How do you feel about the whole work-life balance?
I ran across this article on Jezebel and it sparked several ideas in my mind. Let me quote some of it for you:
“The judge dismissed sexist comments presented as evidence as hearsay (there was no hostile work environment claim being prosecuted), and saw no evidence that women who took leave because of pregnancy were treated differently than those who took leave for other reasons….
“…The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life,” she wrote, citing, approvingly, business gurus like Jack Welch (General Electric CEO) who dismiss the idea of work-life balance, reflecting the “free market employment system we embrace in the United States.” As for special consideration to pregnant women’s role in society, she wrote, it “may be desirable,” but it is not “required by law.” She continued,
“Whether one thinks those consequences are intrinsically fair, whether one agrees with the roles traditionally assumed by the different genders in raising children in the United States, or whether one agrees with the monetary value society places on working versus childrearing is not at issue here…. The fact remains that the law requires only equal treatment in the workplace.”
The NY Times also has an article about this. The best quote from it is:
“A female employee is free to choose to dedicate herself to the company at any cost, and, so far as this record suggests, she will rise in this organization accordingly,” she wrote. “The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life.”
I’m conflicted because I’ve seen both sides of this issue. On the one hand, I have been paid less than my male counterparts for many jobs that I have worked, despite my dedication and hours put in. On the other hand, I’ve worked with some pregnant women who were untouchable. For example, I’ve seen a pregnant woman physically assault someone and it was blown off as ‘pregnancy hormones’ and they were protected due to their pregnancy status.
However, I feel that women have a lot of pressure put on them to have a child. Once they have the child, if they continue to work, it seems that the woman has pressure put on them to make sacrifices in her career to take care of emergencies, or stay home with the child.
Once the woman tries to re-enter the workplace, is there prejudice against them if they want to work a normal 40 hour work week (or less) than their male counterparts? I’ve certainly seen evidence to support this, which is why I find the case above shocking. I’ve seen women treated differently for being pregnant. I’ve seen women treated differently for merely being women.
I know that I cannot long-term work more than 60 hours a week without health consequences. Short term, it’s not a problem, but long-term it has caused me health issues. I’ve been very vexed in the past when I’ve accepted what I was told was a 40 hour a week position with occasional overtime (stipulated as once every few months), only to find out that they really meant 50 to 70 hours every week, and that my expectations were unrealistic even though I had it in writing.
Many studies have indicated that the 40 hour work week produces the peak productivity without diminishing returns. This article states:
“Research by the Business Roundtable in the 1980s found that you could get short-term gains by going to 60- or 70-hour weeks very briefly — for example, pushing extra hard for a few weeks to meet a critical production deadline… The Business Roundtable study found that after just eight 60-hour weeks, the fall-off in productivity is so marked that the average team would have actually gotten just as much done and been better off if they’d just stuck to a 40-hour week all along. ”
I definitely feel a work-life balance is important, because I want to spend time with my loved ones. I feel it’s unhealthy to work 50-70 or more hours a week indefinitely.
So what do you think, is this fair? Should our society have a work-life balance? Should the work week be 40 hours on average? Should it be more than 40 hours? And do you feel the ‘glass ceiling‘ is still intact?
Also, for my International readers, what is the typical work week for you? What’s your typical vacation time like? Does your country have a work-life balance? How are women treated?
I worked at a company where the recruiters routinely passed over well qualified women in their mid 20′s to early 30′s, because they assumed a woman would work a while, then leave to have a baby. This company also expected everyone – including the receptionist and administrative staff – to act as if the company was their entire life.
Sadly, people aren’t valued appropriately. They’re either under appreciated or put on a pedestal that isn’t deserved.
That’s ridiculous. I’ve always worked at places that expected every female to be support staff, regardless of what they were hired to do.
I agree, people are often undervalued, taken for granted, or given leeways that aren’t ‘fair.’
For years, I told potential employers upfront that I did not have or want children. I knew it would be illegal for them to ask the question and I did not want to be overlooked because they expected every young woman to pop out a kid. This was true at the time but, even if it wasn’t I might have said it anyway because the prejudice absolutely exists. I’ve noticed that the same does not hold true for young men or young men recently married. Even though the US (Ok, Obama) is now emphasizing the importance of dads in their kids’ lives, the workplace simply overlooks it and does not expect the same.
