Progressive businesses try to offer a range of benefits and policies that help retain employees and make them more productive.
In a 2003 article, Tammy Allen of the University of South Florida's Department of Psychology identified the major organizational barriers to creating a "family-friendly" workplace: Gender role assumptions, lack of national policy, rigid schedules, lack of management support and individual corporate culture. "These barriers do not operate independently," Allen wrote, "but rather work hand in hand in preventing organizations from achieving a family-supportive environment."
Many Florida businesses have begun to tackle those issues. Indeed, the best evidence of the trend toward "family friendly" may be the broad institutionalized recognition of "family-friendly businesses" that has emerged, ranging from lists in local newspapers and national publications like Fortune to honors from organizations like the United Way.
Following is a sample of what some Florida firms are doing to be family friendly on a number of fronts.
Home-Buying Help, Interest-Free
Two years ago, the Bonita Bay Group, the Bonita Springs-based master-planned community developer, saw some of its 1,500 employees being priced out of the real estate market in Collier County. The company introduced an employee financial assistance program for those looking to buy their first home. Employees can borrow up to $5,000 interest-free to use as a down payment or to clean up their credit to help them purchase their first home. They can repay the loan through payroll deductions over five years. Employees who qualify for federal affordable housing programs only need to repay 40% of the loan. The company will look into expanding its home-buying assistance program this year to keep up with rising real estate prices in its area.
Free Housing for Seasonal Workers
A. Duda & Sons Inc. of Oviedo is a family-owned and operated agribusiness and real estate development company with 962 full-time employees, including 771 in Florida. The company provides housing to its seasonal/migrant workers (about 1,500), charging only a nominal fee for utilities. It also offers them a full benefits package that includes healthcare, insurance, vacation pay and a 401(k) plan. Last October, Hurricane Wilma destroyed most of the workers' housing and many of their personal possessions. The company obtained new mobile homes and implemented an ad hoc "Adopt-a-Family" program, where Duda employees helped co-workers and their families.