In covering the workplace for more than 15 years, I've heard plenty of companies talk about how they have a "family friendly" environment and programs in place to help employees achieve "work/life" balance.
I've also read lots of nice feature stories in various publications that have named employers to their "best" lists regarding companies that support employees in achieving this balance between their personal and professional lives.
Unfortunately, I don't think we're hearing the whole story.
Too many employees have told me that while their companies have these programs on the books, in reality they feel little support for achieving a work/life balance. Their managers, they tell me, still pressure them to put their personal lives behind their professional dutues, regardless of the circumstances. These workers believe that if they don't sacrifice their personal lives, then they will be hurt professionally, losing out on pay upgrades, promotions or top projects.
In my interview with Kelly Watson of Career Partners, she told me that her company recruits executive women who want to job share. She says that by acting as a sort of traffic cop, her company makes sure these job sharing arrangements can work by supporting women (and men) throughout the process. As she notes: "Bosses feel that if you're serious, you stay at your desk."
Job sharing is an arrangement that appeals to a lot of employees. Workers who have aging parents, baby boomers who are nearing retirment and want to cut back and parents who need to juggle child and work needs are attracted to the idea.
And while Watson's company may be a solid step toward helping employers and employees achieve a work/life balance, the sad reality is that many workers who need that support the most-- lower income or single wage earners -- continue to struggle to cope with increasing work and family demands in this 24/7 environment.