MONEY office etiquette

Germans Say “Nein!” to Late-Night Work Email. Here’s How You Can, Too

Mariella Ahrens attends the Dresscoded Hippie Wiesn 2014 at Golfclub Gut Thailing on August 28, 2014 in Steinhoering near Ebersberg, Germany.
Turns out Germans may have us beat when it comes to balancing work and play. Gisela Schober—Getty Images

Sick of your boss's 3 a.m. emails? Maybe you should move to Germany—where support is growing for a law banning late-night work communication.

Despite their reputation for industriousness, it turns out Germans have a thing or two to teach us about work-life balance.

The country has shaved nearly 1,000 hours from the annual schedule of its average worker (compared with 200 hours in the U.S.) in the last half-century. And now a movement is growing there to make after-hours work emails verboten.

A newly initiated study on worker stress led by the German labor minister is expected to lead to legislation preventing employers from reaching out to employees outside of normal office hours. (That might surprise those who’d expect such a thing only from the French.)

Though the law wouldn’t come to fruition until 2016, Germans—and Europeans in general—are still slightly better off than Americans in the meantime. While the average work week in major developed countries is 47 hours, that number balloons to about 90 hours per week for U.S. workers (vs. 80 for Europeans) if you include time that people are checking email and staying available outside of the office.

“We have become such an instantaneous society,” says Peggy Post, a director of The Emily Post Institute and expert on business etiquette. “We’re expected to be on call 24/7.”

And all this late-night work isn’t without consequences: Studies have found that staying up checking work emails on smartphones actually makes workers less productive the next day because of effects on sleep. Other downsides include more mistakes and miscommunications.

In lieu of practicing your Deutsch and moving your whole life overseas, take back your “offline” time by doing the following:

1. Become an email whiz while at work.

One major reason we’re forced to take to our phones late at night and on weekends? Because it’s so hard to get actual work done during work these days, due to smaller staffs, long meetings, floods of email, and noisy open floor plans.

At least in some jobs, the more you get done during regular hours, the less you’ll be penalized if you aren’t available during evenings or weekends. Some experts suggest giving yourself a specific window during the day to handle emails. See nine specific tips on more efficient emailing from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt here. With smart rules, like “last in, first out,” you can become a speed demon.

And if you just can’t pack it all in, you might also think about a quick end-of-day meeting (preferably at the scheduled end of day) to check in with whomever you’re most likely to get emails from later on.

2. Make sure you understand the expectations.

You assume your boss wants an immediate response to that late-night brainstorm, but are you sure? It’s worth finding out.

Alison Green, who blogs at AskaManager.org has suggested phrasing your question as follows: “Hey, I’m assuming that it’s fine for me to wait to reply to emails sent over the weekend until I’m back at work on Monday, unless it’s an emergency. Let me know if that’s not the case.”

But what if the boss says that you really are expected to be at the ready? You might need to communicate your dissatisfaction with these terms—rather than succumbing to burnout.

Again, the words you choose are important. Green suggested the following: “I don’t mind responding occasionally if it’s an emergency, but I wonder if there’s a way to save everything else for when I’m back at work. I use the weekends to recharge so that I’m refreshed on Monday, and I’m often somewhere where I can’t easily answer work emails.”

Post agrees that how you speak up goes a long way toward getting the result you want. “Without whining, try to share specific constructive solutions,” says Post. “For example, you could suggest having employees take on separate after-hours times to be on call for different days of the week.”

3. Stop the cycle.

Remember, you’re perpetuating the expectation when you engage in these email chains. Should you write back once at 10 p.m., those above you will likely begin to assume that you’ll be available at that time (even if they didn’t initially expect you to be).

Likewise, if your boss emails you, you might feel that you’re in the clear to contact those below you in their free time. But that’s a no-no, according to many experts.

While you may simply be trying to send something while you remember it, you are actually putting someone else in the same predicament you’re in. Some suggest limiting yourself to answering or writing emails to between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., unless there’s a particularly urgent need or project—though the right window for you probably depends upon your company and office culture.

And if you do have your most brilliant thought at 2 a.m.? Go ahead and write it, but then use a tool like Boomerang that lets you schedule it for a more reasonable post-shower hour.

TIME

There’s Nothing Wrong with the Mommy Track

mother daughter
Crezalyn Nerona Uratsuji—Getty Images

Our culture sings in only two keys about how successful women manage motherhood and work: either you’re driving a hard line to the C-suite, parking the crib in your corner office, or you’re shredding the Mommy track. What about a third way?

