As employee retention and wellness go hand in hand in the workplace, work and life integration has become a strong focus for employers and employees alike. For 65 years, The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has actively advocated for improvements for all engineers, especially women with family obligations. That's why SWE remains a supporting organization and a resource for information on work and life integration policy and programs.
In 2012, the SWE Mega Issue Committee conducted a survey of more than 400 women with and without children, finding that 50 percent of the respondents have thought about leaving their current employer, declined offers or left companies due to lack of work and life integration policies. Additionally, 76 percent of respondents believe the demands of their work schedule are their top struggle in the pursuit of their ideal work and life integration.
There needs to be a change, but so often employers don't know where to start to foster an environment with positive work and life integration. And, if they do have policies in place, they're not always successful, based on the implementation.
"Work and life integration programs are vital to retaining employees, and while policies may exist, how they are implemented is key to success," said Karen Horting, executive director and CEO of SWE. "There's no one formula that works for everyone - employees with children, employees caring for an elder, employees with commitments to their community or church, for example. It's about having options. Many employers foster an environment with a rigid structure that doesn't embrace flexibility, and that needs to be changed."
SWE's Work & Life Integration Playbook aims to provide a little guidance - offering valuable insight into key areas for improving work and life integration, including flexibility in the workplace, programs for parents, health and wellness, care for dependents and other loved ones, and financial support.
"By improving work and life integration, employers are enabling women, and all employees, to integrate the various aspects of their lives to be successful on their own terms, for both career and family," said Mary Perkinson, Director of Advocacy at SWE. "With the appropriate resources and environment, it is not only possible to improve work-life integration, but it is also becoming a competitive advantage of leading employers."
For more on the topic of work and life integration, see SWE's General Position Statement on the Need for Work and Life Integration Policies to Retain Women in STEM.