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May 4, 2020 9:49 am
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs talks to Dr. Angela Rachidi about her recent essay, “A Future of Work that Complements Family Life.” Dr. Rachidi explains how one silver lining of current COVID-19 pandemic is employers and employees discovering that working from home can be successful, and can lead to closer relationships for employees with their families.
Family policy matters and engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Ralston, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that you will flow better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters. Tracy Devitt Griggs thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters.
As more families are working and doing school at home these days. In response to the pandemic.
This might be the perfect time to reconsider workplace practices to make balancing the needs of work and family more doable with Dr. Angela Sheedy joins us today from the American enterprise institute where her research focuses on the relationship between employment and poverty.
She recently co-authored an essay entitled a future of work that complements family life. Dr. Angela Richey. Welcome to family policy matters. Thanks so much for having me. We should start by saying that we all understand that these are highly unusual times with so many people working from home if they are fortunate enough to still have a job and some also juggling distance education with their children. But what kind of new options might we discover for worklife balance from this accidental or incidental experiment could certainly aren't very unusual time, but I do hope that the struggle that we many of us are going through now. Kinda presents a new option for people going forward and I think the main thing is, it would just be really nice and I would love to see if the employer and employee is actually realized that working from home is not only doable but it also can be very beneficial to them but also to their children, and when I say that it really comes from a place of personal experience and I spent about 15 years working from an office, but over the last five but had the chance to work from home and I think initially I was pretty reluctant to do that because of all the reasons you might think around productivity and how that actually work, but actually found in any maybe never would've guessed that.
But it actually made the transition to being a more productive worker even easier and I think if the employer start to realize that workers can you work from home and they actually can be more productive in the sense that they're not commuting. They maybe aren't getting distractions that work can actually be very beneficial for the employer and the employee, especially for children when they can have their parent at home and more accessible to them is very interesting because that's one of the arguments against letting people work from home is all the distractions but why don't we have our distractions in the office as well.
It's very true and I'm not sure.
People really realize that until they can kind of get away from their office. I think people and there's actually been quite a bit of research on because of some of the concerns around productivity when people do work from home, but it's true that these studies have actually found that there are many more distractions in the office and I think anybody that worked in an offense can start to relate to that. Once they realized that, like, think of all the times that you have discussions not really related to work because you're running into people or their coming into your office, or even just when you're having meeting in an office setting. Yet a lot of idle chitchat.
You just don't have when you are working remotely and also just this idea of balancing your personal time with your work time.
If you have some other demands on your time related to family and thing you are just more focused and more productive in your work time because you know that you need to get to that other time right and I think productive people are gonna be productive wherever they are and unproductive people are going to find ways to not be productive no matter where they are so stuck about your research.
What you sound as far as some common themes among Americans who are concerned about the imbalance between their work and family responsibilities sure yeah and we had quite a lot of survey data on how. I feel when it comes to balancing work and family life and it really points in one direction and make sure parent who are listeners can relate to the survey show at the parent feel over ended I and often times the kids are the ones who suffer so we have quite a bit of data from like the pew Center who does a lot of national pulling and something like roughly half of mothers and fathers report that they do not spend enough time with their kids are neither mothers and fathers who report working full time. They say they don't have enough time with their kids particularly feeling among mothers with young children. We have research that shows that mothers of young children not only report that they don't have enough time particularly stressed in the sense that they don't feel the opportunities to advance in their careers and they also report feeling rather inadequate in terms of being a parent and so if you start to play that out you think about how mothers either have to stand (with their kids because they want to advance in their careers and not just about a personal advancement is also about providing monetarily for their families that they're able to advance in their career OR they have to make the decision to pull back in their career and earn less money, which you then can also affect kids, so really I'm mothers in particular, in a pretty precarious situation. If you think about it, really holistically, and all of the kids really are the ones who can get the short straw because they either don't have as much time with their parent or the parent has to reduce their income because they're not able to work. I think a lot of the data suggest that work-family balance is really difficult for families, especially with young children and we hear the same beliefs and feelings in perspective across all of these various surveys so think employers might be learning from this time when so many people are having to work remotely hope that employers are learning that employees can still be productive workers. Even when they're at home and that sometimes they can even be more productive when they're home I'm working from home and things like that.