Before I became a parent, I was a bestselling author and speaker pounding up the escalators of a different airport every week. I worked insatiably, sometimes meeting three different contacts for a drink, dinner and dessert. When my daughter was born, I was thrilled — and anxious. I had heard the old adage, “You can have it all – just not at once.” On my first day back after maternity leave, I packed up my breast pump and parking meter quarters. I was ready for my life to change.

But here’s what I didn’t count on: feeling ashamed because I refused to put work above all else. Because I yearned to spend quality time with my daughter. Because I wanted actual work-life balance.

Instead of shutting down my laptop at 7 or 8 pm, I now relieved my sitter at 4:30. I rarely logged on after bedtime, or on weekends. But as I played with the baby on the floor, I was miles away in my head. Would my clients and colleagues write me off if I didn’t produce at the same pace? What would my next big project be? I read my daughter books in a toneless, distant voice, ruminating furiously.

I had plowed through a pile of work that month – finishing a grant, giving speeches, writing an advice column, teaching 60 high school students, answering countless emails – yet I still felt like a slacker. It never occurred to me that I was working, and working hard. Why?

Our culture sings in only two keys about how successful women manage motherhood and work: either you’re driving a hard line to the C-suite, parking the crib in your corner office, or you’re shredding the Mommy track.

But what about those of us who are still working hard, and who live and work somewhere between the two? I love being a mom, and I also love (and can’t afford not to) work.

So why do we speak in such crude terms about the nuanced, ever-changing dance of work-life balance? To begin with, the choices are rigged. To hear popular media tell it, the alternative to leaning in seems like a thinly veiled insult: the words “opt out” or “mommy track” suggest that the “in” – the standard of true success– is paid work.

In our million-mile-an-hour culture of never enough, working less is interpreted as working less well. This isn’t always the case. Parents quickly become expert at doing more work in less time, redirecting chit-chat and out-for-lunch hours toward getting the job done faster. Yet it’s mothers, far more than fathers, who are judged critically.

Perhaps even more galling, the suggestion that women can either elect to work harder or opt out demeans the nearly 50 million working mothers who maybe can’t afford the choice.

Brown University Professor Yael Chatav Schoenbrun knew she wouldn’t fit the mold. “I made a decision,” she wrote in the New York Times, “to back down, but not bail out.” She would work hard, just not as hard as she did before parenthood. Recalling her angst over choosing her own path, she shared a puzzling conclusion. “The real problem,” she wrote, “was me.”

But was it really? This kind of self-blame comes so easily to women. It recalls the self-flagellating angst of a generation that Betty Friedan profiled in The Feminine Mystique. The reality is more complex. New research has confirmed what many have suspected for a long time: moms are less likely to be hired for jobs, perceived as competent, or be paid as much as equally qualified male colleagues. But for men, having kids helps their careers. Dads are more likely to be hired than childless men and are more likely to earn more after they have kids.

Doesn’t some responsibility lie, too, with a culture that insists on pigeonholing its women into two extreme, unattainable ways of being? It is a familiar trope: We are to be nice, and liked by everyone; or else we are labeled aggressive. We’re humble or conceited; compliant, good girls or sluts. Rarely are women offered a middle road, one that imagines them as real, complex, dynamic beings.

When we frame women’s choices in terms of extreme work or extreme mothering, women think they have to define themselves in terms of a single goal, everything else be damned. Instead of having the chance to succeed in either realm, women committed to both work and mothering end up feeling inadequate in both. Mommy wars are the sad by-product of the drive to prove one’s worth in a contest where no one ever gets to feel like they are enough as they are.

Working mothers who feel inadequate, even as they continue to work hard, may suffer from what Brene Brown, author of the bestseller Daring Greatly, calls the “never enough” problem: a persistent, self-defeating belief that we will not be worthy or lovable until we are richer, thinner, more powerful, more successful, and so on. We are made to feel, she writes, “that an ordinary life is a meaningless life.”

Perhaps this is why working women are inducted into motherhood being warned that we will never feel like good enough moms or good enough professionals. Ruthless perfectionists that we are, we drink this kool-aid without question.

But what if it’s precisely that juicy, flawed mix of experiences that adds up to a life well-lived? What if by trading in the fruitless drive to be perfect, we inherit a richly textured self?

Besides, the endless diaper changes and tantrums give way, soon enough, to the first day of kindergarten – and a lot more time to devote to a career.

I have spent my life in fear of being average. But the joy I experience as a parent is driving me to face that fear in a way I never thought possible. As I bumble through paving my own third way, I am learning to lower my standards when I need to: to prep last minute; to write bullet points instead of full paragraphs; to say no. At first, I was sure the bottom would literally fall out of my career – and therefore my world. Slowly, I saw that no one really cared. They may not have even noticed. (It’s often said that we are our own worst judges. In some cases, we may also be our only worst judges.)

