Public Policy

Why the Federal Government’s Telework “Policy” Won’t Achieve Flexible Work Success

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I was originally booked on Federal News Radio’s “Federal Drive” morning show to discuss how TWEAK IT can help individuals can find a better work-life “balance.”

But, the segment quickly turned into an opportunity to reinforce the link between work flexibility AND the skills and tools people need to capture that flexibility and use it to be their best, on and off the job (which, ultimately, is what TWEAK IT is about).

Below, you will find a link to the lively 13-minute discussion I had with hosts, Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.  Some of the key points we covered included:

  • Like in any organization, the government’s telework “policy” is not enough to create a successful culture of flexibility that meets the needs of the organization and its people.
  • In an environment with more duties and fewer resources, we can’t keep working harder and faster. We have to work and manage our lives smarter and better.
  • Telework is not a “program,” it is a way of operating in this “do more with less” environment that requires a partnership between the workplace and the person using it.
  • The skill set individuals need to play their role in that flexible work partnership includes the ongoing small, meaningful  ”tweaks” to manage their everyday work+life fit and the “resets” that involve a more formal flexible work plan.
  • Truth is that not every type of job or level supports the same type of work flexibility. Good news is the everyday work+life “fit” how-to in TWEAK IT applies to everyone, regardless of the flexibility your job supports.
  • Technology allows more flexibility, but it has also caused us to become more reactive. We need to set better boundaries throughout the day but don’t know how.
  • We have to learn how to test expectations. Sometimes we think we have to respond immediately when we get a late night email or when we are on vacation.  But that is not the case.  Yet we don’t ask.

And there is much, much more.  Let me know what you think in the comments section.

And, if you haven’t already, I would love to connect with you on Twitter @caliyost and on Facebook and continue the conversation.

TODAY Show #DoingItAll Series–Links, Highlights and Gratitude

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What an exciting week!

It was an honor to participate in the #DoingItAll series on the TODAY Show in support of Maria Shriver’s important, groundbreaking, The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink.

Many of you have asked for links to the segments and key takeaways…so here you go!

Tuesday: Two Amazing Women #DoingItAll

First, on Tuesday, I worked with two truly remarkable women who epitomize what it means to “do it all.”

Both of these women approach the challenges in their lives with courage, persistence, optimism and humor. They inspired me.

Watch and listen to their stories and my advice (video links below):

How to set productive boundaries: Teleworking, independent marketing consultant and single mom of two

How to ask for help and take small, doable, intentional steps: Small business owner, and single mom of three 

 

Wednesday: #DoingItAll Help-a-thon

Then, on Wednesday, a group of finance, health, legal, career and life experts gathered in the TODAY Show studios to answer questions posted by viewers on email, Twitter and Facebook.

We were there from 7 am to 12 pm est. You have not seen a more dedicated group of people. We tried our best to answer as many of the hundreds of often very difficult, emails, tweets and posts that people sent in.

In this picture, Hoda and Kathie Lee pay us a visit in the Orange Room during their show. The experts pictured (starting from the bottom left) are Dale Atkins, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Carmen Wong Ulrich, Dr. Janet Taylor.  Then in the back row (starting on the right), Dr. Roshini Raj, Valorie Burton, Lisa Bloom, and then me.

Down in the main studio were Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Sharon Epperson and Dr. Gail Saltz.  And in Washington, D.C. with Maria Shriver, were Ellen Galinsky and Jean Chatzky.

#DoingItAll Series Gratitude

As I reflect on the experience, here are the three things I am most grateful for:

Maria Shriver: I am grateful that she used her powerful platform and voice to draw attention to the realities of millions of women (and men!) who are trying to do it all under very difficult circumstances.  If you haven’t done so already, read  The Shriver Report–A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, and take at least one or two of the “next steps” outlined in the study. (And yes, she is as smart, nice and cool in person as she appears on television.)

TODAY Show: For sharing the stories of real women who are #doingitall and then trying to connect viewers with the resources they need.

