Focus group participants described a number of benefits that the University provides that are particularly helpful to them in achieving a positive work-life balance. Some of these benefits include the paid vacation between Christmas and New Years, limited flextime availability, and wellness opportunities. However, many interviewees explained that they, or others they knew, were not able to take advantage of many of these benefits—either because supervisors did not allow the benefit to be fully utilized (e.g., flextime) or because the type of work performed by their unit prevented them from utilizing the benefit. One of the most frequently repeated concerns expressed by employees in regards to benefits was the importance of assuring that all employees were afforded equal access to all available benefits and that access not be limited by a supervisor’s narrow interpretations of a benefit’s availability or by the nature of one’s work.
Interviewees also acknowledged that one’s personal circumstances often dictated how helpful benefits were in reducing the challenges inherent in balancing work and family expectations. So, while affordable child care might be particularly important for employees with young children, this benefit does little to assist the employee who is caring for an elderly parent. Similarly the tuition-waiver benefit, while extremely beneficial for employees who wish to continue their education or for those who have college-age children, is of limited value to employees without children or for those whose children are grown. For this reason, many employees suggested what was best described by one interviewee as "a cafeteria of benefits." In other words, employees would be given a list of benefit options and monetary guidelines for total benefits. They would then be allowed to choose the package of benefit options most relevant for their circumstances.
Data from focus group interviews revealed a number of benefits, some requiring funds to implement and some that could be implemented without a significant expenditure of funds, that employees believed would be helpful in assisting them to achieving a more positive work-life balance. The types of benefits discussed and the manner in which these benefits would be helpful were relatively consistent across focus groups. Below is a list of the most commonly cited benefits, in order of importance, that employees identified as ones that would be most helpful to them in managing work and family obligations effectively.
- Expansion of Course Fee Waivers
- Employee Assistance Program
- Adequate and Affordable Health Care Benefits
- Short-Term Family Leave and Disability Benefits
- Expanded and Formalized Flextime Options
- Adequate Salaries
- Accessible Affordable Child and Adult Care
- Partner Benefits
- Enhanced Communication
- Supervisor Training and Consistency
- Respect and Appreciation of Work Contributions
- Accessible and Confidential Grievance Structures