Waves of anxiety about my career still find me, often in the middle of the night. It is an ongoing struggle to remember that I am enough as I am. But now, when I sit on the floor with my daughter, I see our time as anything but a detour from my ambition. She is the passion project I was waiting for.

 

TIME Family

Five of the Best Companies for Working Moms

95871254
Tara Moore—Getty Images

Working Mother magazine finds which firms are best to raise a family while leading a career

Correction appended: Sept. 17.

Working Mother magazine, a publication “committed to helping moms balance their personal and professional lives,” has crunched the numbers to find out which companies are the best places for career-oriented moms to work in 2014.

The 450-question survey includes questions about leave policies, benefit, child care and more with special emphasis on advancement programs, workplace flexibility and representation of women in the company. Here are five of the best companies for working moms.

T. Kearney (Management and consulting firm in Chicago, IL)

Abbott (Health care company in Abbott Park, IL)

AbbVie (Biopharmaceutical company based in North Chicago, IL)

Accenture (Management consulting, tec services and outsourcing firm based in New York, NY)

The Advisory Board Company (Technology, research and consulting firm in Washington, DC)

Working Mother’s full 2014 list of the 100 Best Companies can be browsed here.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the above five companies. The Working Mother’s 2014 list does not rank companies.

TIME families

CEO Dads Open Up About Balancing Fatherhood and Work

Kevin Cleary, CEO of Clif Bar, and his family Kevin Cleary

Here's what 7 C-Suite dads had to say about having it all and their struggles to balance the home-work equation

Correction appended, September 16

When Clif Bar CEO Kevin Cleary speaks to reporters about his work-life balance, they sometimes ask how he squeezes a workout into his workday. But no one ever asks him how he finds time to raise his three young sons, all 6 and under.

The same goes for Intuit CEO Brad Smith, “I have been asked about my father and mother, but I’ve never been asked what it feels like to be a father and do this job.”

However, when a woman enters the upper echelons of the C-Suite, she better have her work-life balance explainer written and approved by PR. In fact we’re used to top-ranking female execs being asked about motherhood. In June, Matt Lauer asked GM’s Mary Barra if she could be an accountable CEO and mom. Weeks later, the Atlantic asked PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi if “women can have it all.” And before that, we wondered: can Hillary Clinton be both grandmother and president? Can Marissa Mayer be both pregnant and CEO?

Of course, working mothers often face stigmas in the workplace that working fathers simply do not — but the challenges of parenthood and career exist for both genders. To find out more about the family issues men struggle with, TIME spoke with 7 male executives about fatherhood and work-life balance.

Leaning In at Home

Sid Mathur, VP of Mattel subsidiary HIT, and his family

Some C-Suite dads take “lean in” approach. Clif Bar’s Cleary leaves work early every Thursday to coach his twin sons’ little league. H&R Block CEO William Cobb has coached three different sports over the years.

“I take a lot of red-eyes,” says Sid Mathur, VP of Mattel subsidiary HIT, which specializes in pre-school entertainment. A condition of his high-intensity job was that he has to be home every weekend, wherever he was in the world during the week. And to make the most of the days he has, Mathur created the traditions of cooking lemon ricotta pancakes every Sunday (“while subliminally playing classical music in the background”), and holding bi-weekly camping nights where he and his 7-year-old Trisha build forts in the living room.

What Fathers Regret

Many executives TIME spoke to say balance was very difficult to maintain early in their careers. When Mathur worked in private equity, he was on the road so much that after he left, “I had to spend time getting to know my [2-year-old] daughter… she wasn’t as close to me as I would like.”

CEO of Intuit, with his two daughters Brad Smith

Intuit CEO Brad Smith’s biggest regret on the way up was leaving his wife and newborn daughters, now 17 and 19, the day after both of them were born for work trips.

“My daughters are the reason I do everything,” says Smith. “But there are so many moments in hindsight I would have gone back and done differently.”

Intuit’s Smith now tells summer interns that there are what he calls “rubber” and “crystal” moments in life. While you can bounce back from missing a rubber moment, like one of 100 soccer games, “do not ever drop a crystal moment,” like a graduation or birth of a child, he counsels. Furthermore, when Smith was named CEO, he told his daughters that not only would they remain a priority, but, “from that moment we started Daddy Daughter Breakfasts — on Saturday I took one and on Sunday I’d take the other and we’d talk about whatever they wanted.” The tradition is going strong seven years later.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 5.03.01 PM
Robb Fujioka, president and founder of Fuhu, and his children

Robb Fujioka is the president and founder of Fuhu, a startup that creates tablets for children, and works in what may be the ultimate kid-friendly environment. “Seven to eight employees bring their kids in the office on a relatively regular basis, and we have a ball pit in the conference room,” he says. But there is no “work-life balance” in his life as an entrepreneur.

