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.




Covid 19

It seems that the Covid 19 pandemic is forcing many employers to rethink how they conduct business, especially in the retail, foodservice and hospitality sectors. We see businesses adding order on-line and pick-up from curb-side service or delivered to your home.  Drive through window services (e.g. banks, pharmacies, beverage stores) that already existed are seeing longer lines. Sonic fast food is ahead of the curve with their car-hop/serve you in your car design.

On-line purchasing/delivery to your home is not new, but I believe the pandemic is going to speed-up the migration towards the closure of brick and mortar retail/food service establishments. The big boxes have already been moving in that direction; this will get them moving faster.

What does this mean for employment? More jobs in distribution facilities, both skilled and unskilled. More delivery car/truck driver jobs. More vending machine repair techs. More on-line customer service jobs (which can be performed from home).  Direct contact customer service/sales jobs will start to disappear; waiters/waitresses, store clerks, store managers store salespeople.  Even auto sales jobs are being replaced by self-service options (e.g. Carvana, Autotrader, etc.).

This world-wide health crisis is a wake-up call for business,  government and consumers. Change is certain to result, and probably faster than it would have occurred otherwise.


Update – Telecommuting is becoming a more accepted option by Employers in the post-pandemic workplace

An article released by the Detroit AP indicates that Ford Motor Company has notified 30,000 world-wide employees that they can continue to work from home, indefinitely. They will be expected to come into their normal office location for group meetings and project work best suited to face-to-face interaction. The article postulates that this is a clear signal that the COVID pandemic has speeded up “a cultural shift in Americans’ work lives by erasing any stigma around remote work and encouraging the adoption of technology that enables it.”

In my experience in the HR field, employers were typically unwilling to commit to a telecommuting work structure other than for jobs which required a significant amount of travel away from the existing office locations (e.g. outside sales, equipment maintenance, over-the-road truck drivers to name a few). It is still not a feasible plan for many workers outside of those in professional and technical jobs, and jobs that do not require direct customer interface. However, as the nature of work changes with advancing technologies, I believe that employers will be more likely to shift to remote work options to reduce cost and attract new talent.

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). The new decade has arrived bringing major changes in the employment landscape, which will undoubtedly last into the future.

What can we expect for the next 10 years?  In a Dec. 2019 Inc. Magazine article, “8 Ways the Workforce Will Change in 2020, According to Business Leaders” the Young Entrepreneur Council shared their top predictions for the way work will look in 2020 and beyond. Here are some 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.. This provides more “home time”, more time to wind down, improved work/life balance.
  • 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, whether it’s as an employee, business owner, independent contractor, or freelancer.

Welcome to the new decade…welcome to change.