Category Archives: workplace flexibility

More Work/Life Woes?

In late June, we used this space to highlight study results implying that maybe, just maybe, employees are gaining real ground in the battle for work/life balance.

Now, not quite two months later comes research that suggests the battle might still be far from over.

The RAND Corp., Harvard Medical School and UCLA recently conducted the American Working Conditions Survey, which polled 3,066 U.S. adults. Among these respondents, roughly 25 percent say they have too little time to do their jobs, with this complaint being most common among white-collar workers.

Given this finding, it’s not surprising that many employees feel that the “intensity of work frequently spills over into their personal lives,” according to RAND. Just over 50 percent of those surveyed report feeling this way, saying that they perform at least “some work” in their free time in order to meet workplace demands.

RAND notes that many workers say they must sometimes adjust their personal lives to take care of job-related responsibilities. The opposite doesn’t seem to be true, though, with 31 percent of employees finding it “somewhat” or “very” difficult to adjust their work schedules to accommodate their personal lives.

Generally, women were more likely than men to report difficulty arranging for time off during work hours to address personal or family matters, according to RAND. Younger workers feel the strain as well, with more than one-quarter reporting a poor fit between their work hours and their social and family commitments.

Not exactly encouraging figures on the work/life balance front. But the news from this research isn’t all bad. Many employees can at least count on having some kind of support system on the job, with 61 percent of women and 53 percent of men saying that they have “very good friends at work.”

Participants were also asked whether they felt their immediate supervisor trusted them, respected them, offered praise and recognition, gets people to work together, is helpful, provides useful feedback, and encourages and supports professional development. Ninety-five percent of respondents agreed with at least one of those seven statements, with 58 percent agreeing with all seven.

All in all, “the many striking and complex findings regarding American working conditions will give social scientists, policymakers, employers and workers themselves much to consider,” the authors write, noting that they “hope … these data will contribute to a constructive debate on how to improve working conditions … .”

Indeed, the numbers to emerge from this study “suggest that there is ample scope for modifying work environments,” they conclude, “to keep workers healthier, happier and more productive.”

Sad State of Parental Leave

Tuned into a pretty interesting, if not depressing, Facebook Live session on Wednesday. Seems the at-least-slow progress in paid parental leave we’ve been writing about here on HRE Daily and on our HREOnline website isn’t as promising as some think.

At least that’s according to the Society for Human Resource Management, which released during the session its National Study of Employers — a self-described “comprehensive look at employer practices, policies, programs and benefits that address the personal and family needs of employees.” (Here’s the press release for those of you who don’t have the time for an entire study right now.)

Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute, talked during the session about the study’s key findings — namely that, despite reports from well-known companies (such as Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson and Ernst & Young — see our own posts linked above) announcing their expansions of paid-parental-leave benefits, the average amount of caregiving and parental leave provided by U.S. employers has not changed significantly since 2012.

Specifically, over the past 11 years, the number of organizations offering at least some replacement pay for women on maternity leave has increased from 46 percent to 58 percent. But the study also found that, among employers offering any replacement pay, the percentage offering full pay has continued to decline, from 17 percent in 2005 to 10 percent in 2016.

In fact, of all employers with 50 or more employees, only 6 percent offer full pay. In addition, daily flexibility, the kind needed for emergencies, has gone down actually, from 87 percent in 2012 to 81 percent in 2016, a statistic Galinsky called “critical.” She added:

“The fact that that kind of flexibility has gone down is a critical [and alarming] finding.”

According to Galinsky, HR has a major role in turning this around. As she put it during the session:

“Flexibility is now the norm. HR should be thinking this way. It used to be, ‘Should or shouldn’t we provide flexibility?’ Now it’s a given that we should.”

Unfortunately, she said, HR needs to do a better job of telling workers what is offered at their organizations. The study found only 23 percent of companies making a real effort to communicate the programs they have.

