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Weighing Your Balance : Take This Quiz to See How Well Your Company Handles Work/Family Conflicts

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Helping workers achieve a balance between their work lives and their personal lives is a hot topic in management circles these days. But is your workplace really family friendly or barely family tolerant? This quiz for managers may give you a hint.

1) One of your employees calls in sick, but in the background you hear the theme from “Barney” and a suspiciously young-sounding cough. What do you do?

- A) Accuse the employee of staying home to take care of a sick child and tell the employee to consider whether family responsibilities are interfering with work responsibilities.

- B) Note the absence and subtly remind the employee that your company has a child-care referral service for future child-care emergencies.

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- C) Wish the employee a speedy recovery, confident that the work will get done because employees in your department work as a team to preserve the flexible setup you have established.

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2) Within one week, two employees--one a vice president and the other a secretary--reveal that each is pregnant and will give birth in about six months. What does your company do?

- A) Gives the vice president any length of maternity leave she requests but asks the secretary to return after six weeks.

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- B) Gives each the option of extra unpaid leave beyond the weeks covered by state disability pay. Of course, the vice president is better able to afford this option than is the secretary.

- C) Supplements state disability pay and guarantees the employees’ jobs for up to a year.

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3) A worker has approached you with a request for flexible working hours. What is your response?

- A) “I don’t think so. If I let you do it, then everyone would want to do it.”

- B) “Maybe. But I need you to prove to me how you plan to get the work done.”

- C) “Sure. Write up a proposal. Here are some examples to show you how it’s done.”

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4) Meetings are a fact of life at your company. How do you decide when to hold them?

- A) Meeting hours are unpredictable. We hold them when we need them, whether at noon or 5 p.m.

- B) Standing 8 a.m. meetings are the norm here. We do our best work in the morning, and everyone appreciates knowing when the meetings will be.

- C) Meetings usually are scheduled in advance at the most convenient times for most employees, which tends to mean no early-morning or after-hours meetings that would interfere with child-care arrangements.

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5) An employee who frequently works in the office late or on weekends:

- A) Is a good employee.

- B) Needs to manage time better. The supervisor should discuss ways to improve the employee’s situation.

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- C) Is a rarity. It is seldom done in the department, perhaps only when a big deadline nears such as a trade show. Results are valued more than “face time,” or time spent in the office.

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6) When an employee travels on business:

- A) It doesn’t matter if the employee has children or not. The job needs to get done.

- B) An employee is free to take along a child on the trip as long as the objective of the trip is achieved.

- C) The employee is reimbursed for any extra child-care costs as a result of the worker’s travel.

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7) One of your employees has repeated child-care emergencies and wants to bring the child to work for part of the day tomorrow. What is your response?

- A) My company doesn’t allow that. There are insurance concerns and it would be too disruptive. We’re running a business here, not a social service agency.

- B) We don’t object to occasional visits by employees’ children. But we do have a child-care referral system that employees can use for help with child-care problems.

- C) Employees are free to bring their children to work. But there is seldom a need because of our excellent on-site child-care center, which also includes after-school and vacation care for school-age children.

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8) Employees in your department work:

- A) In the office, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

- B) Are free to negotiate a flexible schedule, but it’s on a case-by-case basis.

- C) Are free to set their own hours and to telecommute when necessary. Our department is driven by results.

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9) Paternity leave is:

- A) Something one guy tried once. I don’t think he works here anymore.

- B) One of our policies, but it is seldom used.

- C) Actually rather popular, though most of the leaves tend to be short--only a week to a month. Even our CEO did it.

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10) Family-friendly policies are:

- A) A fad and unfair to single people or those without children or elderly relatives.

- B) A good thing to do because it’s right, and society doesn’t do enough to support families.

- C) A good business practice and an integral part of our business plan. These policies and the workplace flexibility required to make them work have made us a better company, one that is more competitive with extremely motivated and loyal employees.

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ANSWERS: Sorry, there are no right answers: Hey, you thought being a manager was easy?

In each question, Answer B tends to be more flexible and family friendly than Answer A, and C is more flexible and family friendly than B. But the correct approach depends in part on your company’s policies. Human resource experts stress that the most family-friendly workplace is one that is efficient and values results rather than time actually spent under the watchful eye of a supervisor. Managers need to trust their workers and employees need to be allowed to come up with their own solutions for these problems. Value flexibility over control. And keep communicating.


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