“My daughter comes home and says ‘My friend’s dad is really lazy, he’s home when she’s home and watches TV and plays with us,'” Fujioka laments. “And I’m like, that’s what a normal family is like.”

Fujioka says he has never had a vacation where he didn’t have to work. And yet he notes his family probably would not have time to take vacations unless they were extensions of work trips. Some male CEOs consciously combine the two. “My older daughter is very intellectually curious, so I take her on work trips,” says Rob Mathias, CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations, North America.

New Expectations For Fathers

H&R Block CEO William Cobb and his three sons
H&R Block CEO William Cobb and his three sons

As men strive to become more integral parts of their children’s lives, a 2011 paper by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) titled The New Male Mystique found “men are experiencing what women experienced when they entered the workforce in record numbers.” In fact, 60% of working fathers versus 47% of working mothers reported experiencing work-family conflict. (It should be noted, the results were for dual-income families. While the men in TIME’s informal survey say they experienced conflicts, all but one have wives who are currently stay-at-home moms.)

According to FWI president Ellen Galinsky, the study reveals that male CEOs face the pressures women do. The study, “gave them permission to talk about it,” says Gallinsky, remembering many executives got “very emotional” upon hearing its results. “It feels to them that they have it not as hard as women do….” Yet, Galinsky says the men also struggled with these issues.

A 2013 Pew Research Study on working families found 46% of fathers reported they don’t think they spend enough time with their children versus 23% of mothers.

Slowly, men are beginning to share their fears of bungling the work-life balance equation. H&R Block’s Cobb notes that male interns have asked him how they can incorporate family and work life, as they expect to have both. So do his three sons. “Anyone who tells you can have it all, that’s just untrue,” he says. “But I do think that you can have a lot.”

Rob Mathias, CEO of Ogilvy PR North America, with his daughters

In fact, prioritizing family can prove be beneficial to work performance. A 2003 FWI study found that the 32% of male and female executives who claim to place the same priority on work and family “feel more successful at work, are less stressed, and have an easier time managing the demands of their work and personal/family.”

And anecdotally, executives eagerly told TIME about all the lessons fatherhood had taught them as a CEO, ranging from patience to the necessity of varying management techniques to “learning to embrace risks, like when your kid learns to drive,” says Ogilvy PR’s Mathias.

It Comes From the Top

“At any moment you are going to feel guilty about what you’re not doing, like today I’m missing the World Economic Forum in Europe to move my daughter into her dorm in USC,” EY CEO Mark Weinberger says in between Bed Bath & Beyond runs. “If I can’t be here today, then I won’t get permission and understanding tomorrow when I won’t be here — like when I miss her Parents Weekend for our Entrepreneur of the Year program.”

Mark Weinberger, CEO of EY, with his family

When Weinberger asked for his children’s permission to take the role of CEO, the condition was that he maintain family commitments. His first test came the day after his first speech as CEO in China. When asked onstage if he would be taking selfies on the Great Wall with the thousands of employees in attendance, Weinberger said he couldn’t — he had to jump on a flight back to Washington D.C. for his daughter’s driver’s test the next morning.

“Afterwards I got hundreds of emails: Not a single person remembered the terrific speech I gave, but everybody remembered I went home for my daughter,” he says. “It brought home to me how powerful leading by example is. You can have all the initiatives you want saying you can have flexibility, but until some of the real leaders make the choice to choose family, I don’t think people feel like they have real permission to do it.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name and title of Rob Mathias, CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations North America.
TIME Family

We Need to Stop Guilting Parents into Cooking Dinner

Happy family dinner images like this may be doing more harm than good for working families Klaus Vedfelt—Getty Images

A new study suggests that the emphasis on family dinners may be more stressful than beneficial.

On the highway of hallowed institutions, there are few so venerated as the family dinner. Maybe reading aloud to your kid, breastfeeding and playing catch come close, but those have a limited lifespan. The family dinner is the church at which all parents, especially moms, are expected to become regular and lifelong worshipers.

Studies have repeatedly shown that kids who eat en famille are less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthy foods, have reduced incidence of delinquency and have better grades, mental health and family interactions. The evidence appears to be pretty overwhelming: cook for your kids and eat with them or they’re doomed. You’re consigning them to a life as chubby little lowlifes with a D-average and no self esteem. It’s not much to ask, right?

Problem is, the plurality of kids today are being raised by people who work outside the home. That means somebody, having put in a solid eight or so hours, has to drag his or her weary derriere home and then get his or her Martha Stewart on. Takeout, as all right-thinking parents know, is not at all the same thing as a home-cooked meal. Which is also not the same thing as an organic, locavore, humanely raised, fairtrade, low in fat, salt and everything else except labor meal. A meal which will no doubt be greeted with an aghast face and a whiny demand for plain pasta.

