Work sched­ules are mak­ing way for fam­ily life

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Gre­gory Lopes

Third of four parts

The daily grind is los­ing a bit of its bite.

In­stead of 9-to-5 sched­ules, a grow­ing num­ber of Amer­i­cans work per­son­al­ized sched­ules that al­low them to ful­fill the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of their home lives while bal­anc­ing the de­mands of their jobs.

Cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive work en­vi­ron­ment for mar­ried peo­ple has be­come a pri­or­ity for both the em­ployee and em­ployer, ac­cord­ing to pro-mar­riage or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Al­liance for Mar­riage and the Fam­i­lies and Work In­sti­tute. An un­bal­anced work and fam­ily life can sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the odds of mar­i­tal in­sta­bil­ity and di- vorce, which can hurt em­ploy­ees’ pro­duc­tion, re­searchers said.

“There is a wide­spread recog­ni­tion that it is very ex­pen­sive to hire and train a new

em­ployee,” said Judi Casey, di­rec­tor of the Sloan Work and Fam­ily Re­search Net­work at the Bos­ton Col­lege Grad­u­ate School of So­cial Work. “Com­pa­nies need to keep their tal­ented peo­ple, and they’re do­ing more than ever to make sure they do.”

In this se­ries, The Wash­ing­ton Times ex­am­ines the chang­ing views of mar­riage and what var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions — re­li­gious groups, gov­ern­ment and busi­nesses — are do­ing to pre­serve it.

To hold on to their em­ploy­ees, com­pa­nies are im­ple­ment­ing flexible sched­ules and com­pressed work­weeks that al­low em­ploy­ees to work the same num­ber of hours per week but break away from the tra­di­tional Mon­day-through-Fri­day rou­tine.

Some com­pa­nies are even in­vest­ing in mar­i­tal coun­sel­ing for em­ploy­ees. Chick-Fil-A, the fast-food chick­en­chain,pro­videsit­sex­ec­u­tive em­ploy­eeswith“mar­riage­coaches” for cou­ples at com­pany re­treats.

“We be­lieve strongly that you can be suc­cess­ful in the mar­ket­place and suc­cess­ful in mar­riage,” said Don­ald “Bubba” Cathy, pres­i­dent of the At­lanta-based com­pany. “We make it a point to in­cor­po­rate spouses in com­pany meet­ings, and they’re ex­pected to at­tend an­nual meet­ings.”

Com­pressed work­weeks al­low em­ploy­ees to work more hours over few­er­days.But­the­most­pop­u­larop­tion among em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees is a prac­tice known as flex­time. Be­ing flexible

Flex­time was born out of the Clean Air Act of 1970, when lo­cal gov­ern­ments at­tempted to ease traf­fic con­ges­tion and air pol­lu­tion dur­ing prime com­mut­ing times by al­low­ing em­ploy­ees to choose their start­ing and quit­ting times.

The num­ber of em­ploy­ees who have ac­cess to flex­time has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly, jump­ing from 29 per­cent in 1992 to 43 per­cent in 2002, ac­cord­ing to the Fam­i­lies and Work In­sti­tute. In 2005, 73 per­cent of em­ploy­ees who had ac­cess to flex­time took ad­van­tage of it.

Among em­ploy­ees who have high flex­i­bil­ity with their work sched­ules, about 65 per­cent say they are sat­is­fied with their mar­i­tal re­la­tion­ships, said Ellen Galin­sky, pres­i­dent of the Fam­i­lies and Work In­sti­tute.

Best Buy, the Min­neapolis­based con­sumer elec­tron­ics store, re­cently be­gan a flex­time pro­gram called ROWE, for “re­sults-only work en­vi­ron­ment.” The pro­gram is de­signed to judge em­ployee per­for­mance on pro­duc­tiv­ity out­put rather than hours worked.

Best Buy started the pro­gram in re­sponse to high turnover and a high cor­po­rate stress level, caused in part by re­tail gi­ants Wal-Mart’s and Tar­get’s bit­ing into some of Best Buy’s elec­tron­ics sales. The hope is that ROWE, by free­ing em­ploy­ees to make their own work­life de­ci­sions, can boost morale and pro­duc­tiv­ity and keep the ser­vice ini­tia­tive on track.

Since the pro­gram’s im­ple­men­ta­tion, av­er­age vol­un­tary turnover has fallen and pro­duc­tiv­ity is up an av­er­age of 35 per­cent in depart- ments that have switched to the pro­gram, spokes­woman Dawn Bryant said. Eas­ing the bur­den

In ad­di­tion, tele­work pro­grams are be­ing used to re­tain em­ploy­ees who move to the sub­urbs and are faced with long com­mutes — and more time away from home. Th­ese pro­grams al­low em­ploy­ees to work from any­where, in­clud­ing their homes, us­ing tech­nol­ogy that keeps them in touch with their em­ployer through­out the day.

