NewsRoundup

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 8, 2009

Articles

Bad Future for Jobs?

Robert J. Samuelson • Washington Post • September 7, 2009

“The first Labor Day, held in New York City in 1882, was less a celebration of the dignity of work than a demonstration in favor of the eight-hour day, down from the prevailing 10 to 12 hours. Compared with then, American workers have come a long way. Congress made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894, and over the years it evolved into a day off rather than a moment to reflect on the state of labor, broadly defined and extending beyond unions. Well, not this year. It’s the bleakest Labor Day since at least the early 1980s (unemployment in September 1982: 10.1 percent). With the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent in August and expected to go higher, cheery news is scarce. The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, has painted a statistical portrait of today’s labor market.”

The new worker: Earning less, toiling more

Randy Cordova • Arizona Republic • September 7, 2009

“As companies continue to lay off employees, enforce furloughs and cut pay, workers are becoming more nervous about their jobs. They are putting in more hours (often without pay), writing reports while on vacation and sometimes even checking e-mail and making calls while on furlough.  Our new economy is creating a new American worker - one willing to make sacrifices unheard of a few years ago and eager to take on new tasks created when colleagues were laid off. [. . .] The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in September that workforce productivity in the second quarter increased 6.6 percent while the average number of paid hours employees worked fell 7.6 percent. Hourly compensation also fell a little more than 1 percent, suggesting that people are working harder but earning less money.”

Work-Life Balance: A Male Perspective (Rebroadcast)

Kojo Nnamdi • WAMU - Kojo Nnamdi Show • September 7, 2009

“For decades, the movement to strike a healthy work-life balance focused on women. But a new generation of young men is adding a Y chromosome to the debate. Millenial men now want to share both the bread-winning and the child-rearing, and in fact report higher levels of work-life conflict than do women. Kojo examines the concerns of young working men and looks at how employers are beginning to respond.”

St. Louis County may send more employees home ... to work

John Myers • Duluth News Tribune, MN • September 7, 2009

“Desperate for any opportunity to save a buck, St. Louis County officials are looking to kick dozens of employees out of their offices and send them home — but to keep them doing their jobs through telecommuting. ” (Registration Required)

Out of Work, and Too Down to Search On

Michael Luo • New York Times • September 7, 2009

“In the most direct measure of job market hopelessness, the bureau has a narrow definition of a group it classifies as ‘discouraged workers.’ These are people who have looked for work at some point in the past year but have not looked in the last four weeks because they believe that no jobs are available or that they would not qualify, among other reasons. In August, there were roughly 758,000 discouraged workers nationally, compared with 349,000 in November 2007, the month before the recession officially began.  The bureau also has a broader category of jobless it calls ‘marginally attached to the labor force,’ which includes discouraged workers as well as those who have stopped looking because of other reasons, like school, family responsibilities or health issues. But economists agree that many of these workers probably would have found a way to work in a good economy.”

The future of work

Carol Hazard • Richmond Times-Dispatch, VA • September 6, 2009

“Michelle Booker sometimes slides into work wearing her pajamas.  She jumps online at her home in North Richmond to do live chats as a customer-service representative for the Virginia Department of Taxation. [. . .] Booker, 33, is part of a new work force with the technology to do their jobs from almost anywhere.  She is among 644 employees, or 58.5 percent of the Tax Department staff, working at least one day a week from home.  Some companies have taken the flexible work force concept even further.  Capital One Financial Corp., one of the largest employers in Richmond, allows some employees to decide whether to work a compressed week or a standard five-day week.  Mobile employees are in control of their hours, so they can coach a soccer team or do volunteer work. They keep connected through company-issued laptops, cell phones and Blackberries.”

The post-recession workplace: Is now the new normal?

Erin Andersen • Lincoln Journal Star, NE • September 5, 2009

“Regardless of whether you believe the recession is over yet, one thing is indisputable: The country’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression has fundamentally changed our jobs and the way we view them.  We are so grateful to still be employed that we are willing to work harder and for less—at least for now.  We are wary. Careful not to call attention to ourselves, we keep our heads low, so when the next employment hammer drops, it will miss us. [. . .] As we’ve heard over and over, normal, as we once knew it, is dead.  So what’s the new normal?”

Blogs

What We've Learned: Our (Increasingly) Non-Market Economy

Nancy Folbre • New York Times - Economix • September 8, 2009

“Much attention has been lavished on the fact that women now represent close to half the paid labor force. But we should also note that men now devote more time to housework and child care than they once did. As we move toward more equitable sharing of unpaid work, policies designed to help wage earners meet their family responsibilities — including paid family leaves from work — become high priorities. Such policies seem expensive to us in part because we have taken women’s unpaid work for granted in the past.  Two-earner families, unpaid work and family safety nets can all help buffer the effects of temporary unemployment. But most families rely on market income to buy the inputs they need to take care of one another. Prolonged unemployment represents more than a loss of potential market output. Like extreme poverty, it reduces the ability of families to produce, develop and maintain the human capital on which our economy relies.”

Why Do So Many Dutch Women Work Part Time?

Carter Dougherty • New York Times - Economix • September 8, 2009

“In 2001, the Netherlands implemented a complex tax reform that was supposed to get women back into the labor force. Its effects can be sliced and diced different ways, but the upshot is that, although more women entered the labor force, they worked fewer hours on average than women over all had before the tax reform.The researchers concluded that — despite the carefully calibrated incentives that economists love so — women work part time in the Netherlands because, simply, they like it that way.”

Flexible Work Arrangements: Improving Job Quality and Workforce Stability for Low-Wage Workers and their Employers

Liz Watson and Jessica Glenn • Sloan Work and Family Blog • September 7, 2009

“This year, workers and their families across the country felt the impact of serious economic downturn, with unemployment reaching a 26-year high. While recent news suggests things may be improving, we cannot forget that for many low-wage and hourly workers–who now represent over a quarter of the U.S. workforce–the recession only exacerbated their ongoing struggle to hold down quality jobs while caring for their families.  Low-wage workers face many of the same challenges that the rest of us face in reconciling our work, family and personal lives, but for many of these workers, it’s simply a whole lot harder. Low-wage workers are more likely to face involuntary part-time work, rigid or unpredictable schedules, or night, evening and weekend work, all of which can have serious consequences for families, including unstable and inadequate child care, poor health outcomes, family instability, missed work, lost and unstable income and job loss.”

Back from a vacation? Don't waste a precious clear mind.

David Rock • Psychology Today - Your Brain at Work • September 6, 2009

“Many people today think for a living. If you are one of these people, then like me you’ve probably noticed just how much better you are able to think after a break of some sort, especially a break where you haven’t thought about work for a while.  It turns out there is now some very good science that explains the value, importance and function of a mental rest. In particular the research relates to our ability to have insights, the ‘aha’ moment when something that didn’t make sense suddenly changes. (There is also the idea of just giving overused circuits a rest, but I think the more interesting issue is around how we solve complex problems.)  The research points to the idea of valuing a fresh mind more than we tend to, as this is the time we are more likely to be able to solve tough problems. Instead of valuing a quiet mind, we tend to automatically fill it up with emails or every day challenges, and waste a precious commodity.”

Reward Older Workers With What They Really Want

Sylvia Ann Hewlett • HarvardBusiness.org - Winning the Talent War • September 4, 2009

“The percentage of working Americans aged 65 and older rose to 16 percent by the end of 2009, up from 12 percent a decade earlier. With the 78 million Baby Boomer cohort — whose leading edge just celebrated its 62nd birthday — expect major changes.  Boomers are poised to retire traditional notions of retirement. According to a new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, ‘Bookend Generations: Leveraging Talent and Finding Common Ground,’ 62 percent of working Boomers expect to stay in the labor force in their so-called “golden years.” Not surprisingly, the economic downturn and its devastation to 401(k) portfolios is a major reason in the determination not to ditch the job; more than half of Boomers in our national survey plan to delay retirement by nine years as a direct result of savaged retirement savings. Another factor in staying on the job is the wish to support their children, either those now approaching college age or young adults whose own employment prospects have been frozen by moribund market.”

Global News

At home in the office

Rhymer Rigby • Financial Times • September 7, 2009

“Anthea Stratigos, chief executive of Outsell, a California-based research and advisory firm, sees many of her employees just once a year. This might be understandable if Ms Stratigos’s company was a big multinational, but it has about 50 employees. The difference between Outsell and most companies, however, is that all but four of its staff work from home. For many of them, water-cooler moments are an annual event.  Outsell is one of the few companies that are almost totally virtual. It has taken the teleworking mantra to its logical extreme: a tiny, central office with a couple of staff that exists mainly for meetings, with the vast majority of employees working from homes across the US (with a few in the UK).  There are a number of pluses for employers who adopt this kind of system. For starters, there is the money saved by not needing to rent office space.”

Stigma, ignorance deter workers from staying home with baby

Carmel Egan and Jennifer Sheridan • Sydney Morning Herald, Australia • September 6, 2009

“Fewer than 10 per cent of Australian fathers take their entitled paternity leave because many are uncertain about their parental role or fear losing their jobs.  Since 1990, working men have been entitled to 12 months’ unpaid paternity leave. About 80 per cent take two weeks’ paid annual leave when their child is born, whereas 90 per cent of working mothers take unpaid leave in combination with their paid entitlements.  A father currently on paternity leave, who wished to be known only as Dan, said he thought fathers’ reluctance stemmed from uncertainty about their parenting role, ignorance of leave entitlements and pressure of social expectations.”