The people I met who truly care and want to make a difference: From Maria Shriver, to the TODAY Show producers, to the experts participating in the Help-a-thon, to the participants in The Atlantic’s day-long symposium streamed live yesterday, people care. Individually, we may be limited in what we can do, but together we can make a difference. And it starts with caring…I saw that in spades.

Finally, as I prepared for the segments and the Help-a-thon, I thought about what I wished everyone knew to help them manage work and life, better and smarter, in 2014.

So, stay tuned…next week I will share my “Top Ten Work+Life Fit Tips for 2014.”  And I want to hear your ideas, too!

Together, we can succeed while we’re #DoingItAll.

Want to continue the conversation between posts?  I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and to visit/like our Facebook page.

 

Why “The Third Metric” Success Conversation Has Just Started

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Last month, on June 6th, I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski’s inaugural “The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power” conference.  

The panel on which I spoke (above) was “Re-Working Work.”  It’s an important topic because, if we want to rethink the traditional definition of success, then the way we work and spend much of our day has to adapt and become more flexible.

I shared my thoughts about “How Success Flexibility Creates Opportunity, On and Off the Job” in a pre-conference blog post on The Huffington Post:

“I’m often asked, ‘If you had to give one piece of advice, what would it be?’ After I say, ‘See the countless possible ways work can flexibly fit into your life,’ I add, ‘But be sure that you redefine success related to money, prestige, advancement and caregiving to match the unique fit you have chosen. If you don’t, you will feel bad about the choice and give up.’

We covered a lot of territory in one day at The Third Metric conference.  And bonus: one of my quotes from the panel was included in the highlights of quotes from the day (check out slide #10)!

Speakers and attendees made headway identifying the changes that would help make physical, mental, and spiritual well-being a larger part of the way we collectively define “success.”  But the conversation is far from over.  It has just started.  Why?

Everyone gathered that day in Arianna Huffington’s beautiful apartment–from the CEO’s of large corporation (Aetna), leading doctors, entreprenuers, journalists, to the television personalities–agreed that the path we are all on is unsustainable because:

  • It’s hurting us personally.  We are stressed, sick, eating poorly, not exercising, not sleeping and not performing our best in all of the areas of our lives.
  • It’s hurting our families and friends.  We aren’t maintaining and nurturing the personal relationships that matter and renew us.
  • It’s hurting our businesses.  Health care costs are soaring and workplace engagement is at historically low levels which hurts profit.

Any criticism I read of The Third Metric conference related to a feeling that it didn’t adequately acknowledge the realities of lower income workers, especially women, who don’t have the luxury to think about these issues while trying to hold down three jobs.

I was encouraged by how many conference speakers did reinforce the often difficult day-to-day work and life realities that many, many people face.  Certainly these concerns need to remain a primary focus.  However, change and dialogue have to start somewhere, and the conversation at The Third Metric was a smart and sincere beginning.  But can’t stop at one meeting or at one group.

I am very hopeful that the passion and commitment both Huffington and Brzezinski brought to their first conference will continue to move the needle.  I look forward to seeing what they decide to do next as they encourage us all to expand our definition of success beyond simply money and power to find the modern, “third metric.”

How do you think we need to expand our definition of success beyond money and power?

 

 

 

CNBC: Why Vacation is a Strategic Business Imperative, Not Optional Benefit

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This week I appeared on CNBC’s Street Signs to comment on a new study that shows the United States of America is the only rich, Western country to offer NO paid, mandatory vacation.  None.  Zip.  Zero.

Of course, afterwards I thought of a great comeback to host Brian Sullivan’s Renault curveball…”But I have driven a BMW, and Germany mandates 34 days off, versus France’s 31 days.”  Oh well.

It’s not as if the other countries are only marginally better, offering two, or maybe three, mandatory, paid vacation days.  Nope.  The country second to last on the list before the U.S., Japan, mandates ten days.  Ten.

