Thursday, April 19, 2007

Job sharing challenges

In covering the workplace for more than 15 years, I've heard plenty of companies talk about how they have a "family friendly" environment and programs in place to help employees achieve "work/life" balance.
I've also read lots of nice feature stories in various publications that have named employers to their "best" lists regarding companies that support employees in achieving this balance between their personal and professional lives.
Unfortunately, I don't think we're hearing the whole story.
Too many employees have told me that while their companies have these programs on the books, in reality they feel little support for achieving a work/life balance. Their managers, they tell me, still pressure them to put their personal lives behind their professional dutues, regardless of the circumstances. These workers believe that if they don't sacrifice their personal lives, then they will be hurt professionally, losing out on pay upgrades, promotions or top projects.
In my interview with Kelly Watson of Career Partners, she told me that her company recruits executive women who want to job share. She says that by acting as a sort of traffic cop, her company makes sure these job sharing arrangements can work by supporting women (and men) throughout the process. As she notes: "Bosses feel that if you're serious, you stay at your desk."
Job sharing is an arrangement that appeals to a lot of employees. Workers who have aging parents, baby boomers who are nearing retirment and want to cut back and parents who need to juggle child and work needs are attracted to the idea.
And while Watson's company may be a solid step toward helping employers and employees achieve a work/life balance, the sad reality is that many workers who need that support the most-- lower income or single wage earners -- continue to struggle to cope with increasing work and family demands in this 24/7 environment.


Anonymous said...

I am a single mother of two and went to work for a company that said it was family friendly and offered flexible work arrangements. I thought it would be perfect for me because it would be a way to stay in a profession I love (accounting) and take care of my children. But in my first job performance, my manager said that others felt they couldn't "rely" on me because I was "always" taking time off for one reason or another. That was untrue and my manager knew it. I always cleared time away to take my son to the doctor or attend a school meeting with my daughter's teacher. In addition, I always worked nights or on the weekend to make up for any time missed. But my manager didn't stick up for me with my co-workers, and now he makes it seem like I don't want a promotion badly enough because I'm not sitting at a desk for 14 hours a day. My children's father is out of the picture, so I have to work a fulltime job in order to put food on the table. I sleep about four hours a night between taking care of my children and working. There is no support for working mothers in this country, as far as I can see.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more that single working mothers are not supported at work. My boss just received some award from our company because he's done such a great job over the last year. I nearly puked. This guy gets an award when he asked me if I could delay leaving for my grandfather's funeral for a day because he had an important project due and he needed my help. I also heard him tell a woman that her son really didn't need her at ALL his soccer games...that no kid really wanted his mom hanging around all the time. What does he know? His wife and the nanny take care of his kids...he's never stayed up all night with a sick kid or gone without sleep to make brownies for the class field trip. Until more women are in charge, I think this kind of abuse will continue.

Cheryl Graziose said...

I have been fortunate to have been able to job share for over 20 years now. However, I have sacrificed career advancement and promotions like many other people, because I have worked part-time. Employers do not consider you, or your job-sharing partner as a "serious" employee, compared to a full-time person.
I am the founder of a website called, Jobshare Connection, My partner and I created a Free national job-sharing network. It is free to join because we believe many people are looking for work/life balance, and a network to find a local job-sharing partner can help.
Many companies list work/life balance as a “benefit” for employees, and I agree that those benefits may not be trickling down to the hard-working employee.
The number of retirees and men that have joined our network has reinforced my belief that many people are looking for work/life balance, in addition to the working mother. And, many companies are not truly providing this benefit.
Cheryl Graziose
Founder, Jobshare Connection