The right way to balance work and life has been a matter of corporate and personal attention for years. No, decades.
Once seen as a perk for executive women, these programs are moving out of the corner office and into cubicles and call centers. Along the way, they’re not only helping employees achieve flexibility — they’re also having a positive impact on the bottom line.
Cable has always been at the forefront of technology that helps integrate work and life. The industry is also on the cutting edge of programs that benefit our employees, serve as strong retention and recruitment tools, save us money and serve our customers better. Operators such as Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse are using innovative telework programs to allow their customer-service representatives to work from home, full-time.
By moving workers out of call centers and into their homes, everyone benefits. Employees get back time spent commuting and gain the flexibility telecommuting provides. Operators find they have more productive employees and also realize tremendous savings on everything from office space to electricity.
Companies have taken note of the importance of telecommuting programs. In 2003, the first year of the Women In Cable Telecommunications PAR (Pay equity, Advancement, Resources) Initiative, 42.9% of employers offered full-time telecommuting. Today, that number has jumped to 60%.
The 24/7 nature of customer service also provides for flexibility. Employers are rewarding their best performers by allowing them to choose their shift, so someone is always available for the children or other family members and they can save on child care or elder care costs.
The industry needs these tools and more of them because in the five years since WICT launched the PAR Initiative, the percentage of women in the cable workforce fell from 38.7% to 35.8%. Although we’ve lost women in almost every category, such business-critical areas as call centers and technology are especially feeling the pinch. Women in call centers have dropped from 63.4% of the work force in 2004 to 61.3% today. The female technology workforce has dropped from 30.4% in 2004 to 24.4% today. As the industry increases its broadband-services offering, customer-service staff is added to meet that demand, and men are often more likely to have the required engineering or technical skills to support these products.
As an industry, we recognize how important retention programs are to companies’ success, and there has been a lot of growth in just the past year. We saw huge gains in the number of companies easing re-entry from maternity leave, up from 40% in 2006 to 60% in 2007, and re-entry from an illness, up to 45% in 2007 from just 15% in 2006.
Many participants in the PAR Initiative ensure these highly valued programs are available beyond corporate headquarters. Time Warner, for example, makes its backup child-care program in New York available to visiting employees. Turner Broadcasting System’s child care services ensure CNN employees can meet the unexpected demands of breaking news.
When an industry creates a corporate culture where its employees’ needs are met and they feel valued, those workers become more loyal. And it costs a lot less to keep a good employee than to find and train a new one.