I am driven and have worked many long hours over long periods of time and every time, I suffered all kinds of consequences: health, attitude/depression, relationships, etc. I am now 37 and have finally discovered that working smart for 40 hours a week is every bit as effective as pushing long hours where you are defeated by motivation over time.
I also got pregnant. 3 years ago and not on purpose. (That said, my husband and I absolutely love our son and wouldn’t trade him for anything.) I am grateful for the laws protecting my pregnancy and took full advantage of my employer’s 3 month maternity leave. My husband didn’t have an official leave but, he was saving his vacation time and took 3-4 weeks time off sporadically during my 3 months.
Regarding overtime, I think employers really value extra hours but it’s kind of silly. The truth is, most work can get done in a 40 hour week. But, if staff are goofing around on Facebook or their phones, fussing about the work instead of doing the work, then – yeah – it’s gonna take longer than 40 hours because they are not using their time wisely. I continue to work full time. But having a family, I try to be as efficient as possible and work smart while at the office in order to minimize any overtime especially during my peak seasons. In my reviews when my manager mentions extra hours, I remind her that I am usually able to accomplish all of my work and then some in the allotted time and that other people’s time management issues are not my problem.
Yep, I agree with the ‘work smarter, not harder’ adage. And it’s ridiculous that people would spend time goofing off on Facebook at their job. Everyone should have a break, no qualms about that, but unless there’s downtime, I don’t feel you should play on FB or anything else.
It’s good that you were able to take maternity leave and that your husband could take some time off to help you.
Phyrra, I agree with you on the health aspect of overworking, I think 50 hours a week should be enough, if the company needs workers to pull 12 hour shifts that probably means they’re not being managed properly or they need to hire more people.
In Spain the birth rate has decreased very dramatically since democracy and women’s equality rights became the rule 30 years ago. So my guess is when you have women incorporating to the working market, they do need to scarifice time at home, and the prospect of a large family. I don’t want kids, ever, but I have seen friends on both sides: terminated just after announcing their pregnancy, and having their hours adapted to their new life. So I think it depends on the company.
I quit a job after being told 2 months after being hired that I’d have to stay 3 hours longer everyday (including saturdays) which would not be reflected on my contract (but I’d get paid every week in cash). It didn’t feel like I was giving a choice. My boss accussed me of not having ambition, even though the extra money was laughable. I’m 27 and wiser now, but for a while after I felt very depressed and guilty for not wanting to work 12 hours 6 days a week. To a company who wouldn’t reflect those hours officially, who wouldn’t give me any choice and who offered it to the new 22 year old girl because they probably thought I didn’t have a family so I wouldn’t complain or could be bullied into it. Madness.
Here I guess the situation in most aspects is the same for men and women, except people still expect women to drop everything the moment they have a baby. No one asks the father to stop working overtime to be with the child, but they expect the mother to ask for part time and if they don’t get it, quit working. Hardly fair (to the men as well, who may want a paternity leave and also may become bitter about “supporting” their partners) and impossible in this most households in this economy so who can blame us for wanting to delay having children?
Sorry for the looong rant.
No! This is exactly the sort of discussion I want to have! I want to know your views.
It’s awful I sort of feel like part of the reason companies can get away with this is that they don’t expect people to complain (or in some cases, file a lawsuit).
I think that it’s important for any company to recognize that its employees exist outside of their place of employment, and while I have yet to see it for myself, I’ve often heard of companies eager to try to fire a pregnant woman/new mom. That kind of thing wouldn’t happen to a new dad, even if both parents work… ugh.
(It’s interesting that one of the “values” at Sephora is “work/life balance”!)
That’s awesome of Sephora to have that value! I agree, companies should be cognizant of the fact that time outside exists.
I hate the Corporate America lifestyle and I am anxiously waiting to get out. I think working 40 hrs a week is absolutely horrifying. And even more isn’t even an option for me in my 5-day work week. Of course that’s just ME. FMLA protects pregnant women in that if a woman has been employed with a company for a year, she is guaranteed at least 12 weeks of leave time. Any Mom will tell you 12 weeks is hardly enough. Other countries get far more.
