Saturday, October 11, 2014

Work-Life Balance Is Having a Moment—But for the Wrong Reasons

Work-Life Balance Is Having a Moment—But for the Wrong Reasons

Work-Life Balance Is Having a Moment—But for the Wrong Reasons

Posted: 11 Oct 2014 09:01 AM PDT

Work-life balance is having a moment, but for the wrong reasons. Although scholars have been researching work-life fit for more than 50 years, the 2008 recession changed the nature of the beast: Lacking job security, workers became afraid to take advantage of company flexible working options, instead seeking to show hardcore commitment to hang on to a job.

This strategy has had devastating effects. A recent study found that 70 percent of workers suffer from work-family tension, which manifests itself in sleep-deprivation, marital conflict, parent-child tension, alcohol and tobacco use, and other problems.

Things have improved since 2008, sure. But now, the trick is to harness the energy of this moment into a cultural shift — a movement that sparks lasting change.

So, where do we go from here? To the data! Yeah, yeah, it’s 2014, the data. Got it. But, from the data, the big question is whether we can solve the problem with one good policy, or some fear in the marketplace, a combination of both that changes the ecosystem of the workplace.

The first step to making any change, of course, is acknowledging the problem. Denial can be destructive. Let’s take, for example, the work of Robin Ely of Harvard Business School. She studied a professional service firm to find out why 90 percent of the employees at the top level were men. Most of her 107 interviewees attributed it to women’s family responsibilities, claiming that greater work-family conflict caused them to slow down or quit. But when data showed similar dropout rates for men and women, the true culprit appeared: overwork. But instead of addressing the organization’s culture of overwork — prompted by over-selling and over-promising deliverables — the firm chose to depict it within a “work-family narrative” that shifted the blame away from company culture. Naming the true problem would require altering some things, including some supervisor, management, and promotion practices — which need not be as daunting as it sounds.

So, where do we find solutions? In a “best of the best” workplaces study, awarded the 2014 Kanter Award (an honor bestowed to the work-family field’s most influential research), researchers found that when European governments enacted public childcare and paid leave statutes, they often inspired companies to change their policies and implement additional flexible work arrangements, above and beyond what the law required. Using data from 19,000 organizations in 19 countries (the survey didn’t include the U.S.), the authors found that the presence of a federal context of family-friendliness mattered: their statistical analysis showed that 15 percent of the variability in companies’ adoption of flexible work arrangements was explained by institutional pressures such as state support.

But government can’t do it alone. And if you’ve been following the latest work-family legislation news out of the U.S. government, you know that it’s not doing much of anything, let alone changing work-life rules. Luckily, governments aren’t the only organizations that can initiate societal ripple effects. Other big companies can do that, too. It’s all based on a somewhat wonky theory known as organizational isomorphism — companies’ tendency to mimic each other to gain social legitimacy, and to remain competitive in the war for talent, customers, and profit.

More and more, companies are eager to make “Best Places to Work” or “Best Places for Working Mothers” lists — it’s good for their brands and supports the bottom line. Such lists nudge organizations into thinking about shifting their policies and culture toward more family-friendliness. But after a nudge, the real drivers of change are threefold, according to scholars. First is labor supply. According to Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute (FWI), companies move toward becoming more family-supportive when they lose valued employees whom they want to retain. In FWI’s recent report, only 11 percent said they did so because of legal mandates. Second is leadership, especially the human resources (HR) manager’s stance: if he or she supports a work-life innovation as a way for the organization to adapt to change (especially global competition), that’s a plus, says Ellen Kossek of Purdue University. The HR executive is a critical driver, according to Kossek’s research. If he or she has a global orientation, and thinks other executives will be favorable to a work-life innovation, change is likely.

Another way to change an organization’s culture: give employees greater control over where and when they work, and train managers to be more supportive of family commitments. Research from the University of Minnesota found that these changes resulted in a significant reduction in employees’ chronic work-life stress and feeling of insufficient time with their families. Implementing more schedule and location flexibility, and supervisor support for family responsibilities, meant system-wide change could relieve work-family pressure for those who needed it. In particular, employees who were parents or had supervisors who were initially suspect of greater freedom were helped the most by these changes. Unfortunately, according to the Families and Work Institute report, fewer employers are providing supervisor training for support and evaluation of a diverse, flexible workforce. That trend needs to reverse. But the report also showed that flexibility in where and when work gets done has increased since 2008, from 50 percent to 67 percent of the companies it surveyed. That’s good news.

The data are clear. Change can happen inside organizations to ease work-family tension for all who need it… and increasingly, that means not just mothers. And change can happen across organizations, in response to public policy prodding companies toward family-friendly practices; as well as companies replicating one another’s programs in response to social, economic, and leadership pushes. And most importantly, change is needed when 70 percent of working Americans feel stressed and 70-hour workweeks beckon. We want that type of virus to spread, instead of an epidemic of people’s stress-filled work-life imbalance creating a national health crisis.

