Over the last few blogs I’ve written about why businesses should be concerned if their executives, managers, or professionals (EMPs) are working many hours outside of normal working hours. For those wanting to catch up:
- The Unintended Consequence of Wasting Your Employees’ Time – I suggest businesses are at risk of losing valuable employees if those employees are forced to work long working hours unnecessarily.
- The Paradox of Long Hours and Productivity – I ask you to consider that as weekly working hours extend past 40 hours per week, one quickly reaches a point when the additional hours yield progressively smaller (or diminishing) returns in output.
Today, I’d like to argue businesses ought to be concerned about a culture of long working hours because it’s not family-friendly, a fact made all too clear by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s excellent piece, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All in The Atlantic.
Couldn’t care less? Before you tune out, let me pass along a few stats mentioned in Slaughter’s piece:
A seminal study of 527 U.S. companies, published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2000, suggests that organizations with more extensive work-family policies have higher perceived firm-level performance.
In 2011, a study on flexibility in the workplace by Ellen Galinsky, Kelly Sakai, and Tyler Wigton of the Families and Work Institute showed that increased flexibility correlates positively with job engagement, job satisfaction, employee retention, and employee health.
Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know I’ve been a part-time single parent since my son was about six months old. My wife’s job requires she spend part of her time working in another state. I have no complaints or regrets – the experience has been fantastic and without a doubt, I’ve become a better person for it.
Indeed, it’s precisely because of my experiences as a full-time professional and part-time single parent that I can, with conviction, echo much of the sentiment in Slaughter’s piece.
Allow me to illustrate with a few examples:
School schedules – WTF. Can someone tell me why school schedules haven’t changed to recognize that most of us are at work during the day and during the summer?
Business travel – OY. Because of my commitments at home, business travel sucks. Bigly. Oh, and those conferences during the week? Forget about it.
Early morning meetings – LMAO. With an understanding that no plan survives first contact with a child, I go to great lengths to avoid them if I can. The last time I scheduled one my son forgot his backpack. His response? “But I did remember my lunch box.”
To be clear, compared to the millions of caregivers who have it much more difficult than I, I am well aware I have it easy. As noted by Slaughter:
Some are single mothers; many struggle to find any job; others support husbands who cannot find jobs. Many cope with a work life in which good day care is either unavailable or very expensive; school schedules do not match work schedules; and schools themselves are failing to educate their children.
I don’t have any easy answers to the issues posed above, however, if long working hours are causing your employees to struggle with work/life balance, I do have an easy answer:
Stop valuing your employees by how much time they spend in the office and instead value them by what they do for your organization.
Look, as a business owner I understand full well that certain jobs are not well-suited for remote working and there are plenty of other matters to consider. That said, in light of the technologies available that enable remote working, and in support of families, I firmly believe organizations should move to a culture where “the office is a base operations more than the required locus of work.”
Of course, before organizations can start talking about more family-friendly work arrangements, they must, as noted by Slaughter, “value the choices people make to put family ahead of work as much as those to put work ahead of family.” Indeed I wholeheartedly agree with Slaughter:
If we really valued those choices, we would value the people who make them; if we valued the people who make them, we would do everything possible to hire and retain them; if we did everything possible to allow them to combine work and family equally over time, then the choices would get a lot easier.
So, the next time you’re struggling to grow your business because you cannot find talent or if turnover in your organization is high, consider how your expectations for “facetime”with your employees and long hours are impacting those busy raising our future generation.
Speaking of raising our future generation, time for me to get my son’s lunch and snacks ready. Before I check out though, how about some music?
Given the hour of the day I couldn’t help but think of a release by the alt soul/blues band The Soul of John Black, a collaboration between bassist Christopher Thomas and percussionist John Bigham. Titled Early in the Moanin it’s off of their excellent album of the same name.
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