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Feeling well rather than frustrated: Work and life in balance

More time for family, hobby or sport by offering flexible working hours or workplace child care is what represents a good employer nowadays. A staff policy which looks after the right balance of work and private life creates a positive image: This displays an advantage outwards and has a beneficial effect on recruitment, while strengthening the employees’ well-being inwards.

Which of these have already been realized in the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht? Where have the requirements needed to improve the work-life balance been spotted? We met met our personnel division head Ms Gabriel Rinschede-Kirsch and deputy head Ms Urte Kummerow and spoke with them about „family-friendly HZG“. Since 2008, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG) has been granted the certificate „audit berufundfamilie“ for being aware of family-friendly staff policy. The HZG was re-audited succesfully in January 2011. We are therefore officially honoured as a family-friendly company. In Schleswig-Holstein, only thirteen further employers can claim this; in Germany nearly 1000 hold this respected certificate.

Which are the most important requirements for obtaining the certificate?

Gabriele Rinschede-Kirsch and Urte Kummerow

Gabriele Rinschede-Kirsch and Urte Kummerow. Photo: HZG/ Heidrun Hillen

Gabriele Rinschede-Kirsch: „For a family-friendly employer, the most important element is the arrangement of flexible working hours. We eliminated the idea of a core working time, introducing true flexible working hours. This was revolutionary in the mid-1990s. Concerning our agreement between the works council and the management, I always note compliments and amazement at the meetings of the Helmholz Association's heads of personnel.“

Urte Kummerow adds: „There have always been good solutions for part-time working hours for employees. Today we have about 100 different part-time working variants in our Centre: There is nearly nothing which does not exist. It is quite uncomplicated. The kindergarden had been planned and had almost been built before the Audit took place. We have had an agreement with pme Familienservice since 2000. Pme is still engaged with us and takes care of the kindergarden.“

What has changed in our Centre after having gained the certificate?

Gabriele Rinschede-Kirsch: „As a result of workshops, work instructions were established as the next tasks for the HZG. This was also the case with the auditing which took place in spring 2011 and is meant to avoid stagnation and to maintain the processing of the planned themes effectively.

Urte Kummerow: “More precisely, at this moment we are working on a concept for the company’s health management. Generally it may be said that executives are more aware of the employees having other things to do than only their work. Nowadays it is matter of course that business meetings are not held at 6 pm, so that mothers and fathers are able to exercise their family duties, and part-time workers also can participate.“

Gabriele Rinschede-Kirsch: „If we want to give women the opportunity of taking over a leading position, it must also be made compatible with suitable child care. Our family friendly proposals are a factor in successfully attracting well-qualified applicants. They, in the meantime, have set completely different priorities: It is not always the money that counts.

Do you see any more changes?

Gabriele Rinschede- Kirsch and Urte Kummerow

Photo: HZG/ Heidrun Hillen

Gabriele Rinschede-Kirsch: „This is a change across the whole of society, which was achieved by politics too. For example, the parental allowance has strongly boosted the employment of higher-educated mothers. Naturally you notice that in a science centre immediately. In the HZG the mothers return after one year. In the past they mostly stayed at home for three years. Moreover, now it is much more accepted that fathers take their family seriously and make use of parental time allowance. Here many of them do that, often longer than the two months on offer.

Which challenges relating to the work-life balance does our Centre have to meet?

Gabriele Rinschede-Kirsch: „Currently the issue of more flexible working time is a prime concern, such as the annual working time account. Another task is to facilitate part-time care options and arrangements that simplify the use of a sabbatical.”

Urte Kummerow: „Previously, family-friendly policies were simply perceived as offering arrangements for child care, but today that is not only what it is about. The re-audit has given us the assignment to enlarge the possibilities of home office, for example when relatives have to be taken care of.“

Gabriele Rinschede-Kirsch: „We are obliged to verify the effectiveness, sustainability and development of our measures. Our most important target agreement is now to find a solution for working time agreements which are geared to the different phases of life.“

Thank you very much.

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