"And so we worked with our own HR department to figure out how we can build protective factors into our policy, into our practice. Beause from there you'll be able to really see the fruits of your labor of building those protective factors within an institution." - Kim, Atlanta Site
UWSF@Work is an innovative workplace strategy to support and strengthen families. Changes in the economy, excessive workload demands, and difficulty maintaining a healthy work-family balance have led to increased worker stress. In response, some businesses are beginning to establish flexible and supportive work environments to reduce worker stress and increase productivity. The UWSF@Work strategy takes this a step further by connecting companies and their employees to United Way supports and community resources. Because of their strong, positive presence in many workplaces and established relationships with local business leaders, United Ways are ideally situated to use UWSF@Work as a bridge between workplace life and family life. And UWSF@Work has the potential to reach a large number of low-wage, part-time workers in retail, hospitality, and other sectors that might live high-stress lives, work irregular hours, and are likely to use family members, friends, and neighbors to meet their child care needs.
Using the UWSF@Work strategy, a local United Way can team up with a company’s human resource office to assist them in determining the needs of employees. A good starting point is the Self-Assessment for Human Resources that will help identify what the organization or business is doing well towards a family-friendly work environment. Once these needs are identified, the United Way uses its expertise and connections to coordinate and deliver services in conjunction with human resource initiatives. Depending on the identified needs a company then provides the space and staff time to actively support work-life balance on the job. For example, a local United Way facilitator and a company’s human resource office identify that every year a number of employees leave work early to get their taxes prepared. The company now has an opportunity to bring tax preparation services on site, reducing employee stress and lost productivity.
The UWSF@Work strategy recognizes that the issues families face cannot be tackled in isolation, and allows for seamless integration of the three United Way action areas (income, education, and health). Recruiting companies to participate in UWSF@Work should be fairly straightforward, as most recognize that offering workers access to community resources in the workplace is a win-win situation. Your presentation and method for instituting the steps needs to be streamlined, not time wasted, and management must fully be invested. UWSF@Work is a chance for local United Ways to give something back to those organizations and workers who already do so much to Give, Volunteer, and Advocate.
The United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta developed the UWSF@Work strategy. They piloted the Matching Atlantans with Personal Services (MAPS) program that focused on connecting staff with services they needed. Atlanta used this program internally prior to their engaging partnered companies and providing this free service to them. We will refer to examples from the MAPS program throughout this section.
Like much of the Strengthening Families initiative, UWSF@Work must be flexible and responsive to the needs and capacity of a given community and workplace. Whichever method your United Way decides to use to integrate Strengthening Families into the workplace, the resources included in this toolkit can be used to help human resource departments infuse protective factors into workplace settings, connecting working parents to a variety of family-strengthening supports. The following keys to success run throughout the implementation of UWSF@Work.
- Encouraging employees to create self-defined solutions. Granting employees the autonomy to generate their own solutions carries tremendous impact, people will feel empowered by what they are doing, and it helps reinforce that they are part of the solution.
- Consistently focusing on the protective factors. Consistent with the Self-Assessment for Human Resources, think about what you can do to help employees of your United Way and local businesses:
- Facilitate friendships and mutual support,
- Strengthen parenting,
- Respond to family crises,
- Link families to services and opportunities,
- Observe and respond to early warning signs of child abuse or neglect,
- Facilitate children’s social and emotional development, and
- Value and nurture parents.
By consistently focusing on the protective factors, UWSF@Work will ensure that the workplace strategies are developed to not only address immediate needs through connecting families to concrete supports, but to also help build protective factors that will strengthen families over the long term.