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?

August 15, 2011


Hey, You! Mean People Earn More, Study Finds

Rachel Emma Silverman • Wall Street Journal • August 15, 2011

“It may not pay to be nice in the workplace.  A new study finds that agreeable workers earn significantly lower incomes than less agreeable ones. The gap is especially wide for men.  The researchers examined “agreeableness” using self-reported survey data and found that men who measured below average on agreeableness earned about 18% more—or $9,772 more annually in their sample—than nicer guys. Ruder women, meanwhile, earned about 5% or $1,828 more than their agreeable counterparts.”

Army’s drill sergeant single moms face challenges

Susanne M. Schafer • Associated Press • August 14, 2011

“Few women make it into the ranks of the Army’s top drill sergeants, even fewer when they face the challenge of being a single parent. But there they are, running fresh recruits through the grueling boot camp that welcomes every new soldier.  To juggle childrearing with a job that features 18-hour days and six-day weeks, the women take different paths: One sent her two daughters to live with relatives in Tennessee, one drops her son and daughter at an Army-run day care center at 4:30 a.m., while a third woman’s own mother moved from Texas to care for her 7-year-old granddaughter.”

Retiring in phases

Gillian Rich • Boston Globe • August 14, 2011

“Gradual exits from long careers are becoming increasingly attractive to older workers and employers as both try to navigate an uncertain economy, changing workforce, and evolving views of retirement. For older workers - many of whom have invested identities into job titles - phased retirement is a way to stay active and engaged, providing flexibility while supplementing retirement savings that may have to last 30 years. For employers, it’s a way to manage projected labor shortages as some 78 million baby boomers leave the workforce.”

Memo to U.S. workers: Take a break

Eric Weiner • Los Angeles Times • August 14, 2011

“What about American exceptionalism, you say? Yes, we are exceptional — exceptionally bad at relaxing, even when we know it is good for us. The U.S., along with Nepal, Suriname and Guyana, is one of only a handful of nations whose workers are not legally guaranteed a minimum number of days off. But our vacation deficit is largely self-inflicted. A recent survey by Expedia, the travel booking company, found that only 38% of Americans use all of their allotted vacation time, leaving an average of three days on the table each year.”

For older workers, ‘scary’ economy delays retirement

Peter Carey • San Jose Mercury News • August 14, 2011

“Many older workers are responding to the economic downturn by postponing retirement, but even so, it will be a struggle to make up for market losses in their retirement plans. Some were counting on their houses as a post-work financial cushion, but now their homes are worth less. They can’t depend on dividends and interest on savings—that income has nearly vanished. They also face layoffs and difficulties getting rehired.”

Generation Vexed: Young Americans rein in their dreams

Tiffany Hsu and Shan Li • Los Angeles Times • August 14, 2011

“More than half of earnings growth over a lifetime happens in the first decade of a career, meaning that early unemployment can depress future wages for life, he said. But older workers are staying longer in their jobs, forcing twentysomethings to fill up retail, fast-food and other part-time spaces that traditionally give teens their first paycheck. Without work experience, young job seekers will need to scramble for options, he said.  Trying to guess at what might be a secure career path has set Thomas’ head spinning.”

Can the Middle Class Be Saved?

Don Peck • Atlantic •

“Arguably, the most important economic trend in the United States over the past couple of generations has been the ever more distinct sorting of Americans into winners and losers, and the slow hollowing-out of the middle class. Median incomes declined outright from 1999 to 2009. For most of the aughts, that trend was masked by the housing bubble, which allowed working-class and middle-class families to raise their standard of living despite income stagnation or downward job mobility. But that fig leaf has since blown away. And the recession has pressed hard on the broad center of American society.”


“’It wasn’t until we saw the finding that fathers are working more hours than non-fathers of the same ages that we had an idea of what was going on,’ she said. […] But it isn’t increasing home responsibilities that are causing the most work-life conflict for men. It’s that they are working longer and longer hours. Men’s work-life conflict, by and large, stems from wanting a robust family life, while also feeling the need to be the primary breadwinner.”

Should Leaders Go on Vacation?

Rosabeth Moss Kanter • Harvard Business Review Blogs • August 15, 2011

“There’s been a lot of talk about the reinvention of work in the twenty-first century, but little guidance for the reinvention of vacations. As a big believer in vacations, I think it’s about time we become clear on dos and don’ts for leaders in turbulent times.  President Obama is not the only one having to decide whether to cut or modify vacation plans at a challenging moment. Volatility creates similar situations for CEOs, small business owners, and professionals of all stripes. Here are five questions for leaders in any field to ponder as they vacation without vacating their responsibilities.”

Maternity Leave

Matthew Yglesias • ThinkProgress • August 13, 2011

“Ideally, we ought to have nationwide paid parental leave financed out of tax dollars so as to not create an implicit tax on employing people who have kids. In practice, anti-tax fervor in the United States makes it more plausible that we’ll move to a mandatory paid leave system without taxpayer finance that’s then going to need a lot of loopholes and exemptions.”

The Psychology of Telework

Carrie Clark • Broadband for America • August 10, 2011

“Record levels of unemployment. A depressed economyshowing no signs of abating. Workers disengaged with their workplaces, with a corresponding dip in employee wellness.  At the same time, we know that telework improve sproductivity, is a benefit that is valued highly by employees (demonstrated by its ability to attract and retain workers), and employees who telework report lower levels of stress.
So what’s the problem?”

Global News

When leisure becomes work, it’s time to switch off and get a life

Suzy Freeman-Greene • Sydney Morning Herald • August 13, 2011

“The economist John Maynard Keynes once predicted that by 2030, we’d work just 15 hours a week. He envisaged a time when technological efficiencies would free us to work less - once our basic needs were met. We’re light years away from that scenario but it’s worth considering exactly what we ‘need’ for a good life. A more equal distribution of paid work would make for more rounded, caring, less stressed-out citizens. Let’s get the work-life balance back on the political agenda.”