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Workplace policies support families, help economy in Bryan, Texas.

The City of Bryan, Texas, recently hosted its first-ever Family-Friendly Workplace Practices Conference to recognize businesses that help their employees balance life and work demands, and to encourage more businesses to follow suit.

Bryan is one of six cities participating in the Cities Supporting Parents of Young Children project sponsored by NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute).

'The Good Life, Texas Style'

City officials brought together diverse segments of the community to discuss the importance of family-friendly practices for businesses, employees, and families that live and work in Bryan.

The event featured best practices that successful Texas businesses use to improve employee recruitment, retention, commitment and productivity.

"In Bryan, our slogan is 'The Good Life, Texas Style.' We enjoy a great quality of life, but maintaining a healthy balance between the time spent at work and with family can still be a challenge," said Ernie Wentrcek, mayor of Bryan. "Today, for the first time in our community, we address that challenge by bringing some of the great innovators of work/life balance initiatives from across our state to share their expertise and experiences."

Cities such as Bryan are increasingly looking at family-friendly practices as an economic development strategy. According to Corporate Voices for Working Families, a nonprofit corporate membership organization in Washington, D.C., family-friendly workplace policies are a sound economic investment.

Employers increase their ability to recruit and train the best talent, decrease turnover and training costs and increase overall employee productivity.

Co-sponsors of the event included Texas A&M University and the United Way of the Brazos Valley.

Local Businesses Leading the Way

To showcase successful local practices, three of the city's businesses were honored.

Century 21 Beal Real Estate, University Title Company and the Texas A&M University Research Foundation described the policies they have instituted to help employees balance work and family life.

These policies include offering "Health and Wellness Days," purchasing school supplies, offering a compressed work week and providing on-site learning activities for children.

Creating a Family-Friendly Economy

Speakers discussed how to respond to the work/life needs of the nation's changing workforce.

"You can do a lot of good things for families and still have a successful business," said Tess Coody, of the San Antonio marketing and communications firm Guerra DeBerry Coody. "We decided to set our sights on doing good business by giving people an opportunity to earn more than a living wage and to implement workplace policies that value families."

Lynn Mitchell, policy director for Corporate Voices for Working Families, provided participants with creative strategies to support working families (see box for examples). Also, the conference highlighted innovative family-friendly workplace polices in the Lopez Super Markets of Brownsville and Neutral Posture of Bryan.

Conference organizers hope that the meeting will serve as a catalyst for other business leaders to adopt family-friendly policies as well as prompt evaluations about existing policies.

"The business community is a critical partner in ensuring the success of families," said Paul Madison, councilmember of Bryan. "By offering family-friendly programs, the city and region will experience economic vitality by attracting new businesses and the best talent."

Details: To learn more about how municipal leaders in Bryan are supporting family-friendly workplace policies, visit

For additional information on municipal early childhood initiatives, contact Tonja Rucker, senior program associate for early childhood success at the YEF Institute, at or (202) 626-3004.

Family-Friendly Policies at Work

City officials have a unique opportunity to demonstrate family-friendly workplace policies within local government and promote these practices among the business community. Policies and benefits to consider include:

* Flexible work arrangements--telework, flextime, job sharing, compressed work weeks and part-time schedules;

* Employee assistance programs--counseling support on a range of issues from financial to legal to personal;

* Child and eldercare services--on-site childcare centers, emergency or back-up childcare or resource materials for new parents;

* Health and wellness initiatives--health club facilities, smoking cessation initiatives or stress management workshops; and

* Leaves of absence--regulatory leaves like maternity and jury duty, as well as additional options for time away from work such as educational leave, community service leave and sabbaticals.
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Title Annotation:Institute for Youth, Education, and Families
Author:Rucker, Tonja
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:May 8, 2006
Previous Article:Federal, local officials to speak at Afterschool Summit.
Next Article:The link between high school reform and college readiness.

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