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Life in the Balance

Today's Top Reads Close

families.jpgLast week, Working Mother Magazine published its list of the 100 best companies for working moms -- a list that Johnson & Johnson has made every year since the survey was started.

I've always been a cynic when it comes to these kinds of surveys -- which a friend of mine used to call "corporate beauty pageants."

But this one has always been different -- both in terms of its scope and its overall objective. It's a very detailed survey that examines many facets of corporate life -- from the availability of flexible work schedules to programs that help employees care for elderly parents. I used to have the dubious pleasure of filling in Working Mother's survey application form -- and believe me, at 30-40 pages long, it is very involved. Yet the survey is not only comprehensive, it also serves a purpose that is dear to most of us -- it encourages companies to help employees better balance their work and personal lives.

For instance, the package of stories that accompanied this year's survey results included an article about the following:

An anti-overwork movement is underfoot that feels almost quaintly counter-culture against today's backdrop of our constantly connected lives, where BlackBerrys have become the latest appendage, one out of every five Americans surveyed brought a laptop on vacation, and the demands of a global economy have amped up both responsibilities and expectations.

The article then went on to describe programs that encourage employees to unplug and recharge. This certainly struck home with me. Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with my Blackberry -- while it gives me greater freedom, I can never seem to shut down completely. It's refreshing that these issues are taken seriously -- and to find that I'm not alone.

As the pace of business and personal life continues to accelerate, it is increasingly difficult to figure out how to strike the right balance.

Employers can help by setting the right tone and providing different tools and support. It isn't always easy to do, and there is always room for improvement, but it seems to be worth it. I understand Johnson & Johnson and its operating units are always looking for new approaches. As CEO Bill Weldon said in another feature in the magazine, "How do we create opportunities for our employees to excel and also find that balance they look for?"

One way is to listen to what employees are saying. That’s actually been the source of some of the work-life programs that are now available at Johnson & Johnson. For instance, a few years ago an employee who had recently given birth had the bright idea of setting up rooms that could be used by new moms to express milk in private. The idea took off, and today many sites have private rooms, comfy couches and other support for nursing moms.

Now if I can only think of a way of unplugging – short of throwing my Blackberry out of the window…

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