Working Mother magazine is releasing its “Best Companies” list today. This should be to parents what the U.S. News& World Report college rankings are to the high school set and the Forbes lists are too the one-percenters.

The “bests” might be out of reach for the vast majority of workers, but they represent the gold standard — the employers who have figured out a way to turn a profit while still making life for working parents more manageable. Or perhaps they figured out that by making life for employees more manageable, they can turn more of a profit.

Among the top are several companies headquartered in the Washington region: Arnold & Porter; Booz Allen Hamilton; Capital One Financial Corp.; Covington & Burling; Discovery Communications; Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner; Freddie Mac; and Marriott International.

These companies let us know what might be possible in terms of benefits and what might be within reach for the asking at our own companies. New benefits among the spectrum of child care and flexible work options are elder care referral resources, for instance.

These firms also disprove the notion that in tough financial times, companies have to pull back on benefits. Despite the recession, 100 percent of the “top” companies offered paid maternity leave, telecommuting options and on-site lactation rooms.

Jennifer Owens, editorial director for Working Mother, said that most American companies pulled back on these kinds of benefits after the Great Recession hit. Only 16 percent of all American companies offer paid maternity leave, 57 percent offer telecommuting options, and 30 percent have on-site lactation rooms, according to the magazine.

Yet the best companies found a way to go in the other direction. They offered even more, such as back-up child care, adoption assistance, health screenings and smoking cessation programs. Twenty-three percent even had on-site nap rooms.

It takes a special supervisor to understand that having a nap room will actually improve the quality of an employee’s work. Trust me on this, I’ve done sleep-deprived work, and it isn’t pretty.

Officials at the perennial Working Mother favorite Discovery Communications, which was also featured in the magazine as one of the “Best Companies for Kids,” say that offering generous benefits makes good business sense.

“Having services in place to support [employees’] professional development, as well as their work-life balance needs, is both a core value and smart business,” said Discovery spokeswoman Michelle Russo.

Does your employer feel the same way?

What one “family” benefit would you most like to have at your office? Is it something you can ask for?

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