MONEY Careers

Is Work-Life Balance Even Possible?

We asked people on the streets of New York City how they manage to keep their home lives and work lives separate, if at all.

Balancing your time and energy between work and home is difficult; you’ve got that report due on Wednesday and your kids need help with their homework. We went to Times Square to ask people how they prioritize between their careers and their family. Some people said they clock out right at 5p.m. every day while some said they take work home with them every night. How do you manage your work-life balance?

MONEY Workplace

The 3 People It Pays to Befriend at Work

You'll obviously make friends at your new job, but these are three people you should absolutely befriend.

At the very least try to make these folks friendly acquaintances.

Someone in human resources will likely already have an ear to the ground when it comes to layoffs or new job opportunities within the company. This person can also be a good sounding board for salary and personnel issues.

You should also try to befriend your boss’s assistant, the gatekeeper to your boss. He or she can get you on the boss’s schedule and alert you to the boss’s mood.

Finally, reach out to the office rockstar. You know who that one is: the person who just kills it day in and day out.

TIME Management

Why Monitoring Employees’ Social Media Is a Bad Idea

Quote tweet feature
Nick Ansell—PA Wire/Press Association Images Quote tweet feature. File photo dated 10/02/15 of the Twitter bird logo. Twitter has overhauled its "frustrating" quote tweet feature to allow people to say more about text they want to comment on. Issue date: Tuesday April 7, 2015. The social media giant had faced criticism that users barely had any characters left to add a comment when they quoted a tweet because of the 140-character limit. See PA story TECHNOLOGY Twitter. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire URN:22671665

there is a vast difference between asking for employees to exercise good judgment and hovering over their Tweets like Big Brother

People today live in a virtual online aquarium, and chances are good that one of the people watching you is probably your current or potential employer. According to job site CareerBuilder, 52% of companies now check job applicants’ social media profiles before hiring them, up from 43% just a year ago.

On one hand, it’s understandable. After all, it can be embarrassing for a business if one of its representatives posts offensive content or does something illegal via social media. Employers can even get into legal trouble for their workers’ actions. Advocates of the practice say that it’s necessary to protect companies’ reputations, confidential information, and is an inevitable byproduct of the Internet age, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But does monitoring of employees’ social media really protect a company or can it do more harm than good?

First, the argument that companies need to keep tabs online to ensure that their employees refrain from inappropriate or illegal behavior doesn’t really hold. While it’s conceivable that some low level silliness, such as posting a picture of yourself dancing on a table, could be prevented by employer monitoring, more serious infractions are unlikely to be shared on social media and therefore never appear on the radar of the company anyway.

In addition, when job candidates or employees know that they are being watched, they can restrict access to certain posts, set up dummy profiles to fool companies, or otherwise throw up smokescreens. This is particularly true of millennials, who are technologically adept at controlling and manipulating their online avatars. The point is, the limited preventative effect of social media monitoring may not be worth the time and expense required for companies to do it.

There is also the problem of bias. Americans today are arguably more socially and politically conscious than previous generations and actively use social media to convey their thoughts, debate important topics, and fight for causes. In some cases, employers may even be supportive, such as if a job candidate works tirelessly to raise money for breast cancer research, but in other cases, there is a real danger of people being penalized for their personal views on things like politics, race, or religion.

Even if a company itself is neutral, the subjective feelings of the person tasked with monitoring employees’ social media could easily lead to discrimination, especially in the highly polarized environment of the U.S. People should be able to share their views on gay marriage, for example, with their friends on social media, without running afoul of an employer who disagrees with them. Recognizing that in essence this is an inadvertent violation of laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, political preference, gender etc, employers should at the very least factor this into their social media policies and put safeguards in place to prevent against it. The harm caused by bias to workers is immense but so are the potential legal consequences for companies.

Finally, by looking over workers’ shoulders, companies could stifle the most important trait that can benefit a business: creativity. As innovation becomes increasingly necessary in a hyper-competitive business landscape, this factor can be crucial for a company’s success.

Social media, for those who use it avidly at least, can be a medium to express our personality – for who we are – which is naturally linked to our creativity. Companies that foster creativity are more profitable and 50% more likely to be market leaders than their peers, according to the Harvard Business Review. Yet some businesses fail to make the connection between suppressing their employees’ online freedom and restricting their creativity.

There is no doubt that companies are within their rights to expect compliance with some common-sense social media etiquette. However, there is a vast difference between asking for employees to exercise good judgment and hovering over their Tweets like Big Brother. The latter can erode a necessary sense of trust between companies and their workers and undermine loyalty. Just as an employee or a job candidate needs to trust that a company has integrity and is worth working for, the company needs to show its people that it trusts them to behave like responsible adults.

By allowing workers to live their personal lives without intrusion, smart businesses can make a powerful statement; namely, that they accept them for who they are, treasure their professional contributions to the company, and want them to be happy and fulfilled outside as well as inside the office. This, in turn, would inspire loyalty and boost productivity in the workforce, and make those companies more profitable.

Kumar has worked in technology, media, and telecom investment banking. He has evaluated mergers and acquisitions in these sectors and provided strategic consulting to media companies and hedge funds.

TIME Labor

These 5 Charts Show How Hard it is for Americans to Take a Vacation

Americans have seen nearly a full week of vacation disappear from their lives

Memorial Day weekend is upon. It’s time to hit the road as vacation season officially kicks off–that is unless you’re like the majority of Americans who’ve cut back on their beach time. In the 1980s, employed Americans took up to 21 days of paid vacation each year. By 2013, that number had shrunk to 16, according to research performed by Oxford Economics for Project Time Off.

To read more about America’s vacation problem, see this week’s TIME magazine.

It’s important to note many employees do have access to vacation. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that access to paid time off (PTO) remains above 90 percent among private industry employees, shrinking only 2 percentage points since 1989.

Access to paid vacation 1989-2014

chart1

The chart above includes all full-time employees in private industries–the primary employers in the U.S.–including small and large businesses. “Larger companies traditionally offer relatively good access to benefits, like paid time off”, says Elizabeth Ashack, an economist with BLS. But the availability of paid vacation varies greatly among occupations within the private industry.

Access to paid vacation by sector in 2014

chart2

Only 55 percent of service jobs offer paid time off (compare that to management and financial positions which come in at 96 percent, the highest level among the above occupations). Without a federal mandate for paid time off or paid sick leave, private industries are left to their own discretion, often resulting in unequal access across occupations.

Ashack says that employers may offer better benefits to keep workers from jumping ship in good times, but in bad times those benefits worsen, evidenced by cuts during the economic downturn of 2008 to 2009.

Likewise, the amount someone makes is a good indicator of the quality of paid time off they receive.

Access to paid vacation by income groups 2014

chart3

Those making the lowest wages are the least likely to have paid leave, with a steady increase in access as wages rise.

For those with access, the use of paid time off has declined sharply in the past decade to an average of 16 days taken each year–an all time low within the past four decades.

Annual vacation days used among employed adults 1978 – 2013

chart4

The U.S. Travel Association, a trade group which encourages Americans to travel, funded Project Time Off to measure the economic impact of the decline in vacation time. They found that among employees with access to paid time off, nearly five days went unused in 2013, and 1.6 of those days did not carry over to the next year. That totals to 169 million days of lost vacation time for Americans.

By surveying the hours worked by employees, BLS measures the percent of the American workforce on partial (less than 35 hour work week) or full vacations on any given week. Analysts noticed a decrease in full-week vacations, and a corresponding increase in partial week vacations, yet another measure indicating that Americans need a break.

Percentage of employed adults on full or partial-week vacations 1978 – 2013

chart5

 

MONEY salary

Temps Make 10% Less Than Full-Time Employees for the Same Work

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Joerg Steffens—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

It's common knowledge that temp workers aren't treated as well as full-timers. But this is pretty awful--and blatant.

There’s bad news for those working as temps or on-call workers—a group of Americans that has grown since the recession.

Despite doing equivalent work, so-called “contingent” employees earn about 10.6% less per hour than standard full-time workers, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Contingent employees made up about 18% of the workforce in 2014, up from 12% in 2009. That increase has come in great part because of growth in the “gig economy,” says Mary Beth Maxwell, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor.

“For some, these changes represent greater access to the labor market. For others, they mean reduced access to workplace protections, benefits and stable income, and increased exposure to health and safety risks,” Maxwell wrote in a letter to the GAO.

Indeed, a different new study reveals that on-demand workers (like Uber drivers) most commonly cite low pay as their top reason for quitting.

Some temp workers are paid especially poorly compared to their full-time counterparts, the GAO report found: Teachers and educators make nearly 14% less than standard workers per hour if they are contingent. On the other hand, construction workers make about the same on an hourly basis no matter if they’re contingent or collect salaries full-time.

Unsurprisingly, the job benefits are worse for contingent workers–that is, if they receive benefits at all. Temps are about two-thirds less likely than standard workers to have a work-provided retirement plan and less than half as likely to have employed-based health insurance, the study found.

TIME Parenting

All In is Lean In for Dads

Josh Levs' book is a call to arms for working dads

Men should lean in just as much as women—they should just do it in a different direction.

That’s the gist of Josh Levs’ All In, a manifesto of work and life for men that aims to be for working fathers what Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was to working mothers: a cogent analysis of the systemic problems in work culture that make it so difficult to be a parent. Levs says he consulted with Sandberg while he was writing the book.

Josh Levs is a CNN reporter who made headlines in 2013 when he filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Time Warner because he said their paid leave policy discriminated against biological dads. At the time, Time Warner offered 10 weeks of paid leave to biological mothers, and to parents of both genders who adopted or had a child through surrogacy, but biological fathers only got two weeks. Levs challenged this rule and won, and went on to become an advocate for better workplace policies for dads as well as moms.

Levs’ central argument is that American culture—especially American workplace culture—doesn’t allow parents of either gender to spend enough time with their children. There’s been a lot of discussion about how tricky that problem is for women, but few have dug deep into what it means for men. “There’s this basic mentality about what men and women are that has held back our policies,” he says. “Our structure is based on the assumption the woman will stay home and men will work, so why would you need paid maternity leave? The women will stay home! Why would you need paternity leave? They’ll work!”

Clearly, that assumptions aren’t true anymore, but Levs argues that workplace policies have not kept up with the changing times. “Our policies didn’t grow up, our policies are stuck in the past,” he says.

The book is a “call to action,” Levs says, not only for long-demanded workplace policies like paid maternity leave, but also for widespread paternity leave and greater flexibility for all working parents. He repeatedly notes that the United States is one of the only nations in the world without paid maternity leave, and that many other industrialized nations have paternity leave on top of that.

Changing American workplace policies isn’t just a question of accommodating parents, its a question of looking out for children, Levs argues. He says that paid leave shouldn’t be considered a luxury—he says it’s no different from “absolute basics” like public schools or medical care for kids. “Another absolute basic is making sure what when a child leaves the womb, its parents, or one of its parents at least, hopefully both, have time to stay home and not hand the child over to strangers and rush back to work,” he says.

“That’s not left or right, that’s not a battle over taxes, its just doing what’s right for kids,” he says. “And whats right for a society’s kids is always best for a society.”

Levs isn’t just calling for better workplace policies, he’s also asking men—and women—to re-examine what it means to be a dad. He argues that the antiquated expectations of a worker-bee dad and a stay-at-home mom have left modern fathers feeling shut out at home in the way some mothers feel shut out at work, even as fathers are increasingly aware of the importance of active parenthood. That’s creating an identity crisis for the American dad. “We are carving out a new role for fathers in America,” he says. “That’s a challenge and an opportunity. There are opportunities that men have now that our fathers didn’t have. So that gives us a chance to define a new meaning of manliness.”

“We’re all in this together, pushing forward for a new meaning for fatherhood.”

MONEY job search

Fortune 500 or Startup? How to Tell What Size Company is Right for You

what size company to work for
Craig Roberts—Gallery Stock

These are the six factors to consider when looking for your next gig, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Size matters when it comes to finding a place to work that supports your career goals.

Of course, both big and small firms have advantages and disadvantages. A Fortune 500 company may have thousands of employees and monstrous bureaucracy, but great benefits and a lot of room for growth. On the other hand, at a start-up, the risks are higher, but the executive team knows the junior staff by name, you may have a chance to get a broader experience set, and you could be on the ground floor of tomorrow’s success story.

What’s tricky is that while company size does influence your career path, day-to-day role, and work environment, it isn’t the only factor.

And the generalizations above are not always true. A big company isn’t necessarily bureaucratic—it might have retained a collaborative, entrepreneurial culture. A small company isn’t inherently risky—maybe they offer you an upfront guarantee or they recently got funded.

Here are six career planning considerations that are influenced by size, and the pros and cons of small and large employers:

What Kinds of Resources Are Available

In general, big companies will have more resources.

This could mean more or better office supplies and equipment, professional development and training, benefits and pay, and a more comfortable work environment. This also means resources for your particular job—budget, direct reports, administrative support.

That said, it’s not necessarily true that small companies will have less (and big companies might be able to do more but be stingy), so try to get information about this during the hiring process. Ask pointed questions about, say, what your budget would be on certain projects, and do some research on sites like Glassdoor and using second- and third-degree LinkedIn connections who work or have worked at the company to find out the inside scoop.

What the Breadth of Your Responsibilities Will Be

Since big companies have more staff, it’s more likely the staff will have a more tightly defined (read: smaller) scope of responsibilities. This is a good thing if you want that structure.

But if you want variety and a chance to work across functions or touch a project from start to finish, a smaller company might be a better fit.

Again, size influences your scope but doesn’t determine it 100%. When you are interviewing, ask don’t assume what your responsibilities will be, whom you will be interacting with, and what decision-making authority you will have.

What Prospects for Advancement You’ll Have

Bigger companies have larger infrastructure, perhaps even more locations or industry areas where business is conducted. This typically means you have greater potential for internal mobility—the chance to move from the New York office to the London office, from serving financial services clients to media clients, from working in sales to working in marketing.

That said, small companies offer advancement via upward mobility. You take on more responsibility because you have to. While the small company may not have a London office to send you to, you may be asked to open one.

As you can see, big and small companies offer advancement opportunity. Ask about career growth specifically when you interview.

How Outsiders Will Perceive You

Small companies are typically less well-known than bigger companies. A brand name does convey advantages in introductions or on a résumé: When people glance at your C.V. and see you’re coming from Goldman Sachs (as opposed to Boutique Bank WHO?), they know what they’re dealing with.

That said, branding is more than a name. Some people hear big company and assume slow and not innovative.

And if your personal brand hinges on being seen as leading-edge or entrepreneurial, then a smaller company will be more consistent with your brand.

In addition, a company might be small but have big name clients. If you work for a small company that serves the Fortune 500 or other brand names, naming the clients is a way for you to get that pedigree on your résumé or in your pitch.

How Well You’ll Be Paid

Big companies can afford to pay more, but they might feel like they don’t have to because of their brand names and better resources.

Small companies might be limited on base salary but might offer equity participation or profit-sharing.

Compensation is tough to generalize. Don’t undersell yourself to a small company by assuming you need to take less. Don’t get overly aggressive with a big company and automatically negotiate for the top end of your range.

What Networking Opportunities You’ll Have

Big companies offer you more people to connect with, but those people are more dispersed, and you will have to be more proactive about reaching out.

Small companies offer fewer people to add to your network but it may be easier to get to know people and therefore build deeper connections.

As you interview, recognize there are advantages and disadvantages at both ends of the size spectrum. Focus on your day-to-day colleagues, senior leadership, and overall culture and how all of these fit with you, regardless of size.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

TIME work

U.N. Report: Women May Need ‘Different Treatment’ to Achieve Economic Equality

2015 International Women's Day March
Mark Sagliocco—Getty Images Assistant Secretary General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka attends the 2015 International Women's Day March at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City on March 8, 2015.

It's just like Sheryl Sandberg said: paid leave and affordable child care would help achieve gender equality on a global level

Equal opportunity is not enough to ensure gender equality, according to a groundbreaking new report from U.N. Women. Instead, governments must commit to social policies that treat women differently in order to help them achieve economic parity with men.

“We must go beyond creating equal opportunities to ensure equal outcomes,” the report says. “‘Different treatment’ may be required to achieve real equality in practice.” This report, called Progress of the World’s Women 2015–2016, is one of the first major international reports to acknowledge that legal equality for women does not translate into actual equality, and that governments must make substantial social-policy changes that enable the redistribution of domestic duties in order for women to play a truly equal role in society.