Nanette Fondas, co-author of The Custom-Fit Workplace, writes about business, economics, and family. Her work has been published in The Atlantic, Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today, Slate, Ms., Quartz, as well as academic journals. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

Second Day of Protests Take Shape in St. Louis

Posted: 11 Oct 2014 08:54 AM PDT

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Hundreds are gathered in downtown St. Louis for a second day of organized rallies to protest Michael Brown’s death and other fatal police shootings in the area and elsewhere.

The crowd appeared larger than the ones seen at Friday’s protests. While the main the focus is on recent police shootings, marchers embraced other causes such as gay rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Police officers were stationed around downtown St. Louis in anticipation of a march that was scheduled to wind through city streets for several hours.

The four-day event called Ferguson October began Friday afternoon with a march outside the St. Louis county prosecutor’s office.

Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, was shot and killed Aug. 9 by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white.

JFK Begins Screening Airline Passengers for Ebola

Posted: 11 Oct 2014 08:24 AM PDT

Enhanced Ebola screenings began Saturday at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport as authorities moved to ensure passengers potentially carrying the virus don’t make it into the United States.

Anyone traveling from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone will be singled out by Customs and Border Protection, who will take their temperature with a non-contact thermometer and ask them a series of questions, the New York Times reports.

Kennedy is the first of five American airports planning to tighten screening protocols in an effort to protect the U.S. from the disease’s possible spread. But health officials warned that the only way to stop Ebola is to defeat it in West Africa.

Still, experts say the state of medical care in the U.S. and the current precautions mean that the likelihood of widespread infection here is very low.

“The chances of seeing anything like the calamity in western Africa is profoundly remote,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and a special adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio.


Watch This Amazing Fan-Made Remake of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Posted: 11 Oct 2014 08:01 AM PDT

Star Wars devotees are about as dedicated as aficionados can be, probably somewhere between preteen One Direction obsessives and oenophiles. But except for some dreamy sketches and Edward Hopper still lifes, One Direction and wine haven’t produced the kind of adoring fan art that Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back has yielded in this two-hour version of the movie.

More than 480 fans sent out 1,500 submissions contributed sections to this shot-for-shot recreation of the film. It’s unbelievably varied and really fun to watch, if you’re a Star Wars person. It’s “a testament to the talent, imagination, and dedication of Star Wars fans,” says Star Wars’ official description of the film.

Supreme Court Lifts Block on Idaho Gay Marriage

Posted: 11 Oct 2014 07:47 AM PDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says same-sex marriage can go ahead in Idaho.

The court issued an order Friday that appears to remove the last legal obstacle keeping gay and lesbian couples from getting married in the conservative state.

The federal appeals court in San Francisco on Tuesday declared gay marriage bans illegal in Idaho and Nevada.

Justice Anthony Kennedy temporarily blocked same-sex weddings in Idaho a day later after the state asked for a delay. Idaho officials said county clerks would be forced to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples almost immediately without the high court’s intervention.

Kennedy offered no explanation for his order, but indicated it would not be lasting. The court issued no explanation for its order Friday, either.

Nobel Co-Winner Kailash Satyarthi: The Whole World Should Protect Children’s Rights

Posted: 11 Oct 2014 07:19 AM PDT

Kailash Satyarthi, a relatively unknown child rights activist from India, is sharing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai, a teen campaigner from Pakistan who was shot in the head by the Taliban while going to school in 2012. The reclusive Satyarthi, admittedly nowhere near as famous as his co-recipient, is, however, a messiah for India’s close to 50 million child workers. Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan (loosely translated as Movement to Save Childhood) has to date rescued and rehabilitated more than 80,000 child laborers. Just last month, it rescued 24 child workers between the ages of eight and 15 from a bag and shoe making plant in New Delhi.

Apart from freeing children from forced labor, Satyarthi has also successfully created international awareness about child workers issue by organizing global marches. The international social tag “Rugmark,” created by Satyarthi, is a widely recognized guarantee that a rug or carpet was made in a child labor-free factory. India is the world’s largest exporter of handmade carpets, and a recent report by Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human rights estimates that out of around two million carpet workers in India, approximately 400,000 are underage laborers. The attention his prize has created around the issue of child labor just in the last few hours, Satyarthi says, is overwhelming.

TIME spoke to Satyarthi Saturday about winning the Nobel Peace Prize. This interview has been edited and condensed for space.

TIME: For probably the first time, the entire world and India especially is talking about child rights and child labor, which was a fringe issue. How does that make you feel?

