Wednesday, February 20, 2008

GUEST POST: What Does Recession Mean for Balance?

GUEST POST: Helaine Olen is the coauthor of Office Mate: The Employee Manual for Finding and Managing Romance on the Job, with Stephanie Losee. Helaine's work on parenting, families, books, feminism, politics, personal finance and career strategy has been published in numerous print and on-line publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post,, and The Los Angeles Times, where she wrote and edited the popular “Money Makeover” feature. Her essays have been published in Modern Love: 50 True and Extraordinary Tales of Desire, Deceit and Devotion as well as in the upcoming The Maternal is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Social and Political Change. Helaine is supersavvy, sassy, and a very welcome addition to the blogging scene. Here she is!

Wouldn't It Be Nice?

Cali Williams Yost, the work/life blogger for Fast Company, thinks a recession could be good for the cause of balance. Sure, there will be a few companies that turn to the tried and true method of firing as many people as they can get away with and forcing the survivors to work 60 hour weeks. But they are so unenlightened! As Ms. Yost posits:
In a recession, more needs to be done with fewer resources. It’s even more critical that your employees are at their most productive and your work-flow and communication management is at its most efficient. Studies show that flexibility to help employees manage their work+life fit results in increased productivity, more efficiency, and better communication.

Finally, companies that need to cutback will use flex to creatively downsize. By offering to reduce schedules or a transition people to project-based, consulting work, employees who otherwise would lose their tie to the organization can stay. When business turns around, those companies then have the option of offering those employees a return to a full-time schedule.

Methinks Ms. Yost has been drinking a wee bit too much corporate Kool-Aid. Wherever she got this delightful idea from, it’s not from working in an actual office during a recession. In my experience, they always come for the part-timers first no matter how short-sighted that approach might well be. The folks who survive the purges are expected to put in 10 to 12 hour days. And while I’ve known a few people desperate enough to work for their former employers (you know, the people who used to offer them benefits) on a contract basis, I’ve never known one who went back to them when the economy improved. Frankly, I know more who opted out of the paid workforce entirely.

Could it be different this time? Hey, anything is possible. But given that most companies are already asking their employees to give them their lives (remember, 40% of American employees work 50 hours a week and up and that’s in a good economic climate), I wouldn’t bet on it.

(Cross-posted here.)


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