So a new report that suggests the benefits of the home cooked family meal may be outweighed by the pressure of providing said meal should be welcome. Researchers from North Carolina State University interviewed 150 families and found that the whole whip-up-something-for-dinner directive is more like a whip-a-very-overburdened-horse for many families and utterly impossible for others. “Cooking is at times joyful, but it is also filled with time pressures, tradeoffs designed to save money, and the burden of pleasing others,” says the study, which was published in the summer 2104 issue of Contexts.

“The emphasis on home cooking ignores the time pressures, financial constraints, and feeding challenges that shape the family meal. Yet this is the widely promoted standard to which all mothers are held,” the researchers write, adding that it is moralistic, rather elitist and unrealistic. “Intentionally or not, it places the burden of a healthy home-cooked meal on women.” The researchers found that particularly among low income women whose inflexible and inconsistent work schedules prevented them from being able to be home for meals, let along cook them, the scoldy tone of the family dinner table fetishization crowd added unnecessary stress.

My go-to meal strategy is getting my husband to cook, since it involves fire and is therefore a very manly activity. Nevertheless I find myself having to prepare a couple of meals a week. (My second go to strategy, “international toast,” which involved toasting all the leftover crusts of different sorts of bread hanging around the freezer and serving them with eggs, no longer fools my kids, alas.) So you’d think I’d welcome the news that it’s probably better sometimes to skip it. But I don’t. Being both a breadwinner and an international toastmaker can be a drag, but it’s an even bigger to drag to be told that it’s not worth it.

I’ve put a lot of time and effort into making dinner—and making everyone eat the results. It’s stressful to discover that that’s probably too stressful to bother with. So I’m going home to cook dinner. But in act of protest against the forces which hold women to an impossible standard yet again, I’m probably not going make anything very good.

TIME

27 Pinterest Boards That Will Actually Make Your Life Better

155379730
Reza Estakhrian—Getty Images

Seriously life-changing

themuselogo
This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.
TIME Parenting

I’m a Male CEO and I Decided to Lean Out

I realized that the only way to balance fatherhood and my job was to step back from the role as head of my company.

Earlier this summer, Matt Lauer asked Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, whether she could balance the demands of being a mom and being a CEO. The Atlantic asked similar questions of PepsiCo’s female CEO Indra Nooyi. As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO.

While the press haven’t asked me, it is a question that I often ask myself. Here is my situation:

● I have three wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.

● I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York every two to three weeks. During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun, perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car, or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery.

● I have an amazing wife who also has an important career; she is a doctor and professor at Stanford, where, in addition to her clinical duties, she runs their training program for high-risk obstetricians and conducts research on on prematurity, surgical techniques and other topics. She is a fantastic mom, brilliant, beautiful and infinitely patient with me. I love her; I am forever in her debt for finding a way to keep the family working despite my crazy travel. I should not continue abusing that patience.

Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.

A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job. MongoDB is a special company. In my nearly four years at the company, we have raised $220 million, grown the team 15-fold and grown sales 30-fold. We have amazing customers, a great product that gets better with every release, the strongest team I have ever worked with and incredible momentum in the market. The future is bright, and MongoDB deserves a leader who can be “all-in” and make the most of the opportunity.

Unfortunately, I cannot be that leader given that the majority of the company is in New York and my family is in California.

I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have a meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so. At first, it seemed like a hard choice, but the more I have sat with the choice, the more certain I am that it is the right choice.

In one month, I will hand the CEO role to an incredibly capable leader, Dev Ittycheria. He will have the task of leading the company through its next phase of growth (though thankfully not of commuting across the country while doing it!). I know the company will be in great hands; his skills fit our next phase of growth better than mine do. And I will be there to help (full time, but “normal full time” and not “crazy full time”) in whatever areas he needs help. More about the announcement can be found in today’s press release.

I hope I will be able to find a way to craft a role at MongoDB that is engaging, impactful and compatible with the most important responsibilities in my life. As great as this job has been, I look forward to creating one that is even better.

Max Schireson is currently CEO of MongoDB, Inc., transitioning into the Vice Chairman role in early September. This piece originally appeared at Max Schireson’s blog.

TIME Parenting

How Work Culture Changes a Man’s Idea of Fatherhood

Diane Collins and Jordan Hollende—Getty Images

New study says dads are formed by their workplace too

Many, many, many kilobytes of data have been given over to how working mothers balance their mothering and money-earning identities and how that is changing families and therefore society. A new stream of data is trickling out on the other side of the story too, how men resolve their images of themselves as workers and fathers.

