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Balancing commitments - what’s the right approach?

As 2018 ended, I read an article about a global investment bank which has introduced an ‘emergency care service’ as part of its initiative to cut the gender pay gap (by helping more women to get to more highly paid senior positions). The ‘emergency care’ includes an in-home nanny service for ill children who are unable to attend school, and carers being made available to take care of adult dependents. This firm also provides a free on-site creche and further supports working mothers through a programme which ships mothers’ breast milk home to babies if they have to work overseas.

On the surface, all this sounds marvellous. Finding reliable and caring every day and back-up support can be a real source of anxiety so having your employer take care of it for you is a massive employee benefit. Or is it?

Let’s think about it from a different perspective. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that this investment bank operates in a way which promotes people into highly-paid senior positions based on long working hours, travel, total commitment and sacrifice for the firm. It’s likely that their expectation is for work to always take priority, so they provide the family support to enable this (so ultimately, they can say they have cut the gender pay gap). They claim they recognise the challenges that can come from balancing family commitments with work and do everything they can to support.

Going into 2019 and the rest of the 21st Century, shouldn’t we be challenging this approach to balancing family and work commitments? It’s not just about providing ‘support’ to enable us to give work priority over family. Organisations need to start thinking more innovatively about how they can really help us to achieve the life/work balance we are seeking. In order to have a successful career, do we really need to subcontract all the care of our children to nurseries and push our old people into care homes? It doesn’t sound like balance to me – I would welcome your views and experiences.

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