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Work & Careers | BALANCING ACT / NANCY RIVERA BROOKS

Get a Life, Xerox Tells Employees, and Its Motives Are Multifold

September 21, 1997|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS

Nancy Pappas did not report to her corporate office for an entire year, leaving her workload to be distributed among her colleagues.

And when she finally did return, Pappas wasn't given her old job back. She was promoted.

Pappas works for Xerox Corp. as a marketing manager in the Century City office. But in 1993, Pappas devoted her energies to Rebuild L.A. (now RLA), the Peter Ueberroth-led organization born from the 1992 riots to bring more corporate investment to the neglected areas of Los Angeles.

Pappas, who spent the year as a project manager working with the Asian community, was a participant in Xerox's "social leave" program, which is marking its 25th year of operation. In that time, nearly 425 Xerox employees have taken up to one year off from their regular jobs to work full time in their communities.

Pappas, who was out of the country during the May 1992 civil unrest, watched it unfold on television.

"I was shocked that this was happening in Los Angeles, in my hometown," Pappas said. "I felt I had be to involved in the rebuilding in some way." Pappas applied to an employee committee and was one of nine winners named that year.

When it comes to corporate citizenship and employee work-life programs, Xerox is one to be copied. Its social leave program is just one part of a broad initiative to acknowledge that workers have a life outside of the office.

Xerox made its 12th consecutive appearance on the much-publicized list of the best places for working mothers, released a week ago by Working Mother magazine. In fact, Xerox ranked among the top 10 and has landed on the list every year since it was launched.

Among Xerox's offerings: adoption assistance; child-care subsidies; after-school, holiday and summer child-care programs at certain sites; flexible job arrangements, such as flextime, job sharing and working at home; elder care consultation; and full pay during maternity leave. Xerox also has a program to encourage community involvement.

To Xerox, the programs are more than good public relations. They are a way to make Xerox more competitive in a tight labor market and to help employees be more productive, said William R. Ernisse, vice president and general manager of Xerox of Greater Los Angeles.

"From a business standpoint, if we can make somebody better in their personal life, they're going to be better in their professional life," Ernisse said. These programs also reduce turnover and training expenses, which run more than $125,000 for a salesperson and more than $300,000 for an engineer, he said.

Pappas said the experience at RLA turned her into a better employee for Xerox.

"It helped me relate better to co-workers and to customers," Pappas said. "It really gave me a depth of experience that I didn't gain at Xerox, even though I didn't go for that reason."

Xerox does not limit its work-life benefits only to employees at its Stamford, Conn., headquarters. The 6,000 employees in its Southern California operation also can take advantage of these programs, including three child-care centers.

The number and caliber of companies vying to make the Working Mother list of 100 best employers grows every year, this time attracting nearly 500 applications--some very elaborate, said Judsen Culbreth, editor of the New York-based magazine.

Many of these are aggressive companies in competitive industries--IBM and AT&T are among the regular winners--who are not providing these programs to be nice, Culbreth said.

"Even when [corporations] were in the middle of downsizing, companies kept these benefits," Culbreth said.

The magazine selects the 100 companies in part based on the benefits that are usually thought of as "family friendly,"--child care, maternity leave, adoption assistance. It also weighs such things as pay for women, the number of women in management and the use of flexible job arrangements.

"It's very hard to find bachelor orphans who don't have children or elderly parents or a love interest or a dog that requires some private time," Culbreth said. "It helps all employees to work in an atmosphere that respects their personal life."

The Southern California-based companies that made the Working Mother list are Amgen Inc. of Thousand Oaks, Mattel Inc. of El Segundo, Patagonia Inc. of Ventura, Rockwell International Corp. of Seal Beach and Universal Studios of Universal City.

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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