Balancing Life and Work
From left: Amy Carr and Linda Atchley share one job, the position of district business manager, in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Juggling the demands of your job can be a big enough challenge at times, but when you add kids who need to be driven to trumpet lessons or SAT prep classes, aging parents who increasingly need your help, or a volunteer activity that you are committed to in your community, all it takes is one traffic jam for your carefully laid plans to come crashing down.
Bristol-Myers Squibb knows employees have many responsibilities outside of work, so the company makes available a wide array of programs and services to help with work-life balance.
From flexible work arrangements and onsite day care to college scholarships and elder care, the company offers something for employees in just about every stage of life.
This is why when Working Mother magazine recently selected its 100 Best Companies, Bristol-Myers Squibb placed among the top 10. Read more at: Working Mother Magazine Salutes Bristol-Myers Squibb as a Top 10 Best Company.
The company has made the Top 100 Companies for Working Mothers list since 1998.
“Our employees are at the heart of everything we do,” says Jim Cornelius, chairman and CEO. “Our long history of commitment to work-life balance for our employees is confirmed in the Bristol-Myers Squibb Mission and Commitment. What’s more, to achieve our strategic business objectives, a working environment that embraces work-life balance is a requirement. We see again and again that flexibility and balance in the workplace allow our employees, and our company, to do what we do best: discover and develop medicines to help patients prevail over serious disease.”
A Job-Sharing First
Sometimes what employees need is time spent working differently. This was the case for Amy Carr and Linda Atchley. When Carr, a Bristol-Myers Squibb district business manager in Knoxville, Tennessee, had her son Evan five years ago, she faced a problem that many parents of young children can identify with: “I love my job, but I had no idea how much I’d enjoy spending time with my son,” she says.
Trying to have it all only left her exhausted. “If I wanted to go to Evan’s baseball game, I’d be up very late doing my expense report,” Carr reports.
Enter Atchley, who had worked for the company as a CMRS specialty manager based out of Knoxville, responsible for six states.
“I enjoyed it immensely, but my aging parents had serious health problems and I couldn’t travel Monday through Thursday and still fulfill my obligations to them,” Atchley says. In 2003, she reluctantly stepped down.
Then she got a call from Carr. “I had a job-share team working for me and I saw how well it worked, and I thought Linda would be my ideal job-share partner,” Carr says.
Atchley agreed that it was a perfect solution to both their problems, so Carr proposed it to her manager. On June 1, 2007, Atchley and Carr began sharing the district business manager position, a first for this type of position at Bristol-Myers Squibb and, according to Atchley and Carr, a first for the industry.
Now Carr works three days a week and Atchley works two. Both acknowledge that they’re flexible and may answer e-mails or voice mails on their “off” days to meet important business needs. Atchley couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. “The beauty of it is that it gives me the opportunity to care for my dad (her mother died in December) and still fulfill my professional goals,” Atchley says.
Carr agrees: “It’s been phenomenal for me because now that my son’s five, I can work in his classroom and I can also work at a career that I find interesting and rewarding. I have the best of everything.”
Atchley and Carr have nothing but praise for the company. “Bristol-Myers Squibb made an extra effort to make this happen,” Atchley says.
Adds Carr: “This situation is very out of the box, and it says a lot for the company that it would have the vision to approve it.”
Fun for Kids, Peace of Mind for Parents
Michael Galella and his wife, Beth, both Bristol-Myers Squibb research scientists based in New Jersey (he in Lawrenceville and she in New Brunswick), are grateful for the vision that led the company to provide onsite child care for employees’ children. Their daughters, Madelyn and Kaleigh, love it.
When Galella kisses them “goodbye” at the child development center in Plainsboro, New Jersey, in the morning, the girls can’t wait to get started on their day. For Madelyn, almost five years old, that means kindergarten and for three-year-old Kaleigh, it’s preschool. The girls have been going to the center since they were three months old.
Research scientist Michael Galella with his daughters, Madelyn (left) and Kaleigh, in New Jersey.
Research scientist Michael Galella with his daughters, Madelyn (left) and Kaleigh, in New Jersey.
“My wife and I are exceedingly happy with it,” Galella says. “The teachers have been phenomenal, taking the initiative to go above and beyond what you might expect at day care.”
Both girls learned how to write their names at an early age and how to count in both English and Spanish, and when Kaleigh, at the age of two-and-a-half, showed that she was eager to learn more, her teacher got preschool activities for her to do.
Even though the girls like different things—Madelyn loves dressing up and dramatic play, while Kaleigh prefers to draw and write—they have the same opinion of the center: “For both of them, every day is fun,” Galella says, “and when they come home they’re excited to show us the pictures they drew and things they learned.”
What Galella loves is the peace of mind he gets from knowing his daughters are happy, engaged and safe. “Because the center is affiliated with the company and everything’s under one umbrella, there’s a sense of security,” he says. It also helps that he has coworkers with children at the center, and they can share stories about their kids and events at “school,” as Madelyn and Kaleigh call it.