“Re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion of em­ploy­ees has be­come a driv­ing force be­hind the im­ple­men­ta­tion of tele­work pro­grams,” said Chuck Wilsker, co-founder of the Tele­work Coali­tion. “Com­pa­nies need to keep their tal­ented em­ploy­ees.”

Fair­fax County, Va. has im­ple­mented a tele­work pro­gram, along with cor­po­rate gi­ants Sun Mi­crosys­tems, Hewlett-Packard and In­tel.

Cap­i­tal-area com­pa­nies Arnold and Porter, a Wash­ing­ton, D.C. law firm; con­sult­ing com­pany Booz Allen Hamil­ton in McLean, Va.; and mort­gage gi­ant Fan­nie Mae, also based in D.C., made the “100 Best Com­pa­nies of 2006” list in Work­ing Mother mag­a­zine.

Nearly 80 per­cent of Booz Allen Hamil­ton’s em­ploy­ees change their hours to ad­just to their home lives, and at Fan­nie Mae, an on-site day-care cen­ter pro­vides a variety of ser­vices for chil­dren ages 6 months to 12 years.

But Amer­i­cans are work­ing more than ever, and some re­searchers con­tend that busi­nesses can do even more to make em­ploy­ees’ sched­ules more in tune with their home lives.

In a 2002 study con­ducted by the Fam­i­lies and Work In­sti­tute, 63 per­cent of the mar­ried em­ploy­ees say they don’t have enough time with their hus­bands or wives — up from 50 per­cent from 1992.

For the most part, smaller em­ploy­ers more of­ten than larger com­pa­nies of­fer their em­ploy­ees flex­time op­tions, ac­cord­ing to a 2005 na­tional study of em­ploy­ers by the Fam­i­lies and Work In­sti­tute.

“My sense is com­pa­nies are do­ing more than ever to help peo­ple main­tain their home lives, but there is a cul­ture in this coun­try that drives peo­ple to work harder and that cul­ture places a strain on mar­riage,” said Bar­bara Sch­nei­der, a pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy and hu­man de­vel­op­ment at Michi­gan State Univer­sity and co-di­rec­tor of the Al­fred P. Sloan Cen­ter on Par­ents, Chil­dren and Work.

“It is the men­tal­ity that has to be changed, and the bur­den is on busi­nesses,” she said. Gov­ern­ment so­lu­tion

Mean­while, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is mak­ing an un­prece­dented push to en­cour­age Amer­i­cans to get mar­ried.

The Healthy Mar­riage Ini­tia­tive will give $500 mil­lion over the next five years to or­ga­ni­za­tions rang­ing frompro-life­cen­ter­stoso­cial-ser­vice groups that con­duct mar­riage ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives. It is the first time that the gov­ern­ment has ded­i­cated a speci­fi­camountof­money­to­sup­port mar­riage ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices.

“We are not pro­mot­ing mar­riage. What we are try­ing to do is help cou­ples at­tain a healthy mar­riage,” said Wade Horn, head of the fed­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion for Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies and ar­chi­tect of the gov­ern­ment’s plan. “A healthy mar­riage can make a dif­fer­ence with kids and the com­mu­nity; that’s why we are in­volved.”

TheCal­i­for­ni­aHealthyMar­riages Coali­tion re­ceived $2.3 mil­lion over five years, the largest amount granted by Mr. Horn’s agency.

“This is a very ap­pro­pri­ate way for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to spend money. What is not widely known about di­vorce is that it is a drain on state and fed­eral funds,” said Patty Howell, the grant di­rec­tor for the coali­tion.

For ex­am­ple, di­vorces top the list of causes for bank­ruptcy in the United States, lead­ing many peo­ple to re­quire pub­lic as­sis­tance, said Diane Sollee, founder and di­rec­tor of the Coali­tion for Mar­riage, Fam­ily and Cou­ples Ed­u­ca­tion.

“A sin­gle di­vorce costs state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments about $30,000, based on such things as the higher use of food stamps and pub­lic hous­ing as well as in­creased bank­rupt­cies and ju­ve­nile delin­quency. The na­tion’s 10.4 mil­lion di­vorces in 2002 are es­ti­mated to have cost the tax­pay­ers over $30 bil­lion,” said Bar­bara Dafoe White­head, co-di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Mar­riage Project at Rut­gers Univer­sity in New Jer­sey.

Build­ing Stronger Fam­i­lies, a pro­gram within the Healthy Mar­riage Ini­tia­tive, is aimed at cou­ples who re­cently have had chil­dren out of wed­lock and are con­tem­plat­ing mar­riage. Re­vers­ing the rise in out-of-wed­lock births is a sig­nif­i­cant goal of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s mar­riage ini­tia­tive.

The Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Sta­tis­tics re­cently an­nounced that 1.5 mil­lion ba­bies a year are born out of wed­lock, a record. Out-ofwed­lock births lead to child poverty and wel­fare de­pen­dency, said re­searchers and the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, a con­ser­va­tive think tank in Wash­ing­ton.