A small qualitative study on “new dads” in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that American men switch between four images of themselves as fathers: provider, role model, partner and nurturer. Depending on their work lives, one of these roles is always in the ascendant. The demands of men’s jobs and the flexibility of their working hours have a lot of sway over what area of responsibility fathers feel they should be spending most energy on. Dads with high stress or inflexible positions may find it impossible to spend time being a nurturer, for example. Studies have shown that dads are feeling the stress of work-life balance as well.

Another influential factor is the number and quality of conversations men have about being a dad while they’re at the office. There are workplace environments where any talk of child rearing or family responsibilities beyond breadwinning are rare if not exactly verboten. These workplaces are becoming fewer—a group of men who run a Deloitte Dads group out of Toronto recently made the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek— but they’re still the norm. A guy who takes a few days off playing baseball to attend the birth of his son, for example, can still produce a public roasting on sports radio.

Many of the issues fathers face are similar to those faced by females but unlike women, men seem to feel less conflict about which role they should be playing at any one time. This is probably only partly because mothering comes with more historical baggage and higher expectations from society. It may also be partly because of biology, since the role of mothers and fathers in the birth of a child is a little bit like the roles of artists and framers in the creation of a painting. One is essential, the other is helpful.

The study’s authors, Beth Humberd of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Jamie Ladge at Northeastern University and Brad Harrington of the Boston College Center for Work and Family interviewed 31 working fathers with working spouses for their results. They recommend that employers acknowledge that fatherhood is a more time and attention consuming task than it has been in recent history. This isn’t just about creating family friendly leave and work-life policies, although those are important. It’s about that tricky thing, workplace culture. “While work-life policies and programs can be designed to be gender neutral, often organizational cultures are not, ” the authors write. “There is still a strong cultural perspective that when men become fathers, little will change for them on the work front.” Perhaps office mates should start organizing baby showers for new dads, as an act of revolution.

TIME Retirement

Millennials Are Leading Boomers to a Smarter Retirement

In retirement jobs, boomers embrace many of the same work values as Millennials.

Most boomers couldn’t name a song by Imagine Dragons or find much use for the news on Policymic.com. But give it time. Both are popular with Millennials, and in some ways we are turning into our children.

Four decades may separate the two generations, which have had vastly different life experiences. Boomers came of age during a time when jobs were plentiful and pensions were secure. Millennials have reached adulthood amid broad underemployment and a crumbling social safety net. These would seem to suggest opposite economic views. But that isn’t necessarily the case.

Of course, the generations have differing views in many areas, and a Pew survey found extreme gaps in technology, politics, music, religion and parts of the workplace. Yes, Millennials prefer to wear flip-flops to the office and text, not talk. Yet in key ways, boomers and Millennials are, like, so similar:

  • Work/Life balance Boomers once thrived on 60-hour workweeks, getting their social life in at the water cooler, and logging the face time needed to get a promotion or more pay. Now that retirement years loom, they have embraced flexible schedules even if it means no promotion. Many boomers must keep working but they want to live a little too. Millennials have felt that way from the start, in part because they’ve had fewer career opportunities but also because many have seen parents toil away for 40 years and never get ahead. They want a different path; they want to enjoy the process because it may not end with financial dreams fulfilled. “The similarities in attitudes across generations are striking,” the global consulting firm PwC found in a 2013 study. For many boomers, work used to be their personal life. Now more than 60% in both generations agree that work interferes with their personal life.
  • Meaning Boomers have long sought a higher purpose, be it ending a war or fighting for civil rights. But their job was about getting ahead, not changing the world. Millennials link work with doing good and having a rewarding experience. That is partly how they expect to be paid—through job satisfaction. They want to work for green companies, have responsibilities that interest them, be part of a team, travel and feel like they are making a difference. Again, with retirement looming, boomers are hopping on board. Some 57% of working retirees are either volunteers or working at a job that provides a community service, or working as a way to maintain connections, according to a report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, which notes that through work members of this generation “seek greater purpose, stimulation, social engagement, and fulfillment.”
  • Saving Now past 50, many boomers have begun to ramp up saving in a last-minute blitz to reach retirement security. Many won’t make it, which is the main reason that 28% in the Merrill Lynch survey work in retirement. But others are taking advantage of catch-up savings plans and setting aside more pay. The Insured Retirement Institute estimates that 80% of boomers have retirement savings; about half of them have at least $250,000. Perhaps they have taken a cue from Millennials. Eight in 10 in the younger generation say the recession convinced them they must save more now, according to the 2014 Wells Fargo Millennial Study. More than half are putting away money regularly. An almost identical share of boomers (56%) and Millennials (55%) would like to see a mandatory retirement savings policy in the U.S.