“I’m never concerned about my daughters when they’re at the center,” Galella says. “I know they’re well taken care of and they’re learning, and that lets me focus on work. Now when I think about my kids during the day, it’s only because I miss them.”
Special Care for a Child with Special Needs
Paula Kuester is as happy with the onsite child care centers as the Galella's, but for different reasons. Kuester’s five-year-old son, Paul, has special needs, and the staff of the company’s child development center in Hopewell, New Jersey has welcomed him since he was four months old.
“Even though his teachers don’t have formal training in working with special needs kids, they’ve been just wonderful,” says Kuester, a principal database developer for Research and Development. “The word I constantly use to describe them is ‘accommodating.’”
“Paul has a hard time playing with other kids,” she explains. “But his teacher has a knack for dealing with him so he follows her direction and interacts with the other kids.”
The staff also engages him at every opportunity, and is quick to applaud his progress. This makes Paul feel that he’s accepted, “and that really helps me,” Kuester says.
Last year, Paul started going to an early intervention program in the mornings, and the center’s staff became even more accommodating. When the daily transition between his morning program and the center provoked tantrums in Paul, especially if his mother was present, a staff member began meeting him at the front of the building and walked him to his classroom. The center’s kitchen staff even stepped in, helping out by preparing special lunches for Paul at times on days when he missed its morning program.
“All of this made everything go more smoothly, and I could get right back to work,” says Kuester. “I thought, wow, this solved all our problems, and they were willing to do it without being asked.”
This year, Paul has a full-time placement in an early intervention program in his school district, but Kuester is happy to know that she can still use the center as a backup. “Everybody here has always pitched in to make things work for Paul,” she says. “And because Bristol-Myers Squibb has the center right here at my office and the staff has been so willing to help, it’s made things work for me, too.”
Funding a College Dream
For Chaya Pamula’s daughter, Anusha, the issue was getting into a good college and paying for it. Thanks to her hard work and excellent grades, Anusha was accepted to her dream school, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where an education carries a high price tag. She got aid in the form of a Bristol-Myers Squibb National Merit Scholarship. The scholarship, awarded annually to the eligible children of up to 50 Bristol-Myers Squibb employees, provides $2,000 a year for four years of full-time undergraduate study.
“That’s a real help when both parents are working and don’t qualify for need-based financial aid,” says Pamula, associate director of Business Process Management, in Information Management.
Anusha started classes at the university this past August, planning to study international affairs and aim for a career in diplomacy. Even in high school, she was interested in international studies, participating in the Model United Nations and in community service activities outside the U.S., including volunteering at an orphanage in India. And in part because she wanted to learn to fly, Anusha helped conduct search and rescue missions with the Civil Air Patrol Auxiliary. That dream came true when she made her first solo flight at 16.
Pamula was happy about the scholarship not just because of the financial help, but because it acknowledges the accomplishments of the recipients.
“It really gives a sense of achievement to the kids, because they’re not only recognized by their school and their peers, they’re also recognized at their parent’s workplace, and that makes a difference. I know my daughter feels really proud of it,” she says.
Pamula feels proud, too. “When my colleagues saw my name on the list announcing the scholarship recipients, they came and congratulated me, and that was nice,” she says.
She also appreciates the company’s efforts to aid employees. “The scholarship money really helps, and it can be used at any four-year college, which is great,” she says. “But it’s also the commitment the company is giving to employees, recognizing them and trying to help them outside their work life. That’s something very impressive about our company.”
Caring for Elders from a Distance
Virginia Plaza agrees. For Plaza, the company’s Elder Care Resource and Referral program “means one less phone call and one less thing to take care of,” says the associate director of Government Affairs.
Part of the “sandwich generation,” juggling the demands of her three pre-teen and teenage children and aging parents along with her job, Plaza says she’s been operating on responsibility overload.
“My parents are in California and I’m in New Jersey. I was getting more phone calls from my 83-year-old mother about their health problems and about how cluttered their house was,” she says. “Of course I was worried; because they’re becoming increasingly isolated as they get older and there was no one there I could call to ask just how bad things were.”
Between her job, which requires some travel, getting her kids to school and after-school activities and college applications, Plaza couldn’t take time off to go to California and see for herself. So she called the company’s Elder Care Resource and Referral service—a benefit offered through its work-life programs—to arrange for an in-home assessment for her parents.
“The social worker who visited my parents was great and spent a lot of time with me on the phone,” says Plaza. “What I especially appreciated was that she not only recommended a cleaning service, but she provided me with references for cleaning services.”
She also was happy that a quality assessment was done on the social worker’s data. “I knew it was as complete as it could be, so I felt I could trust it,” she says.
Thanks to the social worker’s visit, Plaza now has a roadmap. “I know what to expect, and I can put supports in place for my parents and find out what services they qualify for,” she says.
Plaza considers the company’s LifeWorks OneSource Program invaluable. “It’s a tremendous benefit and one of the things that make it nice to work for Bristol-Myers Squibb.”