Until something comes up and they have to. Until they're expecting a child, or Mom has a stroke and needs extra care, or they go back to school and want to cut back their hours, or they're sick and need a few weeks off.
Then they spend a few hours online researching family and employment law or perusing the employee handbook to find out what rights they have. And, if they're like most employees, they haven't got many. FMLA only applies to about half of American workers, and even then, your leave will be unpaid. Very few companies offer parental leave or job sharing arrangements to their employees. Many offer some form of flexibility or telecommuting, but not always to everyone. And even if they say they offer these, sometimes employees don't even know about these programs or are afraid to take advantage of them.
So many people, once confronted with the reality that their companies don't have policies that will make family life compatible with work, give up and quit. I admit it--that's what I did when my first child came along.
Not so fast!
You can be an agent of change. You don't have to be an HR professional to do so, either. And the best part is, if you succeed in changing things for your organization, you could make them better for other people, too!
Take charge. Some suggestions: Offer to become a flexibility liaison. Form a committee to find out what changes other employees would like to see. Convince your organization that family-friendly policies are in their best interests (here's a brochure to get you started). Use your employee suggestion box. Start a child care cooperative at work, or find out how to make child/elder care referral programs available for your organization. Make a proposal to job share. Be the first in your company to Skype meetings. Try working from home on a trial basis. Ask your company to give you partial pay while you take a parental leave. Submit a proposal to work the hours that would work best for you.
To use an LDS example, Quentin L. Cook said, "I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents." Or, to use a quote from the business world, Anne M. Mulcahy (retired Xerox CEO) said, "We're living in a different world now in terms of employee needs, and companies have to offer alternative methods for getting the work done. Even under the most difficult circumstances you can have creative flexibility."
I think this is particularly interesting because these quotes appeal to both men and women. And even though both the LDS Church and the business world tend (for many in the US) to be conservative politically, most battles that have been fought over employee rights and family issues have been championed by liberal politicians. That needs to change.
If your company currently doesn't have family-friendly policies, you can be a pioneer! It may require some creativity, but I believe that in order to remain competitive, companies will need to be flexible in order to retain talent so that they can continue to be productive and innovative.
This is why I think there can be a workplace revolution. Why should family-friendly workplace policies be a women's issue or a liberal issue? Families need to work, and people need to spend time with their families. It doesn't matter if you're liberal or conservative, religious or not, male or female, single or married, childless or surrounded by stinky diapers.
Don't let anyone co-opt family and work issues to claim them as their own. Don't give up too easily. Don't wait for the law or for your workplaces to catch up to your needs.
Take action now! Flexible workplaces benefit everyone.