To get a sense of just how far off the bell curve the U.S. ranks, here’s the comparative chart from the “No-Vacation Nation Revisited” study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (that’s us on the very far right where is says “0″):

Now, I’m not under any illusion that the U.S. will offer European, or even Canadian, level paid days off; however, the simple fact is that every single one of these countries can’t be wrong.  There must be some valuable return from this investment or they wouldn’t keep doing it.  What is it?

What can we learn and then adapt to our culture and economy? What should mandatory, paid vacation and holidays look like in the U.S.?

The Eldercare Cliff. It’s Coming. Are You Ready?

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(This post originally appeared in Forbes.com)

When I went to the polls, an issue that was barely mentioned during the campaign partially guided my vote. I favored the candidates nationally and locally whom I thought would begin to address the looming eldercare/adult caregiving cliff. Why?

Yes, jobs are very important, but increasingly people will struggle to keep a job as the demand to provide unpaid care for aging relatives (e.g. parents, aunts, uncles, friends, adult siblings) grows exponentially. Ultimately, this demand will far exceed the current level of supports in the community and the public funds available to pay for those minimal supports.

More and more individuals and employers will find they need to fill the gap financially and physically, and the worst is yet to come. But we aren’t talking about it. At least not yet; however, that’s going to have change.

What does eldercare/adult caregiving look like in action?

A couple of months ago, AARP in partnership with the Ad Council launched a three-year public service campaign to raise awareness of the tens of millions of unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. today.

When I first saw the powerful PSA, “Silent Scream” on television, it was so accurate in how it portrayed of the complicated emotions related to caring for another adult that it took my breath away. (My only wish it that they’d shown someone trying to rush out the door to work while figuring how to keep their mother safe when the caregiver doesn’t show up).

If you haven’t seen it, check it out here. It is worth three minutes.

What is the current state of eldercare/adult caregiving in the U.S.?

There are approximately 314 million people in the U.S. today. According to AARP, of that number, roughly 42 million were unpaid caregivers that provided $450 billion worth of unpaid care to adult relatives and friends in 2009. This is care that we, collectively, would have had to pay for otherwise.

In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over a three-month period, 39.8 million people over the age of 15 said they provided care to someone over 65 years old because of “a condition related to aging. Of that 39.8 million:

  • • One-third cared for two or more older people
  • • 23% also cared for a minor child.
  • • 85% of caregivers and elders did not live together
  • • 56% of caregivers were women (44% men)

In other words, today about 13% of the U.S. population provides some type of unpaid family caregiving.

What is the projected future of eldercare/adult caregiving in the U.S.? (Click here for more)

3 Reasons Why Card-Carrying Capitalists Should Support Paid Family Leave

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In business school, we were taught that a solid strategy recognizes the exogenous (external) and endogenous (internal) challenges facing your business and addresses them. Employee child care and eldercare responsibilities are not only two major external business challenges, but they become internal issues the minute an employee walks in the door or signs onto his or her computer.

In the U.S., we pride ourselves on our capitalistic, profit-oriented savvy; therefore, given the growing magnitude of employee caregiving realities, you would assume that employers would support a clear, consistent uniform strategic response.  One that minimized business disruption and kept employees engaged and productive over the long-term. Unfortunately, the reality is the exact opposite.

Status of Paid Family Leave in the U.S.

Out of 178 countries worldwide, the United States is one of three that does not guarantee new mothers paid leave. The other two countries are Papua New Guinea and Swaziland. Nationwide, in March 2011, only 11% of the private sector workers and 17% of public sector workers reported having access to paid leave through their employer.

Only two states in the country, California and New Jersey, offer six weeks of paid family leave to men and women who are caregivers.  Even in the face of state budget challenges, both programs are healthy and successful. Unfortunately, the state leaves are not job-guaranteed which makes the time difficult to take. (New Jersey Paid Family Leave Fact Sheet / California Paid Family Leave Fact Sheet)

Yes, there are 12 weeks of job-guaranteed FMLA, but it is unpaid and employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt which eliminates a large percentage of workers.

