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Diversity and Climate

Implementation Team Report


Work/Life Balance


Implementation Team Report

Work/Life Balance Activities

The Work/Life Balance Implementation Team identified resources and policies that can assist UWM faculty and staff in balancing their responsibilities and interests at work with their lives outside of work, promoting a family-friendly work environment, and implementing flexible and creative work policies to aid in the recruitment and retention of talented employees. The team also recommended improvements in services and future planning priorities. The team worked from May 2002 – April 2003. Members who assisted in the team work included: Lois Quinn (team leader), Joanne Barndt, Shirley Bufford, Maria Carrizales, Chris Furness, Tammy Howard, Mark Kuchta, Jeantz Martin, Karen Massetti-Moran, Sue Podgorski, Bobbi Prichard and Cathy Seasholes. Major accomplishments of the team include:

1. Development of a Work/Life Resource Brochure

The Work/Life Team prepared a first-time brochure identifying existing resources and policies at UWM that support diverse life styles, interests and family needs. For each area, a brief description is provided along with website and phone contacts for further information. Seven areas are featured:

  • Wellness – employee assistance program, health and dental insurance, intramural sports, and personal fitness (Klotsche Center).
  • Career and Professional Development – e-mail accounts and technology short courses, instructional support, mentoring programs, continuing education, and tuition reimbursement.
  • Taking Care of Business – Your Family and Yourself – child care, family and medical leave, helping others, sick child care, sick leave benefits, vacation and holiday leave policies, and transportation-to-work options.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements – extension of probationary period, flextime, and telecommuting.
  • Other Family/Partner Benefits – faculty partner accommodation program, family library privileges, and UWM faculty/staff relative scholarships.
  • Fun and Enrichment – arts programming, college for kids, science bag, sporting events, union events, and UWM homecoming.
  • Safety – campus security.

Sona Andrews, Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Climate, arranged for reviews of each section of the brochure by all affected UWM units and edited the document. The brochure is available on the UWM website in HTML format (at www.uwm.edu/Dept/HR/worklife.html) and in PDF format (at www.uwm.edu/Dept/HR/refmaterial/worklife/work_life_brochure.pdf). The Human Resources department will review the materials with the new vendor providing employee assistance programs to ensure that any new services offered are included. At some time in the future, a copy of the brochure will be made available to all UWM employees.

2. Appointment of a Work/Life Resource Contact in the Department of Human Resources

Many UWM employees expressed the need not only for information on existing work/life benefits at UWM but help accessing those benefits. The faculty department chairs also identified a need for assistance to departments who must implement the policies (including identification of resources to finance benefits offered). In response to these concerns, the Human Resources department named Jeantz Martin as the campus work/life resource contact. She is available to aid employees and campus departments in identifying and implementing work/life benefits for the campus community. She can also assist employees and departments in accessing services offered by Symmetry, the newly contracted service provider for UWM employee assistance programs. Symmetry will provide many needed services for employees and their families, including clinical services for assistance with personal and family problems, on-campus training, management consultation, critical incident response, referrals for child care and eldercare, promotional mailers to employees, internet access to their website articles, and much more. Easy access and confidentiality will be assured.

A priority area of service where employees and departments have requested assistance is in aiding employees and departments in administering maternity/paternity leave. Faculty department chairs reported considerable confusion and uneven practices regarding the present maternity and family leave policies, and faculty and staff requested help in accessing their full benefits in this area.

3. Work/Life Orientation Materials for New Employees

The Work/Life Team held a panel discussion with new faculty and attended the UWM “First Year Anniversary Event” for new employees to identify issues of concern to new hires at UWM, and particularly those coming to Milwaukee from other communities. The team reviewed a “checklist for new hires,” developed by the Department of Human Movement Sciences and forwarded to our committee by Associate Vice Chancellor Sona Andrews, and recommended additions based on input we had received from new faculty and our listening sessions. Team additions to the checklist (including distribution of the “Work & Life Resources for UWM Employees” brochure to all new hires) emphasize the importance of sharing information on potential work/life needs of new employees and promoting innovative work/life benefits at UWM.

4. Priority Concerns for Child Care Needs Facing UWM Students and Employees

Child care services will become increasingly important as UWM expands its student enrollment and new faculty and staff hires (particularly those replacing the “baby boom” retirees) increase the number of parents of younger children. The Work/Life Team worked with the Children’s Center and UWM administrators to identify priorities for future planning and expansion of the Children’s Center and application of university policies. These priorities include:

  • Consistent application of sick leave policies that allow UWM employees to use their sick leave to care for their children when sick.
  • Expanded efforts to inform employees of their rights to use personal sick leave for sick child care.
  • Elimination of waiting lists for children of UWM employees.
  • Adoption of fee structures that ensure affordability of child care for UWM students and employees.
  • Exploration of changes in fees to allow for greater use of the center by lower-paid UWM employees.
  • Adoption of a three-tiered fee system to reduce child care costs for UWM employees: lowest fees for students, next lowest for employees, and highest for non-UWM families.
  • Identification of external sick child care options for UWM employees.
  • Planning for expansion of child care capacity as required to serve future needs of UWM students and employees for affordable care.

5. Services to Aid UWM Employees Caring for Elderly Relatives

One of the most difficult work/life challenges facing UWM staff and faculty comes when employees’ parents become ill and dependent upon their children for care and support. Usually, this occurs in a crisis situation when the parent needs medical attention, assisted living arrangements, and emotional support – all on an immediate timeline. The Work/Life Team met with Phyllis Mensh Brostoff, President of Stowell Associates/SelectStaff Inc., who discussed issues facing caregivers for elderly relatives, including

  • Informational needs and advance preparation for caregivers – arranging power of attorney, living will, financial planning, insurance/health benefits, long-term care insurance, Title 19 eligibility.
  • Emotional preparation for parent’s dementia, frailty, role reversals, diminished physical health.
  • Locating resources in the community (a large problem for university professionals whose parents live in another city or state).
  • Weighing options for elderly care (in-home help, assisted living, nursing home, crisis medical care).
  • Support group for caregivers (either at the university or outside of the workplace).
  • In-person assessment of issues to be faced by the elderly person (financial, physical, emotional, home environment) and a possible plan for care.
  • Location of resources for the elderly person and the caregiver (trained help, medical assistance, support services).
  • National network of professional care management agencies to assist UWM employees with family in other cities.

The new vendor for UWM employee assistance programs will provide some services to caregivers. Given the growing resources at UWM for aging studies, the Work/Life Team also began exploring whether UWM might develop an innovative research and demonstration pilot program to aid its UWM workforce in their roles as elderly caregivers and to use the findings from the pilot program to further research work in the field.

6. Promotion of Informal Work/Life Activities on Campus

Informal work/life activities initiated by campus committees or workplace units can also aid employees in balancing their work and personal needs. With budget limitations restricting expansion of paid services, these volunteer activities may offer helpful additions to campus life. Work/Life Team member Sue Podorski, in the Office of the Provost, now maintains a “Campus Climate Calendar,” which lists upcoming events, professional development opportunities, and meetings (at www.uwm.edu/Acad_Aff/climate/events.html). The site is also available for volunteer activities (e.g., wellness walks, Tai Chi, diversity lunches) by emailing suei@uwm.edu.

Besides activities organized by staff and faculty committees, UWM departments are encouraged to offer work/life “rewards” for university service and achievements, e.g., two-for-one tickets to cultural and athletic events, one-day passes to the Klotsche Center.

7. Future Consideration of a Work/Life Resource Center at UWM for Staff and Faculty

The Work/Life Team reviewed the operations of work/life resource centers at other major universities (including UW-Madison) to identify additional programs and services that would assist the UWM community in maintaining a balance between their work, study, personal and family lives. Team members reviewed services offered, innovative programs, and the administrative structure for delivering services, as groundwork for possible long-term planning for a work/life resource center at UWM. Members interviewed staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the process required to established an employee assistance office there and collected information on services offered at:

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Employee Assistance Office
  • Virginia Commonwealth University Work/Life Resources,
  • Johns Hopkins University WORKlife Programs,
  • Stanford University WorkLife Office,
  • Pennsylvania State University Center for Work and Family Research,
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign WorkLife Website,
  • University of Michigan Work/Life Resource Center,
  • Texas A&M Worklife Services Office,
  • Duke University Worklife Office,
  • University of Arkansas Worklife Office, and
  • Ball State University WorkLife Services.

Team summaries of university programs are posted online at http://www3.uwm.edu/acad_aff/climate/worklife-summaries.cfm.

Recommendations

The Work/Life Team made the following recommendations for further improvements in work/life policies and practices at UWM:

  1. Distribute a copy of an updated “Work & Life Resources for UWM Employees” brochure to all UWM employees annually in the fall and to new employees at their time of hire. Continue to maintain the brochure on the UWM Human Resources website.

  2. Review UWM Children’s Center policies and facilities to determine whether future expansion and revised funding arrangements are needed to ensure adequate and affordable child care to UWM students and employees.

  3. Develop a program to assist UWM employees caring for elderly parents and relatives as a pilot research demonstration program.

  4. Explore the feasibility of appointing a “leave coordinator,” who has detailed knowledge about UWM leave policies (including maternity/paternity leave, extended sick leave, and leave accounting) for the various classifications of employees and is available to assist employees in understanding leave benefits available to them.

  5. Provide one-on-one orientation sessions for new employees regarding their benefits at UWM, to eliminate the present confusion in group benefit sessions regarding which benefits apply to which classifications of employees.

  6. Arrange brown bag lunches/seminars on work/life issues through the Symmetry employee assistance program contract.

  7. Encourage growth of volunteer work/life activities by campus committees (e.g., wellness walks, Weight Watchers, ethnic lunches) and departments (e.g., two-for-one tickets to cultural and athletic events and one-day-passes to the Klotsche Center as “rewards” for campus service and achievements).

Among the larger issues and recommendations identified by the 2001 UWM Task Force on the Climate for Women Report, the Work/Life Team identified as our top priorities:

  1. Identify an ombudsperson for the entire campus to address individual employee concerns with campus climate, discrimination, and harassment. If this person is to function neutrally, funding and supervision for the position should come from outside the UWM administration.

  2. Identify an ombudsperson in each unit, to report to an Equity Council (to be created) and the campus wide ombudsperson.

For further information, contact Lois Quinn, lquinn@uwm.edu, 227-3388.