There’s just no space for equality in Corporate America. Unless you’re lucky enough to work at a company like Google where they believe in things like pets at work, naps and this thing called “enjoying where you work”.
B, you are so right. It is very hard to find companies that want you to ‘enjoy where you work.’ I’ve worked for only one company in my entire career that cared.
Additionally, I do feel like it’s disappointing that other countries have far better leave and understanding of work-life balance. I don’t understand why America hasn’t caught up.
I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons that Google (and software/high tech companies in general) originally embraced the pets at work, naps at work, enjoying where you work type policies is because they wanted their programmers to work LOTS of hours. Bringing your pet to work means you don’t have to leave after 8-10 hours to feed them or let them out.
One of the best work/life balance companies I worked at was a huge multi-national pharmaceutical company. They offered all kinds of cool things like aromatherapy classes, exercise classes, etc. and actively promoted a healthy work/life balance amongst employees. They were voted one of the best places to work while I was there.
I currently work in academia, and it’s fairly flexible. There are some weeks where I put in more than 40 hours depending on the demands of the moment. This week is one where I will be working over the weekend to meet some deadlines. More than anything, I appreciate flexibility and not having to punch a time clock. If I’ve put in lots of hours one week, I have no problem taking off early the next.
Flexibility is something I highly value, too! I love being able to flex how I work my time.
Before my husband lost his job (grrr still bitter even though thankfully he was employed 3months later) he telecommuted and had flextime for 12 yrs. It was HEAVEN.
If more jobs were open to telecommuting, it would make things easier for families in general. Productivity was shown to actually be higher. True, there were many times my DH was working until the wee hours of the morning (no overtime paid either). But having him home was amazing. AND I think he is closer to our kids than many dads. Sorry for the Off topic!
Yep, I agree. I worked at a company that allowed telecommuting for years, and it was great. I worked more hours than 40 a week, but had less adverse effects from it because much of that time was at home.
*Puts on my HR hat*
FMLA merely protects your job so that the company can’t hire someone to replace you as long as you’ve been approved.
The bare requirements don’t make companies actually pay you for the leave. So, you’d get 12 weeks of unpaid time, woohoo?
LOL! Good to know. Thank you
An average full-time job here in Belgium is 35-38 hours depending on the sector. With overtime this sometimes runs up, but people working +50 hours every week generally own their own business. I work in a sports store and my work week is usually around 40 hours, but in busy periods it can run up to working 10-11 days straight without any days off.
It’s illegal here to pay a man more for the same job than a woman of the same age, but lots of women work part-time. I do feel like it is possible to climb up the ladder as a woman in many companies, but you have to work hard, and say that you don’t want kids in the near future. We do have fairly good conditions for maternity leave, and men are allowed to take some paternal leave too.
My and my boyfriend would prefer to do it the other way around when we have children. I am aiming for more promotion because I love my job, while he is a real family guy and would love to work less to spend time with the kids. When I mention this to people, they either look at me as if I would be a bad mother, or they frown on my boyfriend.
I feel like for a big part, the general attitude towards gender roles is to blame. Women are also guilty of this, looking down on the women that focus more on carreer than family life, and looking down at men for working less than their partner.. You can not expect company leaders to change their mindset on this, when all of society holds on to this conservative idea about gender roles.
I agree with you. I think if a dad wants to be a stay at home dad, that’s awesome! If you as a woman want to be the career-minded one, you should be able to.
That’s my daughter’s ideal set-up: she works and her husband watches the kids I am totally supportive of SAHDs!
I can bring my dog to work. I work in indie film/art. Off topic, I have a phobia of pregnancy, pregnant women, and don’t like kids at all, that’s (absolutely) NOT to say I don’t believe in anything other than equal opportunity.
My boss and colleagues do hold bias to potential employees or employees that are expecting and/or have children. If there is a project -that’s a big break- or even a press event, those with parental responsibilities are very often neglected for consideration and eligibility. My boss likes to believe they’re not as efficient, and cannot carry the promising position as well as someone with less responsibility. I find that many women in the workplace are discriminated and behind ‘closed doors’ a sexual comment is made every now and then. I also find that they can get away with a bit more pregnant or not, this having nothing to do with them wooing but simply not expected exceed the task as their counterpart. Example a male ruins an entire roll of film in the darkroom and he’s likely to be humiliated in yells and is charged with the loses, a female won’t be yelled at but would be moved to another position.
