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10 of This Week’s Best Work-Life Reads

Patrick Ball on September 25, 2015 01:00 PM

From New America Founder and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter’s critique of American corporate culture to Levo League launching a Millennial celebration, there’s been lots to read and react to this week on the work-life front.

This post is the start of an occasional series in which we’ll round up 10 or so of our favorite work-life reads from the week. You can expect them to cover everything from parental leave, pop culture and policy to employer brand stuff, science-backed studies and contrarian takes that liken work-life balance to sedated unicorns.

Take a look. Enjoy. And share your favorite reads from the week in the comments.

“A Toxic Work World”

The one everyone’s talking about this week: Anne-Marie Slaughter’s takedown of American corporate culture in The New York Times. The workaholic pathology that leads too many women to opt out of leadership positions – or the workforce altogether – is not a women’s problem but rather a problem with work and an outdated system.  And it comes down to how we think about care. Writes Slaughter:

Change in our individual workplaces and in our broader politics also depends on culture change: fundamental shifts in the way we think, talk and confer prestige. If we really valued care, we would not regard time out for caregiving — for your children, parents, spouse, sibling or any other member of your extended or constructed family — as a black hole on a résumé. We would see it as engaging in a socially, personally and professionally valuable activity. We would see men who lean out for care as role models just as much as women who lean in for work. We would think managing kids matters as much as managing money.

“Silicon Valley’s Latest Innovation? Paternity Leave”

Contributing to New America’s pop up conversation on Working Parents over on Medium, Lauren Smith Brody collected stories from dads who’ve taken paternity leave and explores whether the tech companies rolling out generous paternity leave policies for new dads will start “a working father revolution.” Interestingly, she looks at what responsibility the tech-sector dads have to take the longer parental leave that they’re offered. “And if they don’t take advantage in this moment,” she writes. “The trickle down of paid paternity leave to other fields may be just that, a very slow trickle. 

“The Smartest Building in the World”

Bloomberg brings us to the Edge in this feature on the hyper-connected, hyper-efficient, super green office building in Amsterdam, where consulting firm Deloitte is the main tenant. The building is designed to support a “new way of working,” supporting concepts like hot desking, tracking how employees interact for peak energy – and people! – efficiency and leveraging sensors and smartphones to optimize everything from temperatures to when a robot cleans the bathroom. “We think we can be the Uber of buildings,” says Coen van Oostrom, chief executive officer of OVG Real Estate, the building’s developer. “We connect them, we make them more efficient, and in the end we will actually need fewer buildings in the world.” 

“It’s Time to Change”

Julia Beck, founder of Forty Weeks and the It’s Working Project, channels her best Peter Brady in her terrific call-to-action response to the Anne-Marie Slaughter piece. “Once we engage with private sector leaders they are amazed to find these shifts are not as complex as imagined,” writes Beck. “Strides toward flexibility, access to care, spaces to pump milk, simple to manage maternity leave policies and enhanced leave all turn out to be well within range."

“The Great Divide in Workplace Benefits”

Claire Cain Miller, the fantastic columnist for The New York Times’ “The Upshot,” uses Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best companies to tell a story of work-life haves and have nots. Contrasting the “100 best” with all of the rest displays a powerful story of benefits (and income) inequality that reminds us that even as there has been an “arms race” to expand work-life benefits to attract top talent, the majority of American workers are struggling to meet work and family responsibilities.

“Why Are Women More Cautious About Promotions?”

Fast Company reports on a Harvard Business School study finding that there’s no gender gap in terms of what men and women think they can attain professionally, but women tend to be less enthusiastic about the path to the top due to anticipation of negative outcomes and conflict between personal and professional goals. A culture change and access to child care could help to support women’s pursuit of promotions and leadership positions, the piece said.

“Law Firms Are Learning: Work-Life Balance Isn’t Just for Moms”

Writing for The Atlantic, lawyer and writer Leigh McMullan Abramson  gives a little love to an industry other than tech where there’s work being done to improve work-family balance. Though the traditional partner office model is still largely the norm – and “prototypical legal-career status symbol” – more and more men are opting out of “Big Law” in search of a more flexible arrangement and a more balanced life.  “Law firms that place a premium on flexibility are still in their infancy, but they provide hope that eventually the entire legal industry will shift towards a more flexible, family-friendly model,” she wrote.

 “For working mothers, flextime, childcare, paid leave are key issues”

Reuters covers Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies with the insight and analysis of the study you want and none of the hot takey-ness that you don’t. “Flextime, childcare options and paid maternity leave are the keys issues for working mothers in the United States and what set companies apart as the best places to work, employment experts,” the service reported Tuesday. Only problem we have with that assessment is that flex work, care assistance and paid leave are key issues for all employees, not just working mothers.

The Levo 100

Levo League celebrates 100 Millennials “redefining the world as we know it” – from Malala Fund co-Founder Shiza Shahid to Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun – with an eclectic package of smart and entertaining content that offers insight into the leaders of today and tomorrow.

“If you want to be successful, forget all about work-life balance – it’s not going to happen”

A contrarian opinion over at Business Insider takes the believe-it-when-I-see-it approach to the idea that success and work-life balance can co-exist. ‘“Work-life balance” is a unicorn beaten into our culture, pretty to dream about, rare to ever actually see un-sedated,” Krishna Subramanian writes, training his skepticism on the plans for capped work weeks and months-long parental leave at Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz’ startup, Asana. “It’s easy for Moskovitz to ease up on the gas; he’s made billions. Let’s see how many Asana makes before we hold it up as a model for new Silicon Valley.”  


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