and family has
overtaken benefits and compensation as a key factor in
employee satisfaction—and a key concern for CPA firms and
companies trying to attract and retain high-quality
professional staff. That’s the conclusion of a major study
conducted by the AICPA’s Work/Life and Women’s Initiatives
Executive Committee in 2004. In a follow-up last year, Linda
Bergen, CPA, a Citigroup corporate accounting vice-president
in New York, reported time spent on the job and work/life
balance issues are the top two reasons CPAs change jobs.
In fact, dual-wage-earning families in general are working
longer hours. Catalyst, a nonprofit research and advisory
organization in New York, found the combined weekly work hours
of wage-earning couples rose to 91 hours in 2002—up more than
8% in just 10 years.
|A Balancing Act |
More than 25% of workers said a
work/family balance was more important to them than
competitive wages or job security.
More than 25% of employee absences were
caused by family issues—up from just 11.5% six years
Sources: “Work-Life Benefits”
Writing for the New
York Times, Judith Shulevitz cited a Families and Work
Institute study (
www.familiesandwork.org ) that found younger
college-educated workers were less willing “to sacrifice
everything to advance their careers” than baby boomers were.
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.
Adapting to contemporary needs calls for more than a
one-size-fits-all approach to work/life benefits programs,
however. Witness the growing demand for time to attend to
one’s parents, which is one of the most significant trends in
the area of work/life balance. Smart firms and companies are
implementing programs that address employees’ elder-care
demands as well as single-parent staff members’
The challenge of effectively
meeting workplace and personal needs continues to fall more
heavily on women than men. More than 65% of families with
preschool children had mothers working outside the home,
according to HR Review, and if a child is sick, most
often it’s the mother who’s called.
Roles are starting
to change, though, when it comes to taking time off to deal
with elder-care issues. Here responsibility is often
parent-specific: The man cares for his aging parents and the
woman does the same for hers.
Employees who face the
demands of both parenting and elder care are sometimes called
the “sandwich generation.” A survey conducted by the Labor
Project for Working Families in 2002 ( www.laborproject.org
) found that 40% of those caring for parents and
grandparents had child-care responsibilities, too. This
demographic sector is likely to increase with the aging
CPA firms have been among the most responsive work
environments in establishing comprehensive family-friendly
policies and programs, yet resounding successes are few. The
reasons vary, but there’s some evidence that corporate culture
and societal stigma may be prime culprits. Culture is set at
the top and filters down through an organization. If a firm’s
managing partner or other supervisors don’t support the spirit
and practice of work/life programs, they may fail.
landmark study by Xerox and the Ford Foundation, “Rethinking
Life and Work,” found employers that don’t consider how
employees’ family and work responsibilities affect each other
hinder an organization’s ability to be fully productive.
Solutions to both work and life issues evolve if employers
analyze the way work is done and the interrelationship between
the demands of the job and the demands of employees’ home
STARTING TO LOOK UP
Ernst & Young (E&Y) changed its culture and shed
any stigma about work/life options, notes Sylvia Ann Hewlett,
president of the Center for Work/Life Policy in New York (
www.worklifepolicy.org ). The firm adopted a policy of
having its employees rate their managers on how available they
made work/life options, and using those ratings in yearend
performance reviews and bonuses. Today about 27% of E&Y’s
workforce uses some form of flexible work arrangement.
To support its work/life balance policies, Deloitte &
Touche (D&T) instituted a mass career customization (MCC)
program. It is based on the idea that every employee’s life
goes through a range of changes over a 40-year career, says
Paul Silverglate, CPA, strategic client services partner. 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.
| ||Types of
Work/Life Balance Programs |
The six basic
categories of work/life programs are
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.
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.
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
A combination of part-time
or reduced hours coupled with an off-site
MEASURING RETURN ON INVESTMENT
A good way to start measuring ROI is by looking at what
you’re trying to achieve with your firm’s work/life balance
programs. If staff retention is your key concern, consider the
example of on-site child care, which many firms now offer.
Six-person Deborah Bailey Browne and Associates in
Wappingers Falls, N.Y., gets better staff productivity because
it chooses to accommodate emergency child care. Boston firm
Vitale Caturano, which now employs about 280 people and 29
partners, was a 55-person, 10-partner enterprise when it began
its well-known multifaceted program of work/life incentives in
1996. The firm says its generous programs are highly
cost-effective; if it costs $200,000 a year to hire a
caregiver to provide child care for 20 employees on
busy-season Saturdays, the firm calculates you will save money
if you retain just four $75,000-a-year employees who otherwise
would have left.
Deloitte & Touche began measuring
the savings from its formal flexible work arrangements about
10 years ago, says Kathryn Davie Wood, former senior manager
of national human resources. It arrived at a figure of $41.5
million in savings by applying the standard 150% replacement
multiplier to the average annual salary of workers who would
have left had flexible work schedules not been an available
option. The firm then multiplied those figures by the number
of respondents to an internal survey who said they would have
quit the firm for that reason (see “
Advantages of Work/Life Balance Programs ”).
||Advantages of Work/Life
programs can affect the bottom line
positively, says Michelle Martinez in
HR Magazine. The goals of a
good work/life balance program include
Surveys by CCH Inc. showed
that unscheduled absence is on the rise,
and the causes usually are family
responsibilities and personal stress.
