Workplace Flexibility News for the week ending July 18, 2009

In the News

Jack Welch and Work-Life Balance – My Week of Trying to Do It All (About.com)

I don’t regret my choices of the past four days , but in trying to do it all and ‘balance’ my daughter’s needs with my own, I am physically exhausted. This week has shown me that ‘doing it all’ takes its toll. I’m glad I’m only called upon to make this kind of choice once or twice a year. To live like this every day? Well, that would be inhuman. Impossible. Unbalanced.

‘No such thing as work-life balance’: Do you agree? (Times Union)

I think you can still have a successful career and be a successful mother at the same time, but can you get to the top and still make your child top priority? I don’t think it’s realistic. Maybe if we had a different attitude about business and you didn’t have to devote almost every waking hour to it in order to advance. Or maybe if we lived closer to our extended families, and there was more support to working parents available, it would be a different story.

Work and Life — and Blogging the Balance (Wall Street Journal)

The challenge of the finding the work-life balance — sorry, of making “work-life choices” — is now an official cultural preoccupation, the subject of regular Web sites, blogs and newspaper columns. It is a part of the political debate, too. In his profile of Sonia Sotomayor this week — titled “The Way We Live Now” — columnist David Brooks fretted about whether Ms. Sotomayor’s marriage ended because of her long hours at the office. And of course it was a matter of national import, not so long ago, whether Sarah Palin could really raise five children and hold down a job.

Companies gain with teleworking (Philly.com)

Alison Gleeson manages 1,100 employees nationwide, and she’s doing it from a home office in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., for part of her work week. Gleeson is a married mother of two elementary school-age kids, and works as a vice president of commercial sales for information technology giant Cisco Systems, based in San Jose, Calif. A few weeks ago, she captained a meeting while sitting in her car at a T-ball game for her son.

Will Flextime Set You Up To Be Laid Off? (Forbes)

Manhattan-based employment lawyer Matthew Blit was recently approached by someone who until recently been working in advertising sales. The person had been the only one in his group who regularly worked from home; he was also the only one laid off in a recent round of downsizing.

Blit spoke to the company’s lawyer and learned one reason his client was let go was because he had been telecommuting two days a week–even though his sales numbers were higher than most of his group’s. But since there were no discriminatory factors involved in the layoff, such as being fired because of race, sex, age, national origin or religion, so there was no basis for a lawsuit.

AVMA coverage: Work-life balance for women (DVM News Magazine)

You really can’t do it all, said certified nutritional consultant Robin De-Ivy Allen during a session at the AVMA conference in Seattle about life balance. Her evidence: Most of us start the day with a to-do list that we don’t finish. Still, you can make time for the things that matter most to you. She recommends these seven steps to achieve a balance that will keep you happy and healthy:

Will We Ever Get Tired of Talking About Work/Life Balance? (AM Law Daily)

Chantal Kordula, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and the mother of three children under the age of 6, says her jump to partner at Cleary shows Welch’s “work or life” choice is false. Kordula, who took five months off after the birth of each of her children, says her promotion to partner was delayed two years because of time off for child care and an unexpected stint in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.

How Gen Y & Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda (Insurance News Net)

Overwhelming majorities of Gen Ys (89%) and Boomers (87%) say that having flexible work options is important. Similar percentages (87% and 83%, respectively) say that work/life balance matters to them, so it’s not surprising that roughly two-thirds of both groups also wish for opportunities to work remotely. Having the freedom to choose when and where to work is very powerful, particularly for young employees: 83% of Ys say this freedom motivates them to give 110% effort.

A Future for Work-Life Balance (The Atlantic)

Most people who have worked in corporate America are probably very familiar with the term work-life balance. Probably only a fraction of those people have actually experienced it. The Wall Street Journal today reports that former General Electric CEO, and all-around business guru, Jack Welch thinks work-life balance is a fiction — if you want to be at the top of your game. I think Welch is right for his generation, but as technology continues to advance, so should work-life balance.

Welch: ‘No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance’ (Wall Street Journal)

Former General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jack Welch has some blunt words for women climbing the corporate ladder: you may have to choose between taking time off to raise children and reaching the corner office. “There’s no such thing as work-life balance,” Mr. Welch told the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in New Orleans on June 28. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”

Jack Welch: Child-Raising Is for Chicks (Reuters)

According to former General Electric (GE) CEO Jack Welch, “women” must choose between advancing their careers and raising their children. “There’s no such thing as work-life balance,” he said, specifically referring to Patricia Woertz, CEO of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), as well as Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont (DD) as women who chose to concentrate on their careers.

