The Roundup will be brought to you in July and August by the new Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN), an international membership organization for interdisciplinary work and family academics. The WFRN welcomes the participation of policy makers and practitioners as it seeks to promote knowledge and understanding of work and family issues among the community of global stakeholders. The Roundup is a compilation of the latest news articles, reports and other materials related to workplace flexibility delivered to your inbox on Monday and Thursday. In the fall, the WFRN will launch its new website which will include a News Feed among other features. We hope that you will get involved as a member and by posting the latest news. Questions?
September 22, 2009
“In the early ’70s, breaking out of the domestic cocoon, leaving their mothers’ circumscribed lives behind, young women felt exhilarated and bold. But the more women have achieved, the more they seem aggrieved. Did the feminist revolution end up benefiting men more than women? According to the General Social Survey, which has tracked Americans’ mood since 1972, and five other major studies around the world, women are getting gloomier and men are getting happier. Before the ’70s, there was a gender gap in America in which women felt greater well-being. Now there’s a gender gap in which men feel better about their lives.”
**For reactions to Maureen Dowd’s column, see Joan Williams’ contribution to the Huffington post (below) and the letters of response published by the New York Times, available here.
“Melissa Hinckley cannot afford to get sick. The 28-year-old works part time as a nanny for $9.25 per hour. [. . .] If she’s out for just one day, she’s out $100 — one-third of her weekly paycheck. She says the pressure to throw back some Tylenol and fight through it is real. [. . .] That’s something David Casey worries about with his workers at the Stockyard, a steakhouse in Brighton.”
“The recession is complicating job hunts—and the lives—of two-career couples, particularly when one lands an offer out of town. The search for employment is forcing more couples into long-distance relationships. A recent survey of 1,450 successful job seekers conducted by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that 18.2% relocated for positions in the second quarter, up from 11.4% a year earlier. [. . .] Faced with a choice between the financial hardship of unemployment or a relocating for a job, more couples are going for a third option and choosing long-term separations. The issue is more common during this recession than in past downturns because of the prevalence of two-career couples. In 2008, 51.4% of married households had both spouses working, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.”
“I used to live in a land where people arrive home from the office at a reasonable hour like clockwork. Where families eat dinner together. Where vacations are taken, not accrued. Where everyone—adults and children—stops whatever he or she is doing on Sunday to enjoy a long, leisurely midday meal together. No, I didn’t live in Fairyland or in the 19th century. I’m an American who for the last four years lived in Divonne-les-Bains, France. The common theme that runs through life there—and indeed through most of western Europe—is that work does not infringe on private time, downtime or family time.”
“The Great Recession is pushing many highly educated women who had left work to stay at home with their children to dive back into the labor pool, according to several nationally recognized experts on women in the workplace. Many of these women are sending out job applications for the first time in years because their husbands were laid off, fear being laid off or had their salaries cut or because their family’s investments plunged in value. Last February Trudi Foutts Loh felt compelled to find full-time work, some 20 years after she quit her job to care for her two children. Her job back then as a lawyer and three hours of daily commuting made balancing everything impossible.”
From website: “Our 2009 Working Mother 100 Best Companies are standing tough in their support of working families. Despite the layoffs, cutbacks and general economic maladies the country is facing, they continue to spend on health care, child care and work/life benefits.In fact, spending has actually increased at many of our winning companies, with about a third reporting that added funds have gone to new and improved programs. Now that’s change we can believe in!”
From the Press Release: “In the midst of the most vigorous national health care debate in 15 years, and at a time of heightened economic insecurity, new data on employers show that the health of employed American workers is trending downward in a number of important areas. The State of Health in the American Workforce, a report released today by the Families and Work Institute (FWI), finds that only 28% of employees today report that their overall health is “excellent,” down from 34% just six years ago. Perhaps surprisingly, men’s overall health has declined more rapidly than women’s. The report also sheds light on the relationship between an effective workplace and employee health, underlining the significant role that employers play beyond providing health insurance and wellness programs.”
“So, to sum it up, why do women start out happier and get bluer as they age? They start out believing in equality. And then they discover the scoop. In this society, the most dependable path to equality is to die childless at thirty. Before you hit the maternal wall, before those depressing children arrive, before you have to prove yourself 900 times to get what a man got after 90, before you are called a bitch when you do what they men do. Maureen, you heard it here: What depresses women is not the fact that they have choices. It’s the dismal choices they have.”
“Working Mother magazine has released its 24th annual list of “100 Best Companies” today, with a dose of controversy on the side. One question hovering over the recession was whether family-friendly policies would take it on the chin, and the advances of the past decade or more would prove to be just a luxury rather than a foundational change. Carol Evans, president of of Working Mother Media, says that the answer is a definite maybe. On average, companies are cutting their flexibility policies, she said, but those most committed to ‘best practices’ like flex-time, telecommuting, job sharing and on-site lactation rooms, were holding fast.”
“As the demographics of the workforce changes, the needs of the workforce are also changing. The Society for Human Resource Management Workplace Forecast of 2004-2005 found that an increase in workers with elder care responsibilities and an increase in workers with both childcare and elder care responsibilities were the primary upcoming demographic trends in the workforce. As I talk to my clients, this is indicative of a prominent dilemma these days – specifically the changing landscape of work-life balance for parents. Especially with the new economic environment, employees want to be visible, engaged and demonstrating value.”
“If we are to see truly flexible workplaces anytime soon, it’s important that we get beyond our own circles and collaborate with new partners whose interests align with ours. I’d like to see us pay more attention to business continuity planners. It’s easy to superficially add ‘business continuity’ to the list of advantages brought by flexible workplaces — businesses can continue operating in an emergency if teams are skilled at flexible work. But as I read more deeply about it, I find some gems that make my eyes pop out. One in five US businesses suffers a disaster that causes it to cease operations for a time.”
“The movement of women into paid employment represents one of the most important labor force trends of the last 50 years. But as women increased their hours of paid work, they decreased their hours of unpaid work. While men began doing a bit more housework and child care, they didn’t take up the slack. As a result, the increases in G.D.P. that we have experienced since 1960 probably overstate improvements in our living standards. Sure, our family income went up, but we had to spend a larger portion of that income purchasing food away from home, housekeeping, child care and elder care services that were once provided outside the market. Our public policies continue to define economic welfare — and eligibility for public assistance — entirely in terms of family income.”
“Most people look at their bank accounts with great attention and assess how much money they have to spend, to invest, and to give away… But, they don’t look at their time the same way, and end up wasting this incredibly valuable resource. In fact, time is much more valuable than money because you can use your time to make money, but you can’t use money to purchase more time. Time is the great equalizer… Each day has only 24 hours - nobody has any more than anyone else. Everyone, from poets to presidents, fills those hours, one after the other, until they are all filled up. Every single minute is unique, and once gone, can never be regained.”
Follow the link to see a cartoon that depicts the confusion of a tired and fired employee.
“To protect our jobs, many white-collar workers are working harder and longer, compelled by economic circumstance to seen to be the first to arrive and the last to leave the office. We are, in the phrase coined by psychologist Wayne Oates almost 40 years ago, in danger of becoming a nation of workaholics. This downturn-induced insecurity, aligned with a number of other factors, has forced many of us into an unhealthy relationship with work and a total disregard for work-life balance. Children, partners, friends and family all fall by the wayside as we heed the office’s siren song from dawn to dusk.”