Monday, September 27, 2004

Taking care of business - and families


October's Working Mother magazine includes its 19th annual list of the 100 best companies for working moms. It's good that three local companies - Cinergy, Procter & Gamble and TriHealth - made the list. And it's good that companies are doing more to recruit, retain and support working mothers.

The best part of this story, however, goes beyond the companies honored and beyond issues related to moms alone. The practices highlighted in this ranking make the workplace better for all employees. More important, they've made our nation more responsive to the needs of children and families.

And there's a clear benefit for business: A more humane workplace and employees who know their children are well have positive effects on productivity.

As the annual listing shows, the last two decades have been a time for more flexibility and innovation in many American companies. We're not saying America is leading the world in family-friendly workplace policies. It's not. But we are saying that many leading companies have made a real commitment to flextime, telecommuting and other creative logistics that break the lock-step approach to the world of work. At S.C. Johnson & Son, one of 10 companies singled out for high praise on the listing, 37 percent of the company's 4,098 employees telecommuted last year.

Many companies have also gone beyond the letter of the Family and Medical Leave Act to offer extra support to families during times of change or crisis. At P&G, even female employees with less than a year of service can take a year off for a new baby, with eight weeks fully paid, and adoptive parents can apply for up to $5,000 in assistance. At S.C. Johnson & Son, besides generous leave for moms, new dads and adoptive parents get six weeks of paid leave.

For years, business leaders weighed in with recommendations on education, child care and child development while ignoring the inflexible work schedules and overworked parents that caused hardships for so many children. Now, by not only acknowledging workers' family needs, but accommodating them, employers have found taking care of families is the best way to take care of business.

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