It’s the global version of what Sheryl Sandberg has been saying all along with Lean In — women will never be equal unless workplace policies adjust to fit their needs, and men need to step up to help at home. The report highlights the gap between the laws that protect equal rights for women and the realities of inequality in most of the world. The way to close that gap, according to the report, is by implementing social policies that provide paid work opportunities for women, protect domestic workers, provide affordable child care and establish paid leave for working mothers. Removing legal barriers to female employment is not enough, the report says, noting that “we also need measures that free up women’s time.”

“Governments should take actionable steps to reduce the burden of unpaid care work — which is carried by women — and create an industry of jobs and employment for services,” U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka tells TIME. “Child care is an issue in every country, but more often than not borne by mothers. Government policy should work to professionalize this industry as much as possible, and make it affordable and accessible to all.”

Lack of resources like these may explain why 77% of working-age men are in the global workforce, compared with only half of working-age women. Globally, women earn 24% less than men, yet do 2.5 times as much child care and domestic labor as men. In developing regions, 75% of women’s employment is insecure, unprotected and poorly paid, if they’re employed at all. Only 5% of women in South Asia have formal work, and only 11% in sub-Saharan Africa.

The U.N. is calling for more “decent work” for women, which they define as a job that is well paid, secure and “compatible with women’s and men’s shared responsibility” for children and housework. The report also says redistributing household duties is “critical” for achieving substantive equality worldwide.

Child care is the thorny problem that’s hampering women’s economic advancement, both at the individual level and on a global scale. Forty-four percent of mothers in poor countries raise their young children almost entirely on their own, compared with only 29% of mothers in rich countries. In poor countries, 18% of mothers entrust child care to a female child, while in rich countries, 15% of moms have hired help and 10% have access to organized child care or a nursery. The study found that in every country, women were less likely to work when they had small children, which helps contribute to the global pay gap.

And the income women lose can have repercussions throughout their lifetimes. Lack of money often translates into lack of control over their own health decisions: 69% of women in Senegal, 48% in Pakistan and 27% in Haiti say they do not make the final decisions about their own health care. And in most countries, women are less likely to receive pensions — in Egypt, 62% of men get pensions, compared with 8% of women. That’s partly because of legal constraints, but also because women have different labor patterns then men (i.e., they’re more likely to work in informal settings), they contribute less (because they’re paid less) and they live longer. That means women make up the majority of the 73% of the world’s population with little or no social protection in old age.

And all that income women are losing to child care or domestic work adds up to a lot of money. The time women spend on unpaid work amounts to 39% of India’s GDP, 31% of Nicaragua’s GDP and 10% of Argentina’s GDP. Gender equality and economic growth are like squares and rectangles: gender equality leads to economic growth, but growth doesn’t always lead to equality.

The need for paid leave and affordable child care is well-trod ground in North America and Europe, leading to charges that those kinds of social policies are more for rich women than for poor ones. But this report is one of the first to link female-friendly workplace policies like those to gender equality in the developing world. Rich or poor, policies that help working mothers help elevate all women.

TIME Careers

Women Earn 24% Less Than Men on Average, U.N. Report Finds

New report shows gender pay gap remains sizeable

Women are still earning significantly less money than men, despite working longer hours when paid and unpaid work is taken into account, a new U.N. report reveals.

The U.N. Women report shows that even though more women are in the workplace and taking on leadership positions worldwide, pay levels are nowhere near reaching equality worldwide. On average women around the world earn 24% less than men, the report says, and earn just half of the income men earn over a lifetime. Women in South Asia experience the greatest gender pay gap, earning 33% less than men. The Middle East and North Africa have a 14% pay gap.

Women do nearly 2½ times more unpaid and domestic work compared with men and are less likely to receive a pension. Only half of working-age women are in the workforce compared to three-fourths of working-age men.

As a solution, the report suggests creating an economy that prioritizes women’s needs. It provides 10 recommendations for governments and other key players to adopt, such as creating more and better jobs for women, reducing occupational segregation, and establishing benchmarks to assess progress in women’s economic and social rights.

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