On-the-Fly IT for Workplace Flexibility (ComputerWorld)

More and more American workers aren’t showing up at the office. Their cubicles are vacant, their desktop PCs idle. Instead, they’re working at all hours of the day from coffee shops, conference rooms, customer sites and suburban telework centers. Take a look around your own corporate offices. There’s probably a lot of empty chairs. The average occupancy rate of commercial office space from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is between 30% and 50%, according to Cornell University’s International Workplace Studies Program.

A Job Jolt Could Change Your Life for the Better (ABA Journal)

Economic meltdown, thousands of lost lawyer jobs, big-firm careers teetering on the brink: What could be worse for an attorney trying to build a successful and balanced life? Or, really, what could be better? Economic collapse is perhaps the ultimate wake-up call, and experts say this year’s crisis has created a unique opportunity for lawyers to re-examine priorities and create a better balance between work and life.

Credo: International Museum of Women’s Clare Winterton (San Francisco Examiner)

I think…our culture still finds it easier to associate certain leadership attributes — such as decisiveness and ambition — with men rather than women. But the stereotype is shifting. I hear younger men saying that they prefer to work for women because they often have a better appreciation of the need for work-life balance. They are focused on the end result rather than the hours you clocked to get there.

Why So Few Women? (Omaha World-Herald)

The nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranks Nebraska near the bottom, 45th, in its most recent measure of where women stand in managerial and professional occupations in each state. Iowa ranked 43rd. That’s despite both states ranking high in the portion of women in the work force. Ask women and men in leadership about the poor rankings and they cite a variety of factors: the relatively short history of women in roles positioning them for leadership; a community culture of leadership by men with money, power and connections; and the choices women themselves make along the way.

Whatever happened to touted work-life balance (Financial Post)

Phillip Wilson, a labour consultant with LRI Management Services in Broken Arrow, Okla., said face time can mean the difference between keeping your job or losing it. Mr. Wilson sometimes works from home, but his father, Don, founded the company and expects his workers to show up to work every day, even if they’re not necessarily contributing. “It’s really generational,” Mr. Wilson said of his dad. “If your boss is older, they may think working from home is a perk for people who can’t hack coming into the office every day.”

In the Blogs

“No such thing as work-life balance” Why not already!? (MomsRising.org)

We’re tired of people bemoaning that work-life balance isn’t possible, while there are real-life solutions in the form of family-friendly policies at our disposal–policies which also up the corporate fiscal bottom line by helping to retain and advance women. Yes, it’s true: Recent research underscores that having women in leadership is correlated with improving the fiscal bottom line for businesses1. Join us in asking the CEOs of the leading Fortune 500 companies to take action and put policies in place which enable women to advance to the top in their careers and also take care of their families.

No Such Thing As Work-Life Balance? (Delaware Employement Law Blog)

None of these observations is particularly shocking. It’s not surprising that most current female CEOs have had “pretty straight careers.” Nor should it be a barn-stormer that someone who spends ten years out of the work-force—male or female—is unlikely to make it to the highest possible rung on the corporate ladder. I would expect that anyone who makes it to the CEO level has had to make tremendous sacrifices in their personal life to get there. Obviously, those who make it to CEO are a unique breed in many respects.

Why Gen Y ‘chicks’ and Old White Guys from F500′s don’t see Eye to Eye (ERE.net, Gen Y Blog)

Yes, this is about you – Jack Walch. And, maybe it isn’t all of Gen Y ‘chicks’ – some of us are tolerant of being talked down to and demeaned for chosing to have a family. Being told that we (women) can still have “a nice life, but the chances of going to the top on that path” is slim may be OK for you, but I’m not buying it. The rest of us are really tired of a guy who got to the top because of an amazing woman behind him telling us that we can only get to the top in the business world if we steer clear of the mommy path.

There is No Work-Life Balance, Only Work-Life Choices (QueerCents)

While I don’t have kids, I know that when I worked in corporate, comments like this made me insane with rage (well they still do). The audacity that human beings have to choose between a well-lived life and a successful career seems a little barbaric here in 2009. If we’re so bright, developed all these technological advances that allow us to work from about anywhere, and are supposed to be innovating in a Dan-Pink-Whole-New-Mind-Way, someone tell me again why women need to cling in fear and worry about face-time every time they need to make a choice about how to spend their time?