The generations may never agree on what makes a good band or where to find the most pertinent news. But we seem to be discovering common ground in areas that matter.

 

 

 

TIME Parenting

What Single Policy Could Ease Americans’ Time Crunch?

Work-life balance is at the core of why we all feel so overwhelmed. Here are some solutions from thought leaders and experts for how to remedy that.

You’ve probably seen that “Poolside” Cadillac commercial, which debuted during the Sochi Olympics, where a dad looks over his infinity pool and notes, “Other countries – they work, stroll home, stop by the café, take August off.” High-fiving his kid and handing a newspaper to his wife, he tells us why “we” aren’t like that: “Because we’re crazy-driven, hard-working believers, that’s why.” The ad was meant to provoke, but it also illustrates how Americans work hard, play hard, and still expect a warm family and manicured yard as part of living the American Dream.

And yet, 53 percent of working parents in a study published by the Pew Research Center last year said they found it very or somewhat difficult to balance their work and family life. Thirty-four percent of those parents say they always feel rushed, even to do the things they have to do. This is only one of a slew of studies that illustrate how overwhelmed many Americans feel trying to “have it all.” In advance of the Zócalo event “Why Can’t Americans Balance Love, Work, and Play?”, we asked experts what single cultural or policy change could ease American’s time crunch?

1. Retool school schedules and expectations

It seems to me that one cultural shift that has gone way too far is the expectation that parents will be intimately involved in the workings of schools and the goings-on of classrooms.

I realized it had escalated way beyond normality when the parent group at my kid’s elementary school organized not teacher appreciation day but teacher appreciation week. Each day, kids needed to remember to bring in something different: a rose, say, on Monday, and a card on Tuesday, and Wednesday we needed to contribute an item to the teacher’s breakfast–this, on top of endless committees having to do with art contests, silent auctions, book fairs, etc.

Most of it seems to fall on mothers. It just adds to the overlong to-do list. Parents need to say no–and I did, much of the time–but schools, and parent committees, should also ask themselves whether this or that event or request for classroom involvement is necessary. Related to this, of course, is the culture of extracurricular events, which is also its own kind of arms race: travel soccer, camps, teams, fees. There needs to be some sort of cultural pushback, some sort of ratcheting down of the number of things that parents have to do with regard to schooling.

Even more important is a whole scale re-envisioning of the school day and a culture-wide effort to have school sync up better with parents’ work schedules. More school aftercare would help. Also, what would help would be to have the above-mentioned extracurriculars incorporated into the afterschool day, so that it can happen on school grounds, and parents don’t have to do all that driving and organizing. We need a Steve Jobs–somebody obsessed with simplicity and ease of use–to tackle and vanquish the level of complexity that has come to define the raising and education of children.

Liza Mundy is director of the Breadwinning and Caregiving Program at the New America Foundation. A journalist and book author, Liza most recently wrote The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Sex, Love and Family.

2. Hold employees accountable for results

Americans need to work less. As I chronicled in my book, Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, overwork is not only diminishing Americans’ quality of life outside the office, it’s making us less effective inside the office, too.

It may sound counterintuitive, but when we work more than 40 hours per week, study after study has shown we actually become less productive. Knowledge workers have four to six hours of solid productivity in a day. After that, productivity starts to decline until eventually we enter a negative progress cycle, which means we’re creating more problems than we’re solving.

Many of us know we should work less. But that’s hard to do in a culture where “full time” often means 50-plus hours a week (not including the commute), and part-timers are treated as slackers (even if, hour for hour, they are in fact the most productive people on the payroll). Roughly half of all jobs in America are compatible with working from home part-time, yet many companies still frown on this practice. Commitment to one’s job is still measured not by effectiveness, but by how many nights and weekends one works.

A simple but powerful change businesses can make is to hold employees accountable to results, rather than fixating on how many hours or days they spend at a desk. One exciting trend management experts talk about is “results-only work environments” where managers stop acting like babysitters and instead, they empower employees to decide when, where, and how to best get their work done. Businesses reap the benefits in increased productivity and morale, and decreased turnover.

Our state of overwork is bad for our health and bad for business. If companies want a competitive edge, they must create environments where employees can thrive—even if that means for many of us, working less.

Katrina Alcorn is a writer, consultant, and public speaker. Her first book, Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, tells a deeply personal story about “having it all,” failing miserably, and what comes after.

3. Make work schedules flexible – and don’t ding workers for taking advantage of that

Simply put, today’s workplace is not designed around today’s worker. Instead, it clings to the 1960s notion of an “ideal worker” – someone who is available to work whenever needed while someone else holds down the fort at home, and who takes little or no time off for childbearing or child rearing. Structuring work in this fashion marginalizes caregivers, men, and women alike.

