Flexibility, perks draw and retain employees

CanWest News Service
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Employment

When Tara Murray was looking for a job, a flexible employer was essential to balancing the care of her three-year-old twins. So when she found a company that was just opening its new day-care centre - Calgary-based Newalta Corp. - it clinched the offer for employment.

"It was actually one of the key things when I was interviewing for this position ... that would allow me to balance my life with my work," says Murray. "It's very beneficial to me."

Mom Tara Murray plays with her three-year-old twins Catie Smiley and Ben in the daycare facility at Newalta in Calgary. The company has an on-site daycare facility for employee's children. Photo by Grant Black/Calgary Herald

Calgary -

When Tara Murray was looking for a job, a flexible employer was essential to balancing the care of her three-year-old twins. So when she found a company that was just opening its new day-care centre - Calgary-based Newalta Corp. - it clinched the offer for employment.

"It was actually one of the key things when I was interviewing for this position ... that would allow me to balance my life with my work," says Murray. "It's very beneficial to me."

She spends extra time with them on the drive to work in the morning and eats lunch with them, dropping in to see them when she can throughout the day. "It's definitely a lot of work (having twins) but having them come with me to work and dropping them off at this phenomenal facility is very easy," says Murray.

Newalta, a waste and environmental services firm, is among the group of companies going on a hiring spree right now to fuel its annual growth of about 20 per cent. The job market is getting more competitive again and between growth and increasing retirements, management views work-life balance as being woven into the company's culture.

"We have a lot of programs to help employees create the balance they want to be successful in all parts of their life," says Dalene Friesen, director of human resources at Newalta.

In addition to the day-care centre, there is a large central lounge and kitchen with healthy foods prepared each day by the chef, a fitness facility open to spouses and adult children of employees, various Pilates and yoga classes, not to mention a newly launched on-site massage therapy service.

Flexible work arrangements, an extra five days off during the summer in addition to regular vacation time, paid seasonal days off during Christmas amounting to about two weeks, early office closures prior to statutory holidays, part-time work arrangements, retirement transition programs, a broad leave of absence program, an expanded EAP program - the list goes on.

"We really build (flexibility) into our culture," says Friesen.

Being seen as an employer of choice that values the concept of work-life balance sets them apart as the company continues in hiring and retention mode.

But for many workers, stress and lack of time to manage their responsibilities continues to have a significant impact on their lives.

A report by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) found women face more time pressures than men - 23 per cent versus 17 per cent - while single parents with young children are the most pressed for time.

"This is not just a simple case of individuals needing to better manage their time," said Roy Romanow, chair of the CIW advisory board, in the report.

"We need family-friendly policies for all workers and more community resources and supports for seniors."

He advocates public policies that support leisure and cultural activities, pointing out that 28 per cent of Canadian workers have responsibilities for both child care and elder care, according to the study.

CIW was launched to measure and track quality of life in Canada related to physical health and well-being, social, cultural and environmental indicators.

Ramping up to a 45-child capacity in coming weeks, Newalta's daycare facility will use the nearby Haultain Park - the company recently funded its restoration downtown - just as workers are encouraged to use it as an outdoor workspace.

Beyond their regular benefits package, employees enjoy family days where they go out to various activities and parties - most recently to a ranch south of Calgary.

As more employers add perks like an on-site daycare facility, Friesen predicts employees will gravitate to those companies.

Murray's primary focus is working for an employer who understands the need to balance her life and professional priorities as a new mother.

"I was upfront about saying I had two children," she says. "They are the most important things other than my career that I want to focus on."

Organizations: Newalta Corp.

Geographic location: Calgary, Canada, Haultain Park

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Recent comments

  • Michelle
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Sigh. If only more companies would be willing to offer so much to their employees. I won't hold my breath,though. I bet that the employees at the business in this story will be more productive and loyal than those getting the shaft from their employers at other places. Listen up employers- it's good for everybody when you have these types of policies in place.

  • Rosemary
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Way to go Tara. Love the photo and am so happy you work for such a great company. Other companies should follow as being content in a job is of the utmost importance.
    Newalta Corp deserves a pat on the back.