Both men and women would like to work fewer hours, and both would reduce their current total workweek by about 11 hours if they could, according to a National Study of the Changing Workforce conducted by the Families and Work Institute. The proportion of employees who would like to work fewer hours is increasing.
Despite the escalating need for flexibility, it’s still a challenge to find employers who truly embrace family-friendly work policies, companies that do more than pay lip service to the concept. Nonetheless, if you’re willing to do some research and ask the right questions of the right people, you can uncover some winning situations.
1. Focus on small companies. Although the vast majority of these companies never receive any press for their work-life efforts, the reality is that their ability to meet demands for flexibility is often greater than their larger, more bureaucratic corporate counterparts. In today’s tight employment market, small companies are increasingly using flexibility as a lure to attract top-flight talent.
2. To get the real truth behind an employer’s claim of being family friendly, nothing beats having a one-on-one conversation with an employee of the firm. Even if you don’t have a close friend at the company, put the powers of “six degrees of separation” into play and use your personal contacts to network your way into an informational interview. Ask questions such as, “How would you describe the corporate culture here?” or “Are people generally recognized more for accomplishments than for simply putting in long hours?” or “How widespread is the use of flexible schedules within the organization?”
3. If you really can’t get through to an employee, take advantage of some of the websites where employees post their rants and raves. You can also use social networks (Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn) to contact current or past employees.
4. Look at the employment-opportunities page of the company’s website. Many companies now include information about corporate culture and work-life benefits in employment listings.
5. Finally, don’t forget to check some of the listings of family-friendly employers found in magazines such as Fortune. Each January, Fortune publishes its picks for the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America. Even if you aren’t interested in working for one of the honored companies, you’ll learn about the types of benefits available from more progressive employers.