Women who take family leave or adopt flexible work schedules to have more time with their children often encounter “maternal wall” bias, which is by far the strongest form of gender bias today. A well-known experimental study found that mothers were 79 percent less likely to be hired, half as likely to be promoted, offered an average of $11,000 less in salary, and held to higher performance and punctuality standards than identical women without children. Mothers face assumptions that being committed to work makes them bad mothers, and that being committed to motherhood makes them bad workers.

Meanwhile, men face a different type of “flexibility stigma” because childcare, fairly or unfairly, is still seen as being a feminine role. Men seeking to take family leave, for instance, are not only seen as bad workers, but also as bad (i.e., less manly) men. In other words, the flexibility stigma is a femininity stigma.

This is a sobering message for employers: creating flexible work policies is only half the battle. The next step is to eliminate the stigma that all too often accompanies such arrangements. Happily, change may be on the horizon. Many, if not most, talented young men and women want to combine meaningful work with a fulfilling personal life. As the Millennial generation gains influence in the workforce, we can only hope that their values will lead to a change in workplace culture.

Joan C. Williams is Hastings Foundation Chair and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California (Hastings). She has authored or co-authored over 90 academic articles and book chapters, as well as authored or co-authored 8 books, the most recent being What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know. You can also follow her work on Twitter @JoanCWilliams and her Huffington Post blog.

4. Teach employees how to be their best on and off the job

We need to recognize, as a culture, that we have to train people to fit work and the other parts of their life together. It’s a modern skill we all need to succeed that most of us don’t have.

According to our research, most of us are flying by the seat of our pants trying to get everything done even though the boundaries that used to tell us where work ended and the rest of life began have all but disappeared.

The good news is we have more flexibility in how, when, and where we can get our jobs done. The bad news is that no one is showing us how to capture that work-life flexibility, intentionally, and use it to be our best, on and off the job.

According to the results of our recent national survey of full-time employed U.S. adults, 97 percent of respondents reported having some form of work-life flexibility in 2013 when compared to the previous year; however, only 40 percent said they received training or guidance on how to manage it. Not surprisingly, 62 percent of respondents reported obstacles to using or improving their work-life flexibility such as increased workload or having no time, and fears of job and income loss.

Teaching people the basics of how to manage the way their work and life fit together makes a difference. For example, we showed a group of 40 employees in a large medical testing lab how to choose small, but meaningful work, career, and personal priorities and focus on these actions for the next seven days, a technique in my book, Tweak It. They planned when, where, how, and with whom they would accomplish those “tweaks.” At the end of six weeks, 92 percent of participants said they were better able to prioritize all of their responsibilities and goals, and 88 percent felt they more actively managed what they had to get done at work and in their personal lives.

Cali Williams Yost is a flexible workplace strategist and author who has spent two decades helping organizations and individuals partner for award-winning flexible work success. Her “how to” work+life fit advice for individuals can be found in her new book Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day (Center Street, 2013).

5. Five mindset changes that leaders should adopt

The pressure to work more hours and to work faster is real. Over 70 percent of both men and women say that they have to work very fast, and roughly 90 percent say that they have to work very hard, according to our research.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we’re going to help ease Americans’ time crunch among the rank and file, the leaders at organizations will need a major mindset overhaul when it comes to how they think about work for themselves and for their employees.

Mindset #1: Priorities, not balance. Balance is static, but life is not, so accept that every day is different, and anchor your day-to-day in your overall priorities.

Mindset #2: Dual centric, not work centric. Don’t put work before everything else all the time. Our research shows that executives who prioritize work some of the time and prioritize personal life some of the time – what we call being dual centric – are less stressed, have an easier time managing work and personal demands, have advanced as high or at higher levels than those executives who were work-centric, and feel more successful in their home lives.

Mindset #3: Better, not perfect. Expecting perfection limits your ability to ask for help, so set expectations that allow for getting better and you will grow.

Mindset #4: Team, not individual. Going it alone limits your options, so get the whole team work it out together. That means the team at home as well as the team at work.

Mindset #5: Rest and recover, not flat-out. Making decisions in a constant time bind affects performance, so step away before diving in.

Leaders and managers at all levels who adopt these mindsets for themselves will both ease their own time crunch and improve their performance – and change the culture at work for everyone.

Anne Weisberg is senior vice president of the Families and Work Institute and an executive who has designed innovative practices to build effective, inclusive work environments. She co-authored the best selling book Mass Career Customization: Aligning the Workplace With Today’s Nontraditional Workforce and directed the report on women in the legal profession Women in Law: Making the Case.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser