The field of work-life didn’t even have a name when I started studying it more than 25 years ago, but today the issues surrounding work and family are mainstream.

Efficient, effective and productive

While some see work life (jokingly called “work less”) as mainly about having employees work from home or take time off to care for sick children. However, nothing could be farther from the truth among top employers. They understand that the new economy—with its 24/7 demands across the globe call for new ways of working—that they need to rethink the 1950’s work model and create workplaces where employers can be efficient, effective and productive and where employees can be healthy and have the time and energy for their work and their lives with their families and in their communities.

This isn’t just a pipedream. We’ve studied employers nationally for decades, and have created a rigorous award for organizations that have new ways of making work “work” for employers and employees alike—an award that surveys both employees and employees to determine winners. Not surprisingly, we call this award “When Work Works,” which we give in partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management. We have assessed over 5000 employers and are in a good position to talk about what’s new and what’s newsworthy:  

1. Mobile caregivers

Employees with aging parents or other ailing loved ones are able to relocate to be closer to mom and dad but still keep their jobs. Such arrangements are done on a permanent basis or temporarily depending upon needs. One manager at imageOne, a printer maintenance and equipment firm, with two children suffering from a rare bone marrow disease was able to relocate from Arizona to be near a medical specialist in Ohio but still keep his job.

2. Control over work without overwork

One of the big hurdles when it comes to achieving work-life fit is having to follow a regimented 9-to-5 work schedule. Employers realize this and are freeing up employees to make their own decisions on when to get the job done. Point B Inc., a management consulting firm in Phoenix, AZ, gives employees control over the hours they work, but those who overwork receive a call from a managers to help them better management their time or offer additional support.

3. No set number of vacation days

While a constant refrain among many employees is they don’t have enough vacation time, some innovative employers have opted to do away with a set number of vacation days. Aptify, a management software firm in Tysons Corners, VA, has been offering unlimited paid time off since 2012 to employees with manager approval. With flexibility comes accountability to get work done, and as a result the amount of time that staffers take off is quite reasonable for Aptify and for its employees.

4. Not quite part time

Organizations are offering employees reduced hours with benefits if they need to work less than full time. For example, medical information firm Excelas offers 32-hour workweeks for up to eight consecutive weeks with no hit to benefits. Daycos Inc., a medical billing company in Norfolk, NE, enables staffers who want to be more involved with their children to work fewer hours during the school year.

5. Donating time off

In order to help employees who have faced personal issues and as a result depleted their earned time off, a growing number of employers, including KPMG, have created personal time donation buckets where colleagues can donate unused time off to employees who need it. One senior association at KPMG was able to take advantage of the donated time to spend time caring for her dying mother at home.