In terms of private paid leave offered directly to employees by employers, 58% of mothers who gave birth and were offered leave by their employer received some form of maternity disability pay, but only 14% of men on paternity leave received any replacement income (2012 National Study of Employers). That means 42% of mothers and 86% of fathers with employer supported leave received no income at all.

A Brief History

Historically, a coalition of labor, women’s, child and health advocates have promoted paid family leave. They’ve emphasized the well-documented public health benefits, the peace of mind of employees, benefits for children and eldercare cost savings. While valuable and important, these rationales haven’t withstood the “job killer and “anti-business” arguments used by groups like the Chamber of Commerce to fight approval. (Note: at the end of the post, you will find new information that could indicate the Chamber’s position on caregiving as an important business challenge is evolving, at least in their organization.)

Why?

There are workplace and public policies that plan for time off and income replacement in case of illness or injury. There are 401Ks and social security for when you retire and can no longer work. Why isn’t there a coordinated, uniform workplace and public policy that offers time off and at least partial income replacement when people, inevitably, have babies or an aging parent needs care? Why?

I wanted the question “why” answered when I attended last month’s Paid Family Leave Forum at the Ford Foundation sponsored by the National Center for Children in Poverty, New York State Paid Leave Coalition and A Better Balance. What I learned reinforced my long-held belief that every card-carrying capitalist should support paid family leave public policy because:

  • Paid family leave acknowledges and addresses a reality that directly impacts every business and, therefore, should be planned for strategically, uniformly and deliberately;
  • Paid family leave is NOT a tax, but income replacement insurance program funded by employees at minimal cost and
  • We are paying for a cost for caregiving already, albeit indirectly and inefficiently.

But, First, Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Before we dig deeper into each of the reasons listed above, I have to establish my business credibility, or “cred.” Too often when someone tries to engage the business community on issues that they consider “soft” or societal in nature, the messenger is dismissed as “not understanding business.” This, in turn, dismisses the message. I’m a messenger who can’t be easily dismissed with that argument because I do “get” business.

I was a banker for seven years, specializing in lending to closely held companies and I graduated, with honors, from Columbia Business School. I can rock a balance sheet and cash flow statement with the best of them, and I’ve even been known to find a strange joy in deciphering the “story” within the notes at the back of an annual report. I am a flexible work strategy consultant who works inside of organizations regularly, and I believe that both people and the business must benefit if flexible work is going to succeed.

As advocates for paid family leave found in California, I am not alone. Many business people support a uniform, public policy to address this challenge, but their voices were drowned out by the groups lobbying against it.

3 Reasons Every Card-Carrying Capitalist Should Support Paid Family Leave

My knowledge of and respect for business is why I think every card-carrying, profit-oriented capitalist should support paid family leave policy (or at least not stand in its way):

Reason #1: Paid Family Leave acknowledges and addresses a reality that directly impacts every business and, therefore, should be planned for strategically and deliberately.

The truth is that we are all potential caregivers. We may not end up having children, but all of us have parents and aging relatives who will very likely at some point require care.

Most mothers and fathers have to work and will be in the workforce when they have children. According to studies by the Center for American Progress, “in 2010, among families with children, 49% were headed by two working parents and 26% by single parents.” In 2009, employed wives of dual-earner families contributed 47% of total family earnings. In most cases, the income of both parents is critical to a family’s financial well-being.

With regard to eldercare, in 2010, 45% of employees surveyed said they had eldercare responsibilities over the past five years, and 49% expect to have responsibilities in the next five years. As the population ages, the eldercare challenges are expected to grow and many of those caregivers—men and women–will be in the workforce.

Paid family leave as public policy acknowledges the reality of caregiving by creating a uniform, clear response. Disruption is minimized because everyone knows the rules of the road. Business can plan in advance how the work will get done should an employee take leave for the prescribed six week period of time. This is especially true for maternity leave where, usually, you have months to plan. For example, perhaps the business can use the wages not paid to the employee on leave to hire a temporary worker, or to pay exist staff to take on the extra work during the leave.