Bosses car breaks down he calls a guy over, although to be fair not many women know much about fixing a lemon, let alone how to do an oil change. I find that gay women have it easier than well presumably straight women. In the perspective of my colleagues I’m basically a male. While I get along with mostly everyone, as you can clearly see it’s full of douchebags and hypocrites. I need a new job lol
Wow, yeah sadly, I can say I’ve heard unsavory things behind closed doors.
Interesting article, work-life balance is one of the areas that I my company polls us on twice a year as employees, to get the pulse of how we feel, to improve on. I feel our feedback, and our well-being, is taken very seriously. They KNOW that we have to have time to decompress, so that we are better performers when we are with them. It’s little things, too, that contribute to my work-life balance. Our director will encourage us to leave early the Friday before holidays. My boss will tell us not to stay too late if we are there longer than her. I have never been so happy at a company, and find I am able, luckily, to manage work-life balance. With that said, if there’s an issue or big project, I’m going to be there late. But happy to do so, because I am not expected to work overtime all the time.
This is not all to say that I haven’t experienced this, or seen it in action, at previous jobs! I am disappointed how it seems that corporate America is so caught up in valuing that someone’s butt is in a seat for xx hours (ooooh! they’re so dedicated! they might say) instead of valuing that someone did xx work in their allotted time! (that guy ALWAYS leaves 5, 5:15, they’d say instead of “good work!”)
Judy, that is awesome that your company is so on top of things!
Yes, I hate companies that don’t value someone who works efficiently, they only value the time in the seat in the office.
I don’t work outside the home and I don’t have kids, so I’ve not dealt with a lot of these issues. But I do find the whole subject very interesting. I think it’s a shame that in the US companies don’t seem to value a work/life balance. I also think it’s incredibly narrow minded to exclude some women from certain opportunities just because they have kids, or simply because they’re women. We tend to think our country is so great, and I suppose in a lot of ways it is, but it’s also pretty darn ass-backwards about some things compared to some other countries.
I agree, I remember reading a study about how different it is to be a woman in Australia vs. the USA. The study went on to discuss how women have equal rights in Australia far longer than in the USA.
So it seems that several countries have a different outlook on women in the workplace, as well as on work-life balance.
There most certainly is bias!
Now, TBH, I have always been a homemaker/stay at home mom. I have a college degree. I’ve also been chronically ill for 17 yrs and have 2 kids.
There are many professions which make it nearly impossible for women to “have it all”. For instance, I recently read an article (I believe it was in Brain-Child Magazine”) that says how the tenure system works against women who want to have children–since it was created when almost no women were in the workforce.
My daughter–17 and a senior–wants to become a neuroscientist, get her Masters and Ph.D. She also wants to have a family but doesn’t know how she’ll juggle it all. I don’t like that she even has to think about that.
I’m sure your daughter is determined and she will do it
Before i left the 9-5 grind a long time ago, it was pretty flexible for women where i was working. they even set up a new maternity room for new moms with a fridge to store pumped milk!
i’ve worked at places where it was the exact opposite though and truly awful. they preached work/life balance but it wasn’t there. they gave the women 2 weeks of paid maternity then made them file for short term disability if they wanted to stay home longer with their baby and get paid for it. i think they only got 60% of their salary that way. is that even legal for a company to do!? i have no idea b/c we don’t have children but that didn’t seem right. i mean, i guess it was but that just seems wrong. you need time to bond with your child. it was even worse for the men… they only gave the men 3 days paid time off if they had a child and if they wanted any additional time beyond that, they had to use their personal days or any vacation time.
it appears to be different from company to company here in the states. i have hope that it can change! thanks for the post and promoting the awareness.
It is definitely different from company to company and state to state. Some companies are finally getting on board with the dad having paternity leave. Other companies just don’t get it or don’t care.
