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Parents and Childfree in the Workplace

Just got through reading Is It Fair to Cater Solely to Employees With Kids? from ABC. I thought it was good, but didn't go very deep.

Disclaimer: I'm sans kids. I have family and friends who aren't.

A lot of companies tout their benefits for parents. Some even go so far as to make all of their non-work functions kid friendly, to the point of kid centered. Some definitely do have a tendency to cut the childed *much* more slack on hours and stuff. I can even understand some of it. Jane won't be productive at work if she's always on the phone with her sick kid. Joe won't be productive when he has to worry about missing a parent teacