Russell J. Campanello works as chief people officer at an Internet professional-services firm called NerveWire Inc., where he thinks a great deal about infusing the modern workplace with flexible programs such as telecommuting for work-at-home moms and pet-friendly offices for dog lovers. "In order to compete in this extremely competitive talent market, companies must add work-life programs to their roster of benefits," he says. "A great location, reasonable hours, and personalized work-life initiatives are no longer regarded as perks -- they are necessities."
What's the Problem?
Campanello fields many questions from frustrated employees and team leaders working to introduce progressive work-life programs into their company cultures. At Fast Company's recent TalentLabs event in Boston a participant asked this question, which we, in turn, posed to Campanello:
"As a team leader, I recognize the benefit of instituting work-life balance initiatives such as flextime and child care, but how do I help the higher-ups in my company see the benefits of investing money and resources in these programs?"
"In today's market, where demand far exceeds supply, the winners are going to be the organizations that engage their employees in a responsible dialogue that respects them and understands them. If benefits and work-life balance are important to your team members, they should be important to you. And you should fight for them. That doesn't mean you will get everything you ask for, but it does mean that your team members will feel heard and that they will better understand the company's constraints.
"Collect all the info, fight for what you think is right -- and don't be afraid to walk if the company clearly doesn't get it.
"After all, this is a revolution, right?! This is about a radical restructuring of the relationship between employees and employers. For perhaps the first time in history, we have an opportunity to discuss the things that engage the employee. I believe the key here is trust and responsibility. There is no freedom without responsibility. There can be no democracy without participation.
"Employees must bear the ultimate responsibility for their choices. You can expect your employer to care about you, but they can't care for you. It's up to employees to begin asking and setting demands, and then voting with their feet -- leaving companies that won't listen to employees' concerns about work-life balance. Organizations need to learn that employees are no longer willing to compromise on their happiness. And team leaders need to begin fighting for their employees' best interests."
What's Your Solution?
"If any given program is highly important to an employee or to a leader, that person needs to start a crusade by collecting information and by influencing the people who make decisions. Thankfully, there's a ton of information available out there.
"The Boston College Center for Work and Family and Britain's Work Life Balance are crawling with resources, case studies, and vendors. Likewise, Web sites like AtBalance Solutions and BenefitsLink will introduce you to high-tech solutions such as time-management tools, goal-based education, and anonymous feedback mechanisms. If you arm yourself with examples of enabling tools that your company can use and of real solutions within your grasp, the bean counters should pay close attention to your concerns.
"In addition, anyone who really cares about this topic should log onto the Cluetrain Manifesto and Vault.com, two Web sites that contain a ton of information about employers, employees, and benefits, as well as robust communities of people who engage in dialogue about the importance of work-life considerations.
"Finally, my advice to fire starters who try and try to effect change, but can't convince management to install a work-life program? Leave. If you can't get the airtime or the response you deserve, then that company is probably not the right place for you."
Contact Russell J. Campanello by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).