Why Jack Welch is Good for the Work-Life Debate (OBM)

I actually agree with Welch that we need to stop talking about balance and shift the conversation to another framework. So do many of the experts I know in this field. For example, Work+Life Fit’s Cali-Williams Yost says: “The quicker we stop thinking there is a right answer or “balance”, the quicker we will begin to see that every one of us has a different work+life fit at different times in our lives.”

Paid leave laws versus SHRM’s workplace flexibility principles (Warren Hayes LLC Blog)

There has been a lot of buzz over the past couple of years about enacting new paid leave laws that would require employers to provide paid sick leave to their workforces. The Obama administration has indicated it would like to pass some form of paid sick leave legislation in 2009. But the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) — the largest HR organization in the world — is trying to change the dialogue. According to SHRM’s COO China Gorman, “SHRM is advocating a 21st Century workplace flexibility policy that meets the needs of today’s employers and employees. SHRM believes that employers should be encouraged to provide paid leave without new federal rules and regulations.” The idea is that employers who voluntarily choose to offer paid leave will be protected by a “safe harbor” that deems them in compliance with federal, state and local laws.

Always ask prospective or current employers about workplace policies (CareerMums)

Did you know that astute women in the early 20′s now ask prospective employers about their parental leave and flexible work arrangements policies before they agree to work there? I certainly didn’t – and I am 35 (not too old!). 15 years ago, I was not thinking about having a family and there was little or no talk in the media about workplace flexibility. Women are now more aware of their rights, obligations, and their valuable contribution to the workforce.

Can Women Balance Kids/Work? (My Philadelphia Story)

Not sure how to react to this. It just sounds so condescending. I plan to have a professional career. I’m not going to school for the next three years to not use my degree. I plan to have kids. Kids are great. So, what? I can’t have it all. Maybe it’s the attitude of old-fashioned executives such as Mr. Welch that prevents this “work-life balance.” I wonder how supportive Mr. Welch was of his own wives’ career choices? Would he have even been successful without his first wife? His second wife was a lawyer. His third went to Harvard Business School. Thankfully, dude is retired. Good riddance. Don’t tell me how to live my life. Not cool.

No Such Thing As Work-Life Balance? Think Again, Jack Welch (Lemondrop.com)

If anything, Jack Welch is an über-wealthy version of my cranky grandfather. He remembers the Great Depression, still talks about Ronald Reagan and can’t be bothered with learning about the Internet. No modern man who considers himself to be innovative, thoughtful and “good with money” would dismiss work-life balance in such a callous and shallow way. Can you imagine the CEO of Google making such a flippant statement?

“Welching” on work-life balance helps all of us zero in on a new defintion (Craving Balance)

When former General Electric CEO Jack Welch let loose the now uber-tweeted and uber-blogged words, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance” women and men alike pounded the digital pavement in protest. Jack might have gotten away with a comment like that back in the day when men were men and women ran scared, but fortunately those days are like a beehive hairdo and way passé because women aren’t Welching on work-life balance; they’re redefining it.

Jack Welck and Work-Life Balance (Government Executive Fed Blog)

Alec Baldwin’s character on 30 Rock once said, deadpan, that “Jack Welch is the greatest leader since the pharaohs.” That assessment, of course, all depends on how one feels about the pharaohs, but it cannot be denied that Welch is an influential figure in business circles, and his declaration that “There’s no such thing as work-life balance….There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences,” is getting some attention as a result. The Atlantic Business Channel’s Daniel Indiviglio says that Welch just means that time is finite, but that Welch may be proven wrong as technology makes work far more efficient, and working from home becomes substantially easier.

No such thing as work-life balance for women, say Jack Welch (Alpha Mummy)

I think there’s a kernal of truth of Welch’s comments that no one wants to acknowledge. But maybe not acknowleding them is a good thing. It used to be accepted that women who took time off to become mums “naturally” left the fast track. It’s not perfect, the way we cope with maternity leave, but it strives toward a workplace that doesn’t automatically downgrade women’s abilities simply because they perpetuate the human race.

Myth #1: An invisible hand in the market dictates that work must be inflexible, brutish, and long (MomsRising.org)

Speaking now, in this economic crisis, it gets harder and harder to argue that there is an incentive for businesses to implement flexible policies. That said, every single study that has ever been done has shown that the introduction of workplace flexibility and new work arrangements result in increased productivity, increased retention, and less turnover. So, in fact, even in today’s economy, there is still a bottom line argument that can be made for flexibility.

