Can Netflix and Microsoft Rehab Work-Life Balance in the U.S.?

Can Netflix and Microsoft Rehab Work-Life Balance in the U.S.?

The U.S. is notorious for taking a tough-love approach to working parents.

It's one of only a few countries in the world that don't require employers to pay for maternity or parental leave.

So it was big news when Netflix introduced up to one year of unlimited paid parental leaveat least for some of its workers. And companies like Accenture and Microsoft have followed, rolling out generous PTO offerings in the past few weeks.

But what’s that saying about things that sound too good to be true?

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For these new policies to really have an impact on parents’ lives, employees have to feel comfortable taking advantage of them.

Yahoo C.E.O. Marissa Mayer sparked a round of work-life balance debates this week by announcing she’s pregnant with twins but plans to “take limited time away and work throughout,” as she did after her son’s birth (she was in the office within a few weeks).

Even though Yahoo expanded its parental leave under her tenure—16 weeks paid to mothers, eight to fathers and adoptive or foster parents—Mayer’s choice to opt-out suggests a disconnect between rosy policies and the realities of corporate culture.

The message seems to be that for some, even if you have the time-off coming, you may not, realistically, be able to be out of the office. And that doesn't just apply to new parents. According to a Google consumer survey, 42% of respondents in the U.S. didn't take a single vacation day in 2014.

“The underlying work culture sends the message that if you’re really committed, you’re here all the time,” Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings, told The New York Times.

Still, it’s encouraging to see companies begin to adjust their stance on family leave, creating a new precedent for employees—whether they’re men or women.

Even if there is clearly a long way to go for us to catch up with many other countries.

To give your own work-life balance a boost, read up on the sanity-saving hacks that have worked for these six people.

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