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Child-Care-Related Stress Follows Women Up the Corporate Ladder

More than half the women in all job categories reported that they missed at least one day of work in six months because of child-care difficulties.

August 18, 1996|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS

A recent study, which included men and women at different rungs of the corporate ladder, found that stress and disruption caused by child-care problems decreased significantly for men as they moved higher in the corporate structure.

For women, however, stress and work disruption from child-care problems remained virtually unchanged in all job categories.

"The issues may be different, but the bottom line was that women had the same level of work disruptions at the upper level as they did at the lower level," Marlynn Levin, one of the authors of the study, said at a recent conference in Los Angeles titled "Careers and Kids: Balancing Work and Parenting Responsibilities."

Nearly a third of the men in hourly jobs reported at least one absence in six months because of child-care problems. That shrank to 16% in the professional and administrative category and 12% in the executive category.

By comparison, more than half the women in all job categories reported that they had missed at least one day of work in six months because of child-care difficulties, according to the study by the Merrill-Palmer Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit. The institute's Work/Family department surveyed workers at large employers at 29 sites in several states.

The study defined a work disruption as missing work, coming to work late, leaving early or being interrupted at work.

"Many top executives, many CEOs don't have this problem because their wives stayed home," Levin said. "Many don't realize these problems exist."

As women move higher in the corporate structure, companies that don't provide the support needed to keep child-care problems from interfering with work will feel it on the bottom line: The study concluded that absenteeism because of child care cost companies between $66,000 a year for small firms and $3.5 million a year for large corporations.

At-Home Vacations

The stress of the work-family tango can pop up in the strangest places. Vacation, for instance.

It seems working parents aren't taking them, or at least aren't going anywhere when they do.

"Your best chance for tracking down people this summer is to call them at home. With people spending more time on the job and less at home during the year, nearly eight in 10 plan to use part of their vacation time to catch up with chores around the house," according to Wirthlin Worldwide, a research firm in McLean, Va., that recently studied the travel plans of U.S. adults.

The survey, a representative random sample of 1,002 adults, discovered that nearly six out of 10 people find it a challenge simply to get time off from work for a vacation. Planning a vacation and coordinating family schedules add more stress: About two-thirds of those surveyed had problems in both these areas.

"As a result, people don't travel the way they used to," Wirthlin said. Some don't go anywhere, and many others take several short trips of only a few days' duration rather than a traditional two-week jaunt.

One solution for busy people is to combine work and pleasure.

Three out of four business travelers surveyed by Wirthlin said they would probably tack personal days onto a work trip. More than half said they would probably take a family member along. For more than a third, the family member would be a child under 18.

Another Family-Friendly Employer

Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minn., is building a 24-hour day-care center, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The owner is the artist formerly known as Prince and soon to be known as Daddy. The pop star and his wife, Mayte, are expecting a baby in November.

But the child-care perks won't be limited to the new princeling. All of the employees of the recording studio will be encouraged to bring their children to the center and its play area, which will have a custom-designed carousel and educational playground equipment.

Has your company developed an interesting way to help employees balance work life and personal life? Write to Balancing Act, Los Angeles Times, Business Section, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053. Or send e-mail to nancy.rivera.brooks@latimes.com

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