As I reflect on this year’s National Work & Family Month, I am reminded of how grateful I am to be in today’s working world. My grandparents’ and parents’ generations worked with virtually no expectation of work/life balance, as we moved from single-income families to more common dual-incomes. That often meant long hours (was anyone else a “latch-key” kid?) with little input into the quality of the work environment. I’m thankful that Gen Xers have made strides in work/life balance and that many corporate Human Resources functions have been supportive. With more generations sharing the workplace than ever, that means today’s Human Resources professionals have a unique landscape of work and family dynamics to consider.
It also means I get a tremendous amount of grief from non-Gen Xers when I tell people my first live concert was New Kids on the Block… but I digress.
I work as Director of Benefits at Erie Insurance, a Fortune 500 company with more than 90 years of experience. We have long believed that our 5,000 employees are our greatest asset and that we must listen carefully and compassionately to the wants and needs of our employees and their families. We have greatly increased our focus on diversity and inclusion over the last five years, knowing that means finding common ground while celebrating and respecting differences.
In order to maintain the ERIE family spirit, we use many communication mechanisms: employee surveys, focus groups and employee interest groups. We analyze our employee population for relevant demographic trends. We even have a dedicated staff member for wellness programs and another who oversees ADA accommodations. Thanks in part to the open dialogue we have with employees, our average tenure is quite high at 13 years.
We’ve been able to identify and implement new work/life benefits like adoption assistance, fertility assistance, coverage for gender transition surgery, flexible work arrangements and long-term care insurance. Each benefit is highly valued by small but passionate groups of employees.
In the last two years, we’ve added three new benefits that help us extend even greater work/life balance at ERIE.
Vacation conversion is a way for Employees to exchange up to two weeks of accrued vacation time for cash or a 401(k) deposit. This is particularly attractive to long-time employees. We see about 12 percent of all employees use the program each year. In order to ensure the program didn’t have the unintended consequence of employees foregoing vacation, we added a one-for-one requirement, whereby an employee must be off work on vacation for every day of vacation the employee wishes to cash in. This is a win-win: the employee takes vacation and also is able to cash in vacation time they consider excess.
In addition, we added two weeks of paid parental leave for moms and dads who grow their families by way of birth or adoption. We want our employees to know that ERIE supports new parents spending time with their growing families. When a child is born, we send care packages, including parenting resources and an ERIE-branded onesie. About 100 employees benefit from the program each year.
We are also building an onsite fitness center to enable employees at our corporate headquarters to fit exercise into their regular work day. This is a wonderful marriage of work/life balance and wellness initiatives.
We’ve received great feedback from our employees on these newer benefits. We look forward to finding additional ways to improve work/life balance. We know that having an open dialogue with them means they will continue to bring us new ideas.
Maybe one of those will even be an onsite NKOTB concert. A Gen Xer can dream, right?