Work-Life Balance

A lot is written about the fact that we in the U.S. have the lowest amount of paid time off from our jobs than any of the other developed countries.  But not much is happening here to change that.

With the time that workers now spend in one job trending downward, the amount of vacation time they get is reduced as well, since vacation allowances are typically connected to service time with that employer.

China, one of our main economic competitors (and the target of a current trade war with the U.S.), has for some time cultured a “996” workweek for tech company employees: 12 hour days, 6 days a week. That to me is the definition of a “workaholic”.  In the U.S. there is a common belief that you need a balance in your life between work time and personal time.  That is especially true if you have children to raise.   It’s different if you are a small business owner or a key player in a start-up. But people in those situations have made the choice to accept that they will sacrifice free-time for monetary rewards.

A 2010 survey by SHRM, as reported in the SHRM article, “Survey: Work/Life Balance Off-Kilter in U.S.”, indicates that 89% of the workers surveyed feel that this is a problem in the U.S. But the trend has been to require more and more from workers (which increases productivity, assumedly), and the current historically low unemployment rates mean that this will continue (fewer available workers for the work to be done). And vacation time, paid or unpaid, will continue to be hard to come by.

What is the answer? Early in the 20th century it was growth in union organizing. If workers here continue to be dissatisfied that may again be the result.  There are also several states that mandate leaves of absence for workers to deal with personal and family issues (according to abetterbalance.org , there are seven states currently with such laws), which exceed the requirements of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)).  Improvements/enhancements to the FMLA itself have been contemplated by federal lawmakers (the Family And Medical Insurance Leave Act, known as the FAMILY Act was introduced in Congress in February 2017).

Certainly the “996” approach is not going to take root here in the U.S.  But it also may mean that to stay competitive in the world market the pendulum cannot swing too far in the other direction. What is clear is that attention needs to be paid to this difficult issue.




Retirement Benefits in the Gig Economy

Glancing through a newsletter that I recently received from an investment advisor, I happened upon the following article:

From the July/August 2020 issue of In The Know issued by the Nye Financial Group

This summarizes the problem for the 50+ workforce pretty well. Through the non-profit EncoreNEO that I am involved with we are presenting the option of freelancing and self-employment as a solution to the difficulty that this group has in finding traditional employment. One of the topics we cover is financial solutions for the freelancers/self-employed.

I have found the following books to be helpful in providing an overview of this topic: The Gig Is Up by Olga Mizrahi (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2018); The Gig Economy by Diane Mulcahy (American Management Association, 2017); The Freelancer’s Bible by Sara Horowitz (Workman Publishing, 2012).

The Gig Is Up: Thrive in the Gig Economy, Where Old Jobs Are Obsolete and Freelancing Is the Future

More to come on this subject, including potential legislative changes to assist self-employed workers to deal with the issue of obtaining these benefits outside of the traditional employer-provided environment. Watch for the next post.

A New Decade

Well, here we are, half-way through 2020.  The first new decade that I remember where it is recommended that you use the full 4 digits in a date field (the year 2000 introducing the new millenium). There have already been major changes in the employment landscape which will undoubtedly last into the future.

What can we expect for the next 10 years?  Check out the Dec 3. 2019 article, “8 Ways the Workforce Will Change in 2020, According to Business Leaders” in Inc. Magazine by the Young Entrepreneur Council, in which a panel of entrepreneurs share their top predictions for the way work will look in 2020 and beyond. Some highlights………..

  • More remote work options – “If companies want to stay competitive with attracting the most skilled candidate for a job, working remotely, at least part-time, will have to become a necessary part of the employee package”, according to Leila Lewis, founder and CEO of Be Inspired PR. This is especially likely in the post COVID pandemic world. Employers that have had their employees working from home to avoid the spread of the virus are finding that there are advantages to maintaining this arrangement. A negative aspect for workers is that employers are also finding that they will not need to bring back all of the people that have been furloughed or laid-off due to the pandemic. Many of those workers affected will re-enter employment through temporary, contract or self-employment avenues.
  • Shorter workweeks – “The business world is buzzing about Microsoft’s successful four-day workweek experiment in its Japan office…” as noted by Nicole Munoz, founder and CEO of Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.. More “home time”, more time to wind down.
  • The disappearance of ‘corporate ladder’ aspirations – According to Solomon Thimothy, president of OneIMS, this concept is slowly dying as people’s attitudes toward work change. Expect growth of “side hustles” and “bridge gigs”, as ways for workers to increase their income and/or transition to self-employment. As noted in the book “The Gig Is Up” by Olga Mizrahi (2018), “By the year 2020, it is estimated that 50% of the US workforce will be working independently.”

Consider this- since the mid 1900’s there has been a dramatic shift in the employment pattern, from the traditional one job for life… to four or five “full-time” jobs over a career… to the present pattern of four or five jobs/gigs at the same time (part-time, temporary, contract employment, etc.).

Job security is a thing of the past. Income security will depend on our ability to provide something of value to others.

Connecting with Others is soooooo important

One thing that I am learning during the Covid 19 pandemic is how much I miss interacting with others. We are after all social animals, according to Aristotle.  I thought that I could catch-up on my reading, household projects, yard maintenance, soduko puzzles.  I could play golf, without sharing a golf cart with a golf partner or hanging around after the round (the “19th hole” is closed).  However, I have found that I am spending more time looking for ways to interact with others while maintaining “social distancing”.

Don’t get me wrong….I definitely treasure my time to myself, but not to the extent that I am now forced to.

Thank god for the internet/social media and virtual meeting platforms. I cannot imagine how I would get through this crisis without that. I have never been much of a phone user for chit-chats; group discussions are more my thing.  Even group discussions virtually, through Slack or Zoom.

I think we are all learning a great deal about things that we have taken for granted up to this point…what is really important to us in our day to day lives.