Family Matters

Karen Danenhauer felt she had to make a choice between motherhood and work when she started her family 12 years ago. “I didn’t have the support from the company I worked at. I felt like I was a problem for them,” she explains. With the birth of her second child, she quit her job.

When she rejoined the workforce two and a half years ago as accounting and office manager at Loren/Allan/Odioso Advertising in Cincinnati, Danenhauer didn’t plan on having more children. She was surprised last year to discover she was pregnant again, but when her baby was born in January, she decided to stay on board because her agency had made it easier for her to maintain her dual status as soccer mom and career woman.

“One of the biggest things they did for me was set up a remote network. I can do 75 percent of my job from home,” says the 41-year-old, who thinks the attitude toward parenting has changed in the workplace. “Companies are more aware that having a baby brings temporary changes. Children grow up.”

What has caused this change in attitude? The new generation of workers is adamant about not sacrificing the role of parenting for work. The 2005 Job Satisfaction Survey Report completed by the Society for Human Resource Management shows 69 percent of respondents 35 and younger claim that “flexibility to balance life and work issues” is “very important,” placing it as the most important factor in job satisfaction. That compares to 60 percent, or the third most-important factor, for people ages 35 to 55; employees 56 and older do not even rank it among their top five concerns. (Six hundred randomly selected employees from various workplaces were polled.)

To reduce turnover, more employers—and advertising agencies in particular—are offering special quality-of-life benefits, including the option to work from home, flex time, lactation rooms, emergency back-up childcare and paternity leave.

Jennifer Schramm, manager of workplace trends and forecasting at SHRM, says she’s seeing “a convergence between the sexes in terms of the importance they place on work/life balance.”

Last summer, Brian Wendel, account supervisor at Off Madison Ave in Tempe, Ariz., was the first person at his company to take paternity leave. “Today’s parents are very hands-on and very involved, and things that were more feminine-oriented decades ago are a shared responsibility now,” says Wendel, 31.

A 2002 American Association of Advertising Agencies survey suggests that ad agencies may be ahead of other sectors in responding to family needs. It surveyed agencies that offer paternity leave exceeding that required by the national Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, which requires companies of a certain size to offer eligible employees up to 12 weeks unpaid leave time for family-related matters; the law requires no paid time for similar reasons. Of the 23 agency respondents to the 4A’s survey, 48 percent said they offer paid paternity leave of at least one week. That compares to just 26 percent of SHRM respondents—a pool of 380 HR professionals from a broad spectrum of industries and companies—who said their companies offered family leave beyond the FMLA requirement.

Advertising might see a higher percentage of such benefits because its workforce is generally young. Denise DeMars, svp, director of HR and worldwide compensation director for Foote Cone & Belding, says, “We have a higher [percentage of] Generation X in our demographics than the typical labor force.” DeMars, 42, has observed that generations X and Y are not primarily motivated by financial payback and says that agencies have to look at other means of retaining young employees. FCB now offers two weeks of paid paternity leave, and its San Francisco office has a “quiet room” for nursing and expressing.

Maurice Haynes, vp, director of work/life at Arnold Worldwide, agrees that the new generation of employees has different demands. He notes that it is the younger, prospective parents who are vocal about wanting on-site childcare, a service that Arnold doesn’t offer—yet. Arnold already offers one-week paternity leave, lactation rooms and emergency childcare, but Haynes continues to look for ways to keep talented new mothers coming back to work. “I’m trying to understand what their needs are. I’m trying to think of what would make it easier for them [to come back to work],” says Haynes, 39. He has created a parent support group that meets quarterly, and he is looking at childcare services and remote networks as potential benefits.

Back at Loren/Allan/Odioso, Adryanna Sutherland, vp, account services, made a point of requesting a lactation room when the company moved into a new building. “When we were looking at our new space, it was something I was pretty adamant about,” says Sutherland, 36, explaining that she tried to continue breastfeeding after going back to work when her first child was born. Forced to breastfeed in the uncomfortable bathroom, she only lasted a few weeks. She’s hopeful that she will be able to feed her daughter Morgen, who was born in June, much longer now that Loren/Allan/Odioso has a cozy, private space.

Ultimately, as long as providing family- oriented benefits achieves the goal of reducing turnover, it will continue. As Maureen Godshall, president of Loren/Allan and a 49-year-old mother of two, points out, “We have 20 years experience behind us and have figured things out better than the first wave of working mothers.”