Counter this trend with flexible
scheduling or find ways to make it easier
for employees to come to work when a child
is ill. The Washington, D.C., law firm of
Arnold & Porter created a backup
child-care program that partner Fern
O’Brien calculates saves more than
$800,000 a year.
Providing alternative work
arrangements or scheduling has proven
effective in keeping employees on board.
Aetna slashed its turnover rate in half by
allowing employees to return part-time
after family leave for childbirth or
adoption. The result was a 90% retention
rate for leave-takers after five years,
and an annual savings of more than $1
million in recruiting and hiring costs.
Stress relief often results
in productivity increases. A few years
back, when the financial services center
of Hewlett-Packard compressed its workweek
to four 10-hour days, it nearly doubled
its completed call transactions per day.
Reduced overtime costs.
Flexible scheduling often
reduces both overtime and stress. Schedule
changes work particularly well in
organizations that need coverage across
multiple time zones.
When employees provide
greater service, it helps retain clients.
First Tennessee Bank introduced flexible
work arrangements and found that employees
provided more value to customers, which in
turn resulted in better customer
IMPLEMENTING WORK/LIFE BALANCE PROGRAMS
To undertake a successful work/life balance program,
review your firm’s current work policies and practices. Next,
talk to employees to see what they think, and—more
important—what they need in terms of work/life balance support
(see “ Types of Work/Life Programs ”).
Then develop programs to meet as many of those needs as
Good communication is essential, too. If
employees don’t know about the policies and programs you’ve
created, or the culture doesn’t support using them, little
will be accomplished.
Lisa Gardner, a diversity and
organizational effectiveness consultant based in Silver
Spring, Md., suggests training managers in methods for
handling the challenges resulting from work/life balance
policies. Employees on flexible work schedules or working
outside the office can require special supervision, for
Next examine your firm’s benefits and
retirement programs. Consider phased retirement plans to
attract and retain older workers. Encouraging job sharing and
part-time opportunities can increase the available pool of
employees by bringing in students and older workers who want
to work a reduced schedule.
Finally, Gardner says,
model the behaviors and practices that you advocate. If the
boss doesn’t participate, few employees are likely to.
LIFE HAPPENS WHILE YOU’RE MAKING PLANS
Ellen Galinsky, president of Families and Work Institute
in New York, says in many workplaces flexibility “is the
missing ingredient.” Employees who need to work outside of the
main office so they can pick up their kids after work on
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or those who really need to
work a reduced schedule for two years to be able to take care
of a parent, will get new jobs.
“Firms have to figure
out how to be flexible enough to address those fringe issues
or lose the benefit of working with that colleague
altogether,” says Deloitte & Touche’s Silverglate.
Jennifer Kalla, CPA, works in the Minneapolis office of RSM
McGladrey, whose program of flexible work options is used by
more than 50 of its 500 employees. She has been able to
balance her work and life through a flexible workload that
left her evenings free during busy season. “From 5 p.m. to 8
p.m. is [two-year-old son] Ethan time,” Kalla says, “from the
time I pick him up at day care until I read him to sleep at
night.” That doesn’t mean she doesn’t work at home—she does
pull out her laptop after her son goes to bed. She is not
really worried about her ability to advance in the firm. “I
can get there in the long run,” she says.
accounting firm or company is large or small, work/life
balance programs offer a strong opportunity to improve the
bottom line while increasing employee satisfaction.
| CPA Career Center. AICPA
members can search job postings, locate
candidates for open positions, assess
personal strengths and development needs and
access other career-related resources. To
learn more go to
www.cpa2biz.com/Career/default.htm . |
AICPA Work/Life and Women’s
Initiatives Executive Committee. For
information on work/life effectiveness and
staff retention and development, e-mail
Research. The latest research
report containing trends and analysis on
workplace flexibility and women’s
advancement is available at
Women to Watch. The
AICPA, in conjunction with state CPA
societies, honors women as role models for
new professionals in the Women to Watch
Women’s Financial Literacy
Campaign. The AICPA is helping women
become more aware of financial literacy
for more information.
Journal of Accountancy:
Build a Better Career Path, ”
JofA , May06, page 37; “ Staffing
Update: Issues, Trends, Initiatives
,” JofA , Sep.05, page 88; “
Employee Benefits ,” JofA, May05,
Promoting Your Talent: A
Guidebook for Women and Their Firms,
by Nancy R. Baldiga, provides
practice tips and real-life examples from
leaders in the profession for tackling the
obstacles firms and organizations
encounter in leadership development and
promoting talent as well as career
guidance for CPAs. To order this
www.cpa2biz.com or call the
Institute at 888-777-7077.
The Facts on Workplace
Flexibility. Free brochure on a
variety of topics pertaining to work/life,
such as return on investment, culture
change and benchmarking. E-mail
Guidelines. Free brochure to help
mentors, protgs and employers implement a
mentor program, tips for successful
partnerships and agreement and evaluation
“Work/Life: Striking a Balance.”
Free DVD that explores the human interest
story, the business case and best
practices for work/life effectiveness.
Available by request. E-mail
Catalyst (in New York,
Families and Work Institute,
Future Work Institute,
Society for Human Resource
Work-Life Benefits (Raleigh,