“All the re­search shows that par­entsare­good­forkids.We­want­to­get them at the ‘magic mo­ment’ when they are think­ing about mar­riage,” Mr.Horn­said.“The­good­new­siswe can teach them the skills they need for a healthy mar­riage.”

He said more than 50 per­cent of the­cou­pleswho­havechil­drenoutof wed­lock are con­sid­er­ing mar­riage.

Other pro­grams within the fed­eral ini­tia­tive, such as Sup­port­ing HealthyMar­riage­andtheCom­mu­nity Healthy Mar­riage Ini­tia­tive, tar­get low-in­come mar­ried cou­ples and im­prove mar­riages through pre-mar­i­tal­coun­selin­gand­outreach to trou­bled mar­riages.

The funds be­ing used for mar­riage ed­u­ca­tion could lead to changes in tra­di­tional ex­pen­di­tures for so­cial-ser­vice pro­grams, Mr. Horn said.

“If we are suc­cess­ful in form­ing healthy­mar­riages,therewil­l­be­less of a need for other so­cial ser­vices,” he said. “There will be less need for chil­dren’s so­cial-ser­vice pro­grams such as for ne­glect and run­away pro­grams. If this is suc­cess­ful, it will have im­pli­ca­tions through­out the so­cial-ser­vice de­liv­ery sys­tem.” Di­vorce made easy

But while the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is press­ing for more mar­riages, Amer­ica’s di­vorce rate is only slightly lower than in the 1970s, when a surge of di­vorces oc­curred.

Pa­trick Fa­gan, a so­cial science re­searcher at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, said Amer­ica’s di­vorce laws, in par­tic­u­lar “no-fault-di­vorces,” are de­valu­ing the in­sti­tu­tion of mar­riage.

“The gov­ern­ment has failed mas­sively and has es­sen­tially be­cometheen­e­my­of­mar­riage­andin the process, the child,” Mr. Fa­gan said. “If the gov­ern­ment did with eco­nomic con­tracts what it does with mar­riage con­tracts, the whole eco­nomic sys­tem would grad­u­ally col­lapse into Third World sta­tus.”

No-fault-di­vorces are granted when ei­ther spouse can show that the mar­riage is ir­repara­bly bro­ken. Th­ese types of di­vorces emerged in the 1970s as a recog­ni­tion that two peo­ple who were de­ter­mined to end their mar­riage would get what they wanted by any means nec­es­sary, in­clud­ing fak­ing adul­tery or cru­elty.

John Crouch, a long­time di­vorce lawyer in Ar­ling­ton and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Amer­i­cans for Di­vorce Re­form, says the no-fault-di­vorce law has been in­ad­e­quately im­ple­mented by the states and sub­se­quently by judges.

No-fault-di­vorce pro­ceed­ings were in­tended to pro­vide coun­sel­ing to cou­ples prior to grant­ing a di­vorce. How­ever, states have not been will­ing to fund the coun­sel­ing ser­vices, mak­ing it easy for cou­ples to get di­vorced, Mr. Crouch said.

“No-fault-di­vorce­has­not­been­car­ried out, and it gives peo­ple the mes­sage that when you’re mar­ried, you can still be in the mar­ket for some­body else in­stead,” Mr. Crouch said.

Di­vorce law is de­cided on a state-by-state ba­sis. New York does not have a spe­cific no-fault statute, and other states have vary­ing wait­ing pe­ri­ods or sep­a­ra­tion re­quire­ments. Only two states, New York and South Dakota, do not have a no­fault-di­vorce clause. Mary­land has a two-year wait­ing pe­riod be­fore a di­vorce is granted, the long­est of any wait­ing pe­riod. Vir­ginia has a six-month wait­ing pe­riod, and the Dis­trict of Columbia one year.

The di­vorce rate in the United States has been steadily de­clin­ing since the early 1980s, ac­cord­ing to data from the Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Sta­tis­tics. To­day, about one in three mar­riages ends in di­vorce in the United States.

Theno-fault­di­vorcelaw­shavere­sulted in a sub­stan­tial num­ber of di­vorces­that­would­nothaveoc­curred oth­er­wise, ac­cord­ing to the Jour­nal of Mar­riage and the Fam­ily.

Said Kather­ine Spaht, a law pro­fes­sor at Louisiana State Univer­sity: “Easy di­vorce that makes for an easy exit com­mu­ni­cates so­ci­ety’s view that it has lit­tle in­ter­est in the last­ing­com­mit­mentoft­wopeo­pleto love and care for each other and to bear and rear the next gen­er­a­tion.”

Part 4 of this se­ries can be found on page 11.

Astrid Riecken / The Wash­ing­ton Times

Get­ting pri­or­i­ties straight: The on-site day care cen­ter at Arnold and Porter, run by di­rec­tor Sally D’Italy, helped the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. law firm earn ku­dos from Work­ing Mother mag­a­zine.

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