It’s worth noting that a follow-up study of employers in California found that a majority felt paid family leave had either a positive or neutral impact on their business.

Reason #2: In the case of California and New Jersey, Paid Family Leave is NOT a tax, but an income replacement insurance program funded by employees.  In fact, some advocates feel a more accurate name is Family Leave Insurance. (Click HERE to go to Forbes.com for more)

How to Advocate for Family Leave Insurance, a.k.a “Paid Family Leave,” in Your State

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This week I wrote a post for Forbes.com entitled “3 Reasons Why Card-Carrying Capitalists Should Support Family Leave.”  To help individuals advocate for Paid Family Leave (which is really Family Leave “Insurance”) in their state, Ellen Bravo the Executive Director of Family Values @ Work, a national network of 16 state and local coalitions helping spur the growing movement for family-friendly workplace policies, offered the following get-started tips:
  1. Stay informed about legislation in your state or nationally by signing up with a group or coalition working on this issue. You can find more information on these websites: Family Values at Work and the National Partnership for Women and Families.
  2. Spread the word. Urge any group you’re involved with to become a part of the coalition. Speak up on your Facebook page or on Twitter, in a letter to the editor or in a post for a community or congregation newsletter.
  3. Share your personal experience, positive or negative, with legislators (contact information for state legislators can be found online). Let them know the impact on babies, on those dealing with chronic illness or aging, on families and on caregivers like you when employees do or don’t have access to affordable family leave.
  4. Create a personal network of at least 5 people, urge each of them to share their own experience with legislators – and if possible, urge your 5 people to create their own network of 5.

For more, connect with me on Twitter @caliyost.

Labor Day Issue: Healthcare Reform is Really About Changing Nature of Work

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(Legal challenges to healthcare reform continue and it’s now an election issue.  I watch from my book-writing cave wondering why no one is talking about the real issue…work has radically changed over the past two decades making the job-healthcare link unsustainable.  So in honor of Labor Day, here’s the post in March, 2010 I wrote during the healthcare reform process.  What do you think the answer is 18 months later?)

Last week on the eve of the Health Care Reform Summit, I wondered if the changing nature of work, the real driver underlying the need to reform our current employer-sponsored health care system, would be mentioned.  I even created a brief survey asking you to place your bets, on “How will the ‘changing nature of work’ as key health care reform driver show up in tomorrow’s summit?”  The responses were split:

  • 50% said, “It will not be mentioned at all,” and
  • 50% said, “It will be mentioned, but tangentially.”

No one picked the other option which was, “It will be front and center.”

So, who was right?  Well, after reading the complete transcript from the day provided by Kaiser Health News (via Dr. David Ballard at the American Psychological Association), both groups were correct to a degree.  The increasing flexibility in the way we work as the powerful reason “why” we need to reform our health care system did come up, but very briefly and very tangentially.

Specifically, there were SIX references that linked nature of work and coverage.  Only six, out of a six-plus hour summit.  To be fair, there was a great deal of discussion about the need for exchanges where individuals and small businesses could purchase insurance, and the requirement to extend coverage of dependent children under their parents’ policies up to 25 years old.

But there was little explanation as to “why” there were so many millions of people either on their own, working in a small business, or without insurance in their early 20’s.  Answer: the change in work which involves more flexibility in type of employment beyond the traditional 1950’s “right out of school, work full-time for a big company for life” model.

Here are the six most specific references (I am not identifying the speaker or the political affiliation, if you are interested please review the transcript):….(Click here for more)

Can Retail, Call Center and Housekeeping Staff Have Work-Life Flexibility?

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(This post originally appeared in FastCompany.com)

Over the past five years, new research shows that we’re all much more comfortable with the concept of work+life flexibility.  We no longer expect lawyers, managers or web designers to always show up to an office, 9-to-5, Monday through Friday.  But what about retail sales associates, call center workers, or housekeeping staff in hotels?

Can low-wage hourly workers access the same work flexibility to manage their lives both on and off the job?