I’ve always worked while pregnant and after giving birth. (Up until recently.) And I’ve seen and experienced two sides of the spectrum. I worked for and around a bunch of men that were complete pigs who disregarded my pregnant “status” but I’ve also worked around women who’d never been pregnant and they were just as bad, if not worse about it. There ARE things a pregnant woman should no be doing, such as lifting heavy items, etc. I would get ridiculed daily that I looked “tired” or “upset” all the time (by WOMEN). NO SHIT… I AM! To add insult to injury AFTER I gave birth, I’d have to leave my 6 week old infant in daycare to return to the same jobs (to help support my family) and have to deal with the daycare calling if child was sick and getting the “looks” and “sighs” from my bosses/coworkers because I had to leave early to pick up my child. I do not think it’s fair for women in the work place at times. We can’t control our children getting sick or hurt in daycare yet most of us HAVE to work to survive. The balance is a hard one to maintain. Not to mention after work, having to come home and cook, clean, make sure babies are fed, and bathed, and ready for bed. No rest for the weary and no support in the workplace. So where is the balance? The balance between being a mother and a career woman? Is there a line? I believe more people should support and encourage women to work with or without children and treat everyone as an equal..Men and women. It’s not much a man’s world anymore and once that gets recognized, we might live in a more understanding society.
Thank you for sharing your insight Wendi! You’re exactly right, you can’t control if your child gets sick, or if another child hurts your child in daycare.
I think that a lot of businesses aren’t committed to their workforce. Many feel there is someone waiting in line for the position, so if they overwork and burn out a current employee they know they can easily fill the position.
In the current economy workers are willing to do anything to have a job, including sacrificing their health and wellness to appear committed to their jobs. I think women feel this pressure more because there is a bias in society that a woman who has children is either not fully committed to her career. I think often women are considered unreliable because of their dual-roles as worker and mothers.
I also think that society puts unfair pressure on women to “have it all” and if you don’t want that, or if you aren’t achieving it by working full-time and raising a family you are somehow less of a person.
I had a friend judge me because I chose to stay home with my children. She said “stay at home mom” with the same tone one would use for “crack-whore” or such. I admit sometimes that I miss working, but at the same time if I did work outside the home I’d be barely making enough money to pay for child care (and I’m college educated and have years of experience). Essentially I’d be working to afford child care so I could work.
I think there needs to be major societal changes in the expectations we have for workers, especially for women.
I have to say that as someone who is planning on having kids in about 5-10 years, this worries me. I had never really thought about that issue. I know that I usually treat pregnant women a bit more carefully, as in I try to help them out. Like if they need help carrying something or whatever. But to think that some workplaces won’t give promotions for fear that women will leave to have children? That is ridiculous!
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The one thing that has always bothered me about working is working with people with children. It pisses a lot of people off when I say it, but I don’t feel that I receieve equal treatment as a person with no children compared to the people who do hae kids. Too many times, I have worked with people with children who take excessive amounts of time off/have to leave early every bloody day/etc. and I have to cover for them but they get away with it because it has something to do with their kids. However, if I ask to leave early or ask one of them to cover a day for me, they act as if what happens in my personal life is NOT important because I must not have a life because I do not have children. They also seem to think that I should be available to work at the drop of a hat at any time because I don’t have kids. Also, women in our society are allowed to take a year off of work and are able to return to the same job later after having a baby. Why shouldn’t I be able to take a year off to do something productive as well? Why can’t I take a year off to take some classes or something else useful of that nature? Oh right. Because my personal life doesn’t matter because I am not raising a child. I also have been treated like I am some kind of weirdo at work by people with children because I don’t want them and have been asked constantly “When are you having kids? Why aren’t you having kids?”. Thankfully, I recently found a job where my other four co-workers are also married women who chose not to have children. If I ask to leave early for something NOT CHILD RELATED, they get it. We cover for each other and switch workdays when we all need to and it’s working very well for me. Also, I have worked jobs that were 60-70 hour work weeks and it affected my health and personal life. It was good pay but it’s just not worth it in the end.
@Vulcan_Butterfly I’m glad you’ve found people who are understanding and work with you.
Just to clarify my point, when I refer to people with children taking off excessive amounts of time, I am talking about people who do so unreasonably. If your kid is sick and you have to leave or they got off school early and you have to go every now and again, I totally understand. What bugs me is the people who feel like they can just use me to cover because they think my life is empty because I don’t have children.
@Vulcan_Butterfly Yeah, I’ve sadly seen that abuse. I have also found it frustrating that just because I don’t have kids, it would be expected that I’d be ok staying late all the time.
I think you’re exactly right.