What Work/Life Balance? (mainstreet.com)

Half of working dads said they have missed a significant event in their child’s life in the last year due to work, and 28% said they’ve missed more than three significant events, the survey found. Still, almost 82% of men said they spend more time with their children than their fathers spent with them.

Jack Welch. “No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance”? Hmmm. (Karl Ahlrichs’ Uncommon Experience)

What makes this more interesting to me was the reaction of a woman I met on the shuttle bus that night. She was still fuming, but from a surprising perspective. “I’m mad, but because I WORKED for him. I was in one of the GE divisions that he talks about, and we all knew that the window dressing did not match the world we saw from the inside. Now, he’s starting to reveal that truth.” Employer of Choice? Perhaps, only in the marketing. Not in the execution…

Jack Welch on women’s work (Ad Broad)

It’s not that I necessarily disagree. A work-life balance IS an impossible feat, an inconvenient fact that came as a rude surprise to lots of boomer women who’d been led to believe otherwise. The “have it all” promise, unfortunately, is a crock. Sometimes, lots of times, you have to choose between your kids and your job, the playdate or the client, the school play or the important pitch. But the balance is impossible for anyone to achieve, whether or not you’ve got a vagina.

There’s No Such Thing as Work Life Balance (Im.seeking.balance)

I know I’d be farther along in my career if I was more aggressive with my goals and just sucked it up and did it the way I’m “supposed” to… but I have too many life aspirations for that. I have too many interests and hobbies and other things I enjoy in life that I couldn’t dedicate my entire life to the pursuit of money and back pats from people whose families are falling apart all around them.

Jack Welch: “No Such Thing As Work-Life Balance” (MomRising.org)

First of all, whenever I read these stories especially from the point of view of Fortune 500 CEOs, I think it fails to take into consideration the workforce changes due to employees who want a life outside of work. Small businesses, for example, many which are headed by mothers, now make up almost 45 percent of private payroll, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. In 2000, when the country was experiencing record-economic growth, small businesses actually employed more private sector workers than large corporations, according to a report by the Clinton Administration, which also cited statistics by SBA.

Jack Welch, Grumpy Old Man? “There’s No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance.” (The Conglomerate Blog)

About a million years ago, Dana Carvey played “the grumpy old man” on SNL, “and we liked it!” This WSJ article makes me wonder if Jack Welch was doing a grumpy old man impression at a human Jack Welch: “No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance” (The Juggle a WSJ blog)

Whether work-life balance is attainable or is a myth has been a hot topic here at the Juggle. Adding fuel to the fire is former General Electric CEO Jack Welch. According to my WSJ colleagues Cari Tuna and Joann S. Lublin, Mr. Welch has some blunt words for women climbing the corporate ladder: you may have to choose between taking time off to raise children and reaching the corner office.

Don’t Put Off Personal Branding to Focus on Keeping Your Job (Personal Branding Blog)

This may be a time when employers hold all the cards and your top priority needs to be keeping the job you have. But, don’t forget that the tides will turn. The economy will recover, the Baby Boomers will start retiring, and employers won’t have all the power anymore. Then, the people who will really win big are the ones who have a very strong personal brand. They’ll be the ones getting early consideration for leadership positions, and the ones scooping up prime positions at their dream companies.

They’ll be the ones who can bargain for the best salaries and responsibilities, or demand the kind of work-life balance that they dream about.

Generation Xers are Not Like Baby Boomers (FP Posted)

In addition to self-sufficiency, Gen Xers place a higher priority on their children and family relationships more than did Boomers. Many Xers would take lower pay or a lesser job to gain flexibility and time with their families.

What the next generation of graduates want ( Saftety at work blog- Australia)

A dominant element of modern employment is work/life balance. In some disciplines this is taken as workplace flexibility. In terms of workplace safety, work/life balance is a euphemism for psychosocial hazards of stress, bullying, fatigue, and workload amongst others. From this position, the survey findings showed that, when asked “What are the most important extra benefits?”, work/life balance scored the most support at almost 39%.

Unbalancing the Ad Industry (MarkLives.com, South Africa)

Is working in the ad industry or at marketing agencies an awful job? Not at all. But few are playing it smart when it comes to the well-being of their employees even though the benefits of healthy living is well documented and work/life balance is far from being a new idea.

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