It's the perfect fit for everybody but I think that employers sometimes automatically assume that it's not gonna work for most people, and that most people won't be able to be as productive of a worker. I think that going through this. Now I'm having people kind of be forced into it. It might make employers realize that those concerns are a little bit misplaced it employer start to see their workers as parents a little bit more and he that parents who are concerned and stressed about their inadequacies as parenting does worker they start to see the parents are experiencing that and that maybe if there more aware of that they can start to think about strategies and policies they can put in place to take away some of that stress on because ultimately for employers. If you are workers are less stressed and they feel that they're better able to be good parents and good workers. It's going to mean you're going to have more productive and loyal employees that are going to benefit your business so you mentioned the ability to work from home, or have flexible work schedules doesn't work for everybody. They can often be considered a luxury or perhaps reserved for a certain income level. Is it possible do you think to begin to offer this option to lower income folks who really might need these options more urgently. You think it is.
I mean yes, obviously. Historically it has think of a luxury in terms of working from home or even having a flexible schedule for a higher educated or higher income family, but I don't necessarily think it has to be and I hope that one of maybe the positive aspects of this crisis again to help employers and employees across the spectrum of types of jobs and income level and and things like that start to realize that working from home, or even just having a more flexible kind of balance at home and family life can be a reality for more workers and it also is true. Like you said that some jobs just don't lend themselves for working from home but if you think about people like retail store managers or hairstylist. Yeah, they likely will will never be able to truly work from home, but I think that lends itself to more ideas and thoughts around just adding flexibility in scheduling so if employers recognize the needs for their workers to also be parents than they can make sure that they have strategies around ductility that might just mean that parent can leave a little early so they can be home with their children and then maybe fit their work schedule around the school schedule. For example, and again I think at once employers realize that maybe that's doable and potentially this crisis kind of gets them to that place, it might be something that they could put in place and more of a long-term fashion. Many of us were surprised least I was at the number of students who were not able to participate in distance education because either they didn't have a computer at home or at some many didn't even have Internet access.
Do you think that one of the ways that we can make working from home more accessible to lower income folks.
Maybe just some simple providing training perhaps providing a laptop.
Yes, there is many efforts across the country and in providing Wi-Fi access like public Wi-Fi access. For example, so that you can cover low income families and encumber where they live. So I certainly support those types of effort and many of those efforts actually are generated by the private sector as well, but I think the private sector recognizes that connecting people is good for their business as well.
Obviously what you can see how that plays out. So I think that there should be an effort to really make sure that low income families are connected. We do a lot of survey data to suggest that the issue around access. Sometimes the last about income and it's a little bit more about geography so you have low income families who live in rural areas. For example, I have lower rates of connectedness and access to computers and families in urban areas, mostly because he think about it. Urban areas have public access like libraries and things like that that families can access and even coffee shops and things that offer free free access and we know from generated again that a lot of even low income families have devices. They have smart phone. They have laptops and so I think you can generalize it all low income families are connected but that certainly means that we need some efforts to connect those families who are connected so what concrete policy options do you think should be considered to help with transitioning employer and government expectations to reflect the change in family dynamics that we've seen with two parent working families. A lot of single-parent families of the government certainly can play a role.
All I think there role for the government to provide paid leave.
For example, or at least to provide some access to paid leave, but I actually need to be honest, think that much of this requires efforts from the private sector and it really does require a shift in culture and many of the things that I kind of mentioned earlier, just this recognition that people value their home time as much of the value their work time and that people who can be productive. Parents will be the more productive worker and so I think things that the employer level need to happen. So there needs to be policies put in place that not only allow flexibility and allow work from home, but also policies the kind of change the culture that people who take advantage of those policies are not penalized and I think that's the real fear that some parents have even if their employer offers policies that do try to balance out the work-family challenges.
Often times employees workers they feel like if they take it vantage of those that they somehow are going to look as if they're not it's dedicated or not as loyal or productive as other workers so they don't take advantage of it. I think that kind of culture needs to shift and I think that it does come from the top and so that means employers executive. They need to set examples in how people can balance both their work and family life and need to make it clear that just being visible and being in your chair in the office doesn't necessarily mean that you're being a productive worker that they have to start changing how people are evaluated in terms of their work and what the employer values very interesting for just about out of time for this week.
But before we go. Dr. Sheedy where listeners go to, not only access this essay that we mentioned at the top of the interview but also to look at some of your work because I I did and you have some very interesting research and articles on joblessness and addressing poverty.
Where can we go to find out more. The Institute for family studies is where I posted a piece that we are talking about today and they have a lot of great resources on American working families and the balance between family and work life that families face.
So that's one area and I am a scholar at the American enterprise Institute and so I would encourage your listeners to go to AEI's website they can search for me as a scholar and on my scholar page with all of my writing, and as you mentioned, I focus mostly on low income families and safety net programs for low-income families and all of those resources can be found there will Dr. Angela Sheedy, a scholar with the American enterprise Institute. Thank you so much for being with us on family policy matters.
Thank you for having you been listening to family calls him out.
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