According to two recent reports, the answer is “yes, but…” The authors of Flexible Workplace Solutions for Low-Wage Hourly Workers: A Framework for a National Conversation, Liz Watson, Legislative Counsel, Workplace Flexibility 2010 and Jennifer E. Swanberg Ph.D. Associate Professor, University of Kentucky and Executive Director, Institute for Workplace Innovation, and of Improving Work-Life Fit in Hourly Jobs: An Underutilized Cost-Cutting Strategy in a Globalized World, Work Life Law, UC Hastings College of the Law say:

Yes, low-wage hourly workers can flexibly manage their work+life fit and businesses will realize tangible bottom line benefits.  But it requires:

Understanding that the work+life fit issues and, therefore, the solutions for low-wage hourly workers are more complex. Some low wage workers need more flexibility in their jobs, some need less, and some just need more work in order to find a better fit. Flexible Workplace Solutions for Low-Wage Hourly Workers has a great chart that clearly lays out the too much flexibility/not enough flexibility challenge of low-wage workers:  (Click here for more)

It’s Official–U.S. Department of Labor Advocates Work Life “Fit”

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There have been many noteworthy milestones during my decade-long  Work+Life “Fit” ® campaign.  But one of the highlights happened last Thursday when U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis used the term “work+life fit” a number of times in her keynote address at the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Conference in California.  Here’s an example:

“Employers need to know that there are tools out there…It’s a balance, having that competitive edge and work-life fit.”    Yup, (emphasis mine).

This particular forum highlighted the unique flexibility needs of low wage workers to manage their work and life.  Her use of the term is exciting because, as I’ve noted before, “fit” makes a big, meaningful difference.  The language allows us escape the innovation-killing “10 Tyrannies of Work/Life Balance,” which are:

  • Balance is always discussed in the negative-what you “don’t” have.
  • Balance keeps you focused on the problem, not the solution.
  • Balance assumes we’re all the same.
  • Balance infers that there is a “right” answer.
  • Balance leads us to judge others (and ourselves), often unfairly.
  • Balance results in unproductive guilt.
  • Balance suggests that the goal is an impossible 50-50 split between work and the other parts of your life.
  • Balance leaves no room for periods where there’s more work and less life, and vice versa.
  • Balance ignores the fact that work and life are constantly changing, and
  • Balance will never be taken seriously by corporate leaders, who only hear “work less” when you say “balance.

And embrace new possibilities because with “work+life fit” we:

  • Focus what we could have.
  • See solutions.
  • Know we’re all different.
  • Realize there’s no right answer.
  • Stop judging yourself and others, harshly.
  • Lose the guilt.
  • Embrace and plan for the ebb and flow of work and life, and
  • Increase the likelihood that corporate leaders will support the need to flexibly manage work and life better and smarter.

This is particularly important when addressing the flexibility needs of low wage workers.  Their work+life fit realities, and therefore, the solutions that will work for them and their employers are different from salaried or exempt employees.  The report that outlines those specific solutions, “Flexible Workplace Solutions for Low-Wage Hourly Workers” by Workplace Flexibility 2010 and the Institute for Workplace Innovation, will be released in March, 2011.

So welcome to the “work+life fit” club, Secretary Solis!  It’s nice to have you onboard.  After I finish this post, I’ll put a copy of my book, “Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You (Riverhead/Penguin Group)” in the mail so you can see that indeed the tools do exist and have existed for years.  The book, which was published in 2004, outlines the steps that individuals need follow in order to meet their employers halfway and use flexibility to find a fit that’s a win-win for everyone.

Now, if we could just get the President and First Lady Michelle Obama to join in…Imagine!

Related post of highlights from Pasadena DOL conference: “Gaining a Competitive Edge in the Global Economy–Using Flexibility with Hourly Workers in Healthcare” from Corporate Voices.

For more on work+life “fit” and strategic flexibility, I invite you to also visit my FastCompany, as well as join me on Twitter @caliyost.