Here are some other key findings:

  • Small employers (50 to 99 employees) were more likely than large employers (1,000 or more employees) to offer all or most employees 1) traditional flextime, the ability to periodically change start and stop times (36 percent versus 17 percent), 2) control over when to take breaks (63 percent versus 47 percent) and 3) time off during the workday to attend to important family or personal needs without loss of pay (51 percent versus 33 percent).

  • Growth of workplace flexibility has been stable over the past four years. Out of 18 forms of flexibility studied, there were only four changes:

  1. An increase in employers that offer telework, allowing employees to work at least some of their paid hours at home on a regular basis (40 percent in 2016 versus 33 percent in 2012).
  2. An increase in employers that allow employees to return to work gradually after childbirth or adoption (81 percent in 2016 versus 73 percent in 2012).
  3. An increase in organizations that allow employees to receive special consideration after a career break for personal/family responsibilities (28 percent in 2016 versus 21 percent in 2012).
  4. A decrease in organizations that allow employees to take time off during the workday to attend to important family or personal needs without loss of pay (81 percent in 2016 versus 87 percent in 2012).

In Galinsky’s words:

“Whether high-profile companies offering paid [parental] leave are out of step with the majority of employers or leading the way remains to be seen. Given our findings that 78 percent of employers reported difficulty in recruiting employees for highly skilled jobs and 38 percent reported difficulty in recruiting for entry-level, hourly jobs, these high-profile companies could be leading the way in the strategic use of leave benefits.”

And, apparently, that’s not happening. Not yet anyway.

‘Flexing’ to Close Gender Gap

Seventy percent of working mothers say having a flexible work schedule is extremely important to them, according to a Pew survey. (So do 48 percent of working fathers.)

To that end, a new job board is looking to leverage workplace flexibility to help close the gender gap, according to this new piece in the New York Times Upshot section:

A new job search company, Werk, is trying to address the [gender-gap] problem by negotiating for flexibility with employers before posting jobs, so employees don’t have to.

Facebook, Uber and Samsung are among the companies with job listings on the Werk site, in which all the positions listed “are highly skilled jobs that offer some sort of control over the time and place of work. People can apply to jobs that let them work away from the office all the time or some of the time, and at hours other than 9-to-5, part time or with minimal travel.”

Another option the site offers gives workers the freedom to adjust their schedules, no questions asked, because of unpredictable home and/or family obligations.

The story quotes Gerard Masci, founder and chief executive of Lowercase, a start-up eyeglass maker in Brooklyn, who just hired a vice president for communications on Werk. The company’s new hire works part-time and remotely, except for monthly in-person meetings.

“I don’t care if this week you work less if in a month you work more, and whether they work in the space or not is irrelevant,” Mr. Masci said. “All I care about is the productivity in the end.”

The full story is well worth a read for any HR leaders who are looking for ways to improve flexibility efforts without sacrificing productivity or quality talent.

 

Overtime Rules and Flexible Work

The U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed overtime rules may or may not go into effect on Dec. 1 of this year.

But if the new regulations do become reality, large employers could face unintended and unanticipated consequences, according to new WorldatWork research.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based non-profit HR association’s recent Quick Survey on Implementation of New FLSA Rules survey polled 948 WorldatWork members with compensation and HR generalist in their titles.

When asked how they are addressing or plan to address employees that were exempt under the old overtime rules who fall below the new standard salary level threshold, 73 percent of employers said they did or will raise some to the new minimum threshold, while reclassifying others to non-exempt. (Fifteen percent indicated that they did or will raise all to the new minimum salary threshold and maintain exemption, while 9 percent intend to reclassify all to non-exempt, and 4 percent said they were unsure of their plans.)

Among those who plan to reclassify employees to non-exempt, 49 percent said their workplace flexibility options will decrease. The number of large organizations planning to go this route is “of particular concern,” according to a WorldatWork statement summarizing the findings.

For example, 62 percent of responding companies with 10,000 to 39,999 employers said they intend to reduce the flexibility options they offer workers.

“The fact that larger employers are more likely to decrease flexibility will obviously affect more employees,” says Kerry Chou, senior practice leader at WorldatWork. “That being said, this result could be a byproduct of the fact that larger organizations are more likely to have formalized flex programs as opposed to ad hoc programs.”

Naturally, the new rules figure to have a significant financial impact on employers, with 69 percent of respondents telling WorldatWork that their overall costs have already increased or will increase as a result of the new standard salary-level threshold. Just 13 percent said that net costs have stayed or will stay the same, and they won’t require taking separate actions such as reclassifying employees as non-exempt to contain costs.

Some employers may look at cutting flexible work options as one way to offset additional expenses connected to new overtime rules, says Chou, adding that workplace flexibility can be a big factor in recruiting and retaining talent.

As such, companies that choose to offer fewer flexible work options may ultimately see higher turnover and greater difficulty in attracting replacements for departing employees, he says.

“The increased cost of overtime compliance, coupled with high turnover—or at least lower job satisfaction of current workers—are consequences that will need to be addressed.”

Temp Jobs: 3 Million and Counting

New research from CareerBuilder and Emsi (Economic Modeling Specialist Intl.) shows more companies will be tapping into the temporary labor segment of the labor pool, with temporary employment expected to add 173,478 jobs from 2016 to 2018 – an increase of 5.9 percent.

The analysis was reportedly based on data pulled from more 100 national and state employment resources.

“Today, nearly 3 million people are employed in temporary jobs, and that number will continue to grow at a healthy pace over the next few years as companies strive to keep agile in the midst of changing market needs,” said Kyle Braun, President of CareerBuilder’s Staffing and Recruiting Group:

“Opportunities are opening up in a variety of occupations and pay levels, and this is a trend we’re seeing in a wide range of industries and company sizes.”

Click here to see CareerBuilder’s list of fast-growing occupations for temporary employment from 2016 to 2018.

To further bolster the claim that temp jobs are here to stay, in a Harris Poll study commissioned by CareerBuilder and completed in December 2015, 47 percent of employers reported that they plan to hire temporary or contract workers in 2016, up slightly from 46 percent last year. Of these employers, more than half (58 percent) plan to transition some temporary or contract workers into full-time, permanent roles.

“Temporary employment benefits both sides of the labor market. Hiring temporary and contract workers helps companies stay flexible and adapt quickly to changing market demands,” Braun said. “For workers, it opens doors for those who want to utilize various skills, build relationships with different organizations and explore career options.”

More proof that temporary jobs are now a permanent fixture in the labor landscape. Is your organization ready to embrace the temp trend?

Do You Walk the Talk of Work/Life Like This One?

Headshot - Shani Godwin
Shani Godwin, Communiqué USA

I just got off the phone with Shani Godwin, the fascinating CEO of a small business in Smyrna, Ga., called Communiqué USA — and, rather than wait another minute before getting her whole work/life approach into a post, I’m typing now. That’s how much her message has inspired me.

She caught my eye in an initial email spelling out the details of a policy she implemented many years ago — long before France announced its new law last April banning all employees from emailing for work past 6 p.m.

In Godwin’s case, she disallows her employees to email for work past 7 p.m. on weeknights and throughout the weekends. And she’s been doing that — and much, much more — almost since she founded her company 14 years ago because of her sincere belief that your employees are only as good as the people you allow them to be.

And that, she would tell you, includes parents who need to be at a bus stop at 2:30 p.m., or a T-ball game for an entire afternoon, or a school play or doctor’s appointment. It includes elder-caregivers who need to tend to Mom or Dad, or a spouse or significant other, or God forbid, a loved one in hospice.

It also includes any and all employees who are sick for however long it takes them to get well (I was talking to Godwin the day she returned from being out for a full week with the flu), or who might simply be feeling burned out and in need of time away from the office or maybe a two-week vacation. (If you’re wondering how far afield this vacation concept is, read Mike O’Brien’s HRE Daily post about the upsurge among millennials of what’s being called “vacation shame.”)

“People loan themselves to the job every day,” says Godwin. “If I can’t give back so these people can enjoy the first 18 years of a child’s life, then what good am I and what good are they?” In fact, she chooses to have happy, balanced employees instead of what seems to still dominate the corporate American workforce (drained, overworked and always-on, 24/7, workaholics. ) She insists on it. She even makes her email policy and work/life commitment part of every client contract.

“We don’t finalize any assignment involving clients and employees until all details are clear and agreed upon,” she says. “If the person we’re assigning the contract to needs to be at the bus stop at a certain time every day, it’s written into the contract. So is the fact that no one from our company will be getting back to the client via email past 7 p.m. or on weekends.”

How do clients feel about that? They seem to be more accepting than employees, it seems.

“We have to be very strict and policing sometimes about keeping to this commitment to balance,” Godwin says. “Employees, employers, society in general, we’re all connected. To truly have balance, you need strict boundaries, and you need to adhere to them. It’s never been the clients who need reminding; it’s actually the employees. We have to say, ‘Hey, we saw you sent that email at 8 p.m. … don’t do that again.’ ”

In the last year, “the company has grown, project by project, from five employees to 15,” she says. Albeit still a very small company, it’s big enough now to demand a more systemic, structured, formalized and policy-driven approach if everyone is going to really adhere to her be-good-to-yourself and be-free restrictions. “For my staff,” she says, “I encourage them all to decide to what extent they want to work.”

That means, if work builds up and there’s too much for an employee with small children to handle, given his or her work/life-balance criteria, Godwin says, “we just hire someone else to fill that need and our message to the current employee is, ‘Thank you for doing your personal best to create another job for another person to come in.’ Rather than simply ‘rewarding’ them with more work [which no doubt goes on in corporate America far more than we think, methinks], we create another job so that person is still protected and able to pick up her kids every day.”

So where does this most-unique position in business come from? All the way back to when Godwin was a member of corporate America herself, with advertising and marketing stints at Bell South and Chick-fil-A, as well as other large employers.

“Fourteen years ago, I could not envision how I could possibly keep up the schedule I had and ever have a life, or ever even entertain the thought of having a family.”

She remembers asking herself back then, “How can I really be there for ballet classes and baseball games? That’s simply not going to happen.”

“I personally believe we have no company without our employees and if they’re happy and living balanced lives, they’ll be energized and productive, and the clients will be treated well,” says Godwin.

“There no sense in bugging someone to give you [a report or piece of information] while they’re attending a funeral” or involved in a birth … or even just a kid’s activity.

“It’s been a personal decision for me to put people before profit,” she says, and it appears to be paying off in terms of retention, morale and employee-satisfaction results.

Could it work in the same corporate America she left 14 years ago? I guess we won’t know until we try.

Taking Paternity Leave is Still a Challenge

Came across this LinkedIn post the other day by Jake Anderson about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recently 487328649 -- father and childannounced few-months’-paternity leave for his daughter.

Anderson, co-founder of FertilityIQ, lays out pretty thoroughly why so few new dads (fewer than 50 percent) actually take the time Zuckerberg is taking, even when they’re encouraged to by their employers:

“Despite the ‘entrepreneur-as-rockstar’ boom, nearly every working dad (and mom) I know is still middle management. Whether you work at Publix, Pinterest or PGE, being middle management means essentially the same thing: You have just enough responsibility to have direct reports who can bungle something critical. But not quite enough responsibility to ensure you won’t get edged out, undermined, displaced or overlooked. You’re vulnerable, and probably a tad paranoid.

“Nearly 50 percent of dads on paternity leave checked email once per day and cite workplace pressure and stigma for cutting leave short. When asked what is the ‘ideal’ time for them to be gone, most men answered two weeks. Weirdly enough, that’s [often] the same duration their employers thought.”

We’ve certainly written about men’s reluctance to take the kind of new-father leave they probably should, and companies’ reluctance to offer it, both here on HRE Daily and on our HRE website — as well as the problems new moms have in making maternity and work … well, work.

What’s different is Anderson’s characterization of his own demographic group and what might really lie behind this reluctance:

“Amidst the silent apprehension, paternity leave should feel like a godsend. For a generation committed to data and proof, there are reams of studies that demonstrate taking paternity leave creates equality in the home and healthier relationships between father and child. Reading on, and between, the lines of Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement, he buys into the notion paternity leave helps address concerns that haunt so many men of our generation.

“But nearly 50 percent of dads who have the option to use generous paternity leave (let’s call it four-plus weeks), still don’t take all of it. What’s even weirder is that when dads were asked if they should get longer paternity leave, a healthy majority answered ‘no.’ Where I came from, people don’t just turn down paid leave lightly, so you better believe something else is up.”

Anderson doesn’t pretend to know exactly what that phenomenon is that’s “up.” But he does take a stab at it: Men are either suffering from a fear of missing out at work or a fear of wading through too many nitty-grittys of new parenthood, what he calls a “fear of being included (in diapers).” Or both, which he thinks is probably the case.

What he does provide employers and HR is a four-point plan of action that is most definitely worth thinking about:

  1. Closely track which men are likely to reach which levels of role and salary in three years and compare the cohorts of men who took leave and their comparables who did not.
  2. Each year, publicly, and honestly, reveal the data by department.
  3. In departments where a consistent disparity exists, force every new father to take six weeks paid leave, until either the negative cultural bias is washed out or the best practice of leave becomes commonplace.
  4. In departments where no meaningful disparity exists, allow new fathers to make their own decisions.

Without a doubt, parental leave is becoming an increasingly important and serious consideration for employers that want to keep their best people around and happy. Consider this announcement a week ago today introducing a new consultancy for employers devoted to nothing but parental leave.

(Here’s the official website of the new group, the Center for Parental Leave Leadership — partnering, impressively, with the likes of the Working Parent Support Coalition, Working Mother Media, Cornell University, the Families and Work Institute and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Clearly, more than just this group sees a need for more help on the employer front.)

Where we all go from here in this ongoing social experiment called working parenthood, let’s not only all take it dead seriously (“past the press-release stage [and onto] harder measures,” as Anderson writes); let’s make sure we’re all in it together, moms and dads.

Millennials Fed Up With Lack of Flexibility

millennial parentAs millennial-age employees move into the managerial ranks and begin having children, they are becoming more frustrated with a lack of flexibility on the part of their employers that impedes their chances at work/life balance, according to a major new survey from EY (Ernst & Young).

Achieving balance between work and family has gotten tougher for all generations, not just millennials: The survey of nearly 10,000 employees from eight different countries, conducted for EY by Harris Poll, finds that one-third of all employees say managing work/life balance has become more difficult in the last five years. Younger generations and parents are hit harder than others–particularly in certain countries, such as the United States.

One particularly interesting finding is that more U.S. men than women are more likely to change jobs or give up a promotion for the sake of work/life management. And, 38 percent of U.S. millennials say they would “move to another country with better parental leave benefits.” The United States is the only major industrialized country that does not mandate paid parental leave.

Nearly one in six millennials say they’ve suffered a backlash for having a flexible work schedule. About 26 percent of millennials say they are working more after having a child versus 13 percent for Gen X and 16 percent for baby boomers. In addition, the partners/spouses of millennials was also more likely to have increased the amount of time they work.

Millennials are the generation most likely to say they would change jobs or careers, give up a promotion opportunity, “move my family to another location to better manage work/family,” move closer to family and “take a pay cut to have flexibility.

One of the most sobering statistics of the survey is this: Nearly two-thirds of U.S. full-time employees who are parents did not take paid parental leave and over three quarters of women indicate their spouse/partner is not eligible for paid parental leave. Given the importance of parents’ spending time with their young children, it’s disturbing that the hurdles standing in the way of U.S. parents’ ability to do this are so high.

Bound for a Breakdown

burnoutEmployees who describe themselves as perfectionists who take work home with them and can’t bear the thought of being average sound like a manager’s dream, right?

Not necessarily, according to new research that finds employees with such workaholic tendencies may not always work out so well.

In its recent study of 1,385 individuals taking a “Type A Personality Test,” online psychological assessment provider PsychTests found 86 percent of respondents classifying themselves as workaholics saying they push themselves to accomplish their goals. Sixty-five percent of those in this group said they take work home with them, with 63 percent claiming they “hate the idea of being considered an average performer.”

That all sounds fine and good, but there’s a downside to an intensely driven personality that can manifest itself in some nasty ways.

For example, 73 percent of those who consider themselves workaholics said they have trouble unwinding at the end of the day. The same number reported getting angry with themselves when they “don’t finish everything they wanted to do.” (These folks aren’t exactly thrilled with co-workers they see as creating distractions, either, as 68 percent said they “can’t tolerate people who slow them down.”)

In addition, 60 percent said they tend to be overcompetitive and impatient with co-workers. Fifty-eight percent report feeling tense, 49 percent have trouble falling asleep and another 46 percent find their lives are too stressful.

These figures certainly aren’t the first indication that workers who regularly push themselves to extremes may be barreling toward a breakdown—and may end up taking some of their colleagues along for the ride. And, other studies offer evidence that this type of employee often reaches a point where his or her efforts simply become counterproductive.

Just last week, in fact, HRE Managing Editor Kristen B. Frasch reported on recent Stanford University research findings that suggest employees working more than 50 hours a week are essentially spinning their wheels soon after hitting the half-century mark.

In that piece, work/life experts urged employers and HR leaders to implement initiatives such as paid-time-off banks and flexible hours for all employees as a way to encourage better work/life balance among the workforce.

While making such options available is certainly a positive first step, PsychTests President Ilona Jerabek advised managers to be a bit more direct in dealing with hard-charging workers who may sometimes need saving from themselves.

“This kind of extreme, ‘Type A’ personality has a shelf life as an employee, as [such an employee] cannot keep up this kind of schedule and work dedication for a sustained period of time,” Jerabek recently told Bloomberg BNA.

“You need to give them permission to take it easy,” she said, “and explicitly tell them to take some time off.”

Fathers’ Jobs Enhanced by Father-Kid Time

487328649 -- father and childAn interesting finding comes to us from various professors at some well-reputed academic institutions — Northeastern University, Boston College and the University of Massachusetts — showing that the more time dads spend with their children, the better they fare on the job.

You’d think the opposite would be true, considering how more time with kids generally makes working mothers pull their hair out more and generally jeopardizes work, the release poses.

But in this month’s issue of Academy of Management Perspectives, a paper detailing the results of the study — based on a survey of close to 1,000 working fathers — will show that fathers spending more time with their kids and mothers spending more time with their kids yield very different results.

As the release about the study notes, researchers found that “the more time fathers spend with their children on a typical day, the more satisfied they are with their jobs and the less likely they [are to] want to leave their organizations.”

“Further,” the release says, “they experience less work-family conflict and greater work-family enrichment.”

Fathers spending time with their kids also put dedication to a career down a few notches on their career-identity/priority list, but the study says … hey, that’s … OK! As the release puts it, “any weakening of dedication can be effectively countered by management support with regard to work hours and family matters, the new research finds.” It goes on:

“In the words of the study, ‘Ideally, individuals should be able to foster a strong sense of involvement at home and still feel connected to their careers … . Analysis revealed that strong support from an organization via its management can mitigate the negative relationship between involved fathering and career identity.”

So why the difference between women and men? Though researchers Jamie J. Ladge and Maria Baskerville Watkins of Northeastern, Beth K. Humberd of U. of M. and Brad Harrington of Boston College don’t address it necessarily, an argument could be made that fathers are still getting the luxury of taking “baby steps” into more time with baby, whereas working mothers have long suffered “having to do it all.” (I say this as one who has been through multiple eras of this social experiment.)

But all in all, this is good news.

Now let’s see how many organizations can support the notion that fathers spending more time with their kids is a good thing. One study from a few years ago, written about in this HRE cover story, suggests they have a long way to go. It also suggests dads are more conflicted, not less, when they take that stand with their employers.

Looks like baby steps for both sides are in order.