Satyarthi: It’s the biggest-ever recognition for the plight, struggle and issue of child labor worldwide. It will give tremendous impetus to our fight and will undoubtedly inspire hundreds and thousands of social activists and non-profits on the ground, all over the world. The amount of conversations it has created around child labor in the last 6 to 7 hours has not been seen in the last 600 years.

You received the award jointly with Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan are struggling to ensure child rights. Can they work together towards solutions?

I spoke to Malala yesterday after the prize was announced, and invited her to join an additional dimension in the fight for child rights, and that is the right to be free. No child should be born or grow [up] into violence and conflict in any part of the world. Saying that, why just India and Pakistan? The whole world should work together to protect child rights. This is the 25th year of U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and to celebrate this, there is a need on the part of all stakeholders — the civil society, the masses, governments, corporates and even religious institutions — to accept collective responsibility [and stand up to this social evil].

Not many in India knew Kailash Satyarthi before Friday – did you deliberately keep yourself away from the public eye?

I don’t believe in personality cults; I don’t believe in personal image building exercises. Bachpan Bachao Andolan is not merely a non-profit or social or political movement for me – it is my life’s mission. We work in thousands of villages in India and over 140 countries, with limited reach, manpower and resources. The choice was either to invest in image building or in building the movement.

What has been your biggest challenge in the last three decades?

My biggest challenge was, and still is, changing social mindsets and working around political priorities. Child labor is a non-issue in India. It is a social evil and a development disaster. Indians treat poor children either as beggars, giving them food and clothes in charity or employ them as child laborers. There is nothing in between. And when it comes to the notion of child rights, there is zero awareness. I have been fighting to establish that notion, concept and eventually culture that teaches one to respect childhood and treat children with the dignity and respect they deserve.

How is your work different from that of other child rights organizations?

We believe in direct action. We want to free children from modern day slavery and ensure they receive proper rehabilitation. We avoid taking the overall responsibilities of the overall rehabilitation of hundreds and thousands of children as we have limited resources and manpower. What we have instead tried doing is to build a social movement around the issue rather than being a conventional non-profit.

Despite your limited resources, you did not keep your movement confined to India. Instead, you took it to the world stage through your global marches against child labor.

Child labor is not an isolated problem. There are geopolitical issues. There are transnational corporations and industries; there are globalized markets and economies and all these cumulatively create and perpetuate child labor globally. The issues are globally interlinked and that is why it is critical that we build a worldwide movement.


7 New Jersey High School Students Charged in Sexual Assaults

Posted: 11 Oct 2014 07:15 AM PDT

Seven New Jersey teenagers were charged Friday in connection with sexual assaults that were allegedly part of a football hazing ritual which prompted the local school to cut the season short.

Some of the seven teens at Parlin, New Jersey’s Sayreville War Memorial High School are accused of holding victims agains their will while others “improperly” touched them “in a sexual manner,” prosecutors said. The accused range in age from 15 to 17, the New York Times reports.

The charges include aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, assault, conspiracy and hazing, among others.

Sayreville was scheduled to play its homecoming football game on Friday night against Monroe High School, but school officials canceled the game after complaints about bullying. Richard Labbe, the superintendent of Sayreville Public Schools said the board of education, said the school would continue to cooperate with authorities.

Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday said as a father of four, he found the allegations disgraceful.

“The facts as reported currently are extraordinarily disturbing and, as the father of a number of teenage athletes, the idea that that kind of conduct could be permitted — if it’s true — in a high school athletics program, or anywhere else in our state for that matter, is absolutely unacceptable,” Christie said.


Snowden’s Girlfriend Is Living With Him in Russia

Posted: 11 Oct 2014 06:45 AM PDT

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is living with his girlfriend in Russia, it’s revealed in a documentary by filmmaker Laura Poitras that premiered Friday at the New York Film Festival.

Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s girlfriend of 10 years, has been living with Snowden for some time, according to the film. Poitras filmed Mills and Snowden cooking dinner together in July for the documentary, titled Citizenfour, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The revelation of Mills’ life in Russia counters the widely-held belief that Snowden abandoned her as he leaked troves of classified intelligence documents revealing the existence of massive secret surveillance programs on American citizens.

“The fact that he is now living in domestic bliss as well, with his long-term girlfriend whom he loves, should forever put to rest the absurd campaign to depict his life as grim and dank,” wrote Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who along with Poitras helped publish the Snowden revelations.

Mills is a ballerina and dancer who lived with Snowden in Hawaii when he was an NSA contractor there. Snowden has largely eschewed speaking about his personal life, and Mills has never given any interviews.

Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since June 2013 and has been granted asylum for a second year. You can watch the trailer for Citizenfour above.


Watch Viola Davis’ Emotional Speech About Childhood Poverty

Posted: 11 Oct 2014 06:08 AM PDT

Viola Davis, the star of the new ABC drama How to Get Away With Murder, delivered a powerful speech Friday at Variety’s 2014 Power of Women luncheon, telling an audience that she’s driven to end childhood hunger by memories of “abject poverty” in her own life.

“I stole for food, I jumped in huge garbage bins with maggots for food,” said Davis. “I didn’t join the hunger is campaign to save the world. I set out to save myself.”

She was recognized at a luncheon along with Jane Fonda, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Lopez for humanitarian efforts, the Associated Press reports.


How Words Can Kill in the Vaccine Fight

Posted: 11 Oct 2014 06:00 AM PDT

Chances are you wouldn’t sit down to a plate of sautéed thymus glands, to say nothing of a poached patagonian tooth fish; and the odds are you’d be reluctant to tuck into a monkey peach too. But sweetbreads, Chilean sea bass and kiwifruit? They’re a different matter—except they’re not. All of those scrumptious foods once went by those less scrumptious names—but few people went near them until there was something pleasant to call them. Words have that kind of power.

That’s true in advertising, in politics and in business too. And it’s true when it comes to vaccines as well—but in this case those words can have a lethal power. The bad news is that in the vaccine word game, the good guys (they would be the ones who know that vaccines are safe, effective and save from two to three million lives per year) are being caught flat-footed by the bad guys (those would be the ones whose beliefs are precisely opposite—and therefore precisely wrong).

The battle plays out on Twitter, with the handy—and uninformed—handle #CDCWhistleBlower repeatedly invoked by virtually every fevered anti-vax tweet like a solemn incantation. The term refers to Dr. William Thompson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who supposedly blew the lid off of the great vaccine conspiracy by confessing to irregularities in a 2004 study that deliberately excluded data suggesting a higher rate of autism in African-American boys who had been vaccinated. Scary stuff alright, except that the study was poorly conducted, the data was left out for purely statistical and methodological reasons, and the paper itself has now been withdrawn. But the hashtag stain remains all the same—with the usually noble whistleblower label being put to low purpose.

Something similar is true with the widely cited Vaccine Injury Court, another frightening term, except that no such thing exists—at least not by that name. It’s true there is an Office of Special Masters which, under a smart 1986 law, hears the claims of parents who believe their children have been injured by vaccines. The panel was created to provide no-fault compensation in all such cases, since drugs that are as vital and are administered as widely as vaccines could never be manufactured or sold affordably if the companies themselves had to pour millions and even billions of dollars into defending themselves against claims.

It’s true too that the court has paid out about $2.8 billion to parents and families since 1989, but those awards are overwhelmingly for relatively minor side effects that are fully disclosed by the ostensibly secretive CDC for any parents caring to look on the agency’s website. And to put that $2.8 billion in perspective: The money went to 3,727 claimants over an approximate generation-long period during which 78 million American children were safely vaccinated, preventing an estimated 322 million illnesses and 732,000 deaths. If you’re crunching the numbers (and it’s not hard to do) that factors out to a .0048% risk of developing what is overwhelmingly likely to be a transient problem—in exchange for a lifetime of immunity from multiple lethal diseases.

But brace for more anyway because October is, yes, Vaccine Injury Awareness Month. Because really, what does a dangerous campaign of misinformation need more than 31 catchily named days devoted to itself?

Still, there’s no denying that catchiness works, and on this one the doctors and other smart folks are going to have to get off the dime. MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow—who either is or isn’t to your liking depending in part on whether MSNBC itself is—has emerged as a smart, persuasive, often brilliantly cutting advocate for the vaccine cause. And on his Oct. 10 show he deftly filleted the arguments of a vocal anti-vax mother whose child is undeniably suffering from a number of illnesses, but who wrong-headedly blames them on vaccines. In this show as in others he invites his audience to learn the truth about vaccines and to connect with him and one another via the handle #VaccineDebate.

And right there he tripped up. For the billionth time (as Farrow knows) there is no debate. Just as there is no climate change debate. Just as there is no moon-landings-were-faked debate. And just as there was nothing to the tobacco company’s disingenuous invention of a “cigarette controversy,” a fallback position they assumed when even they knew that cigarettes were killers and that they couldn’t straight-facedly say otherwise, so the best they could do was sow doubt and hope people stayed hooked.

Little more than 30 seconds spent listening to Farrow talk about vaccines makes it unmistakably clear where he stands—but the very fact that we now live in a hashtag culture means that it’s by no means certain he’s going to get that 30 seconds. So step up your game, smart people. You want to get the vaccine message out, do it in a way that works in the 21st century. And if that means a hashtag, why not #VaccinesWork or #VaccinesAreSafe or #VaccinesSaveLives. Of course, there’s also the more thorough and satisfying #AntivaxxersDon’tKnowWhatThey’reTalkingAboutSoPleaseStopListeningToThem, but that gets you exactly halfway to your 140-character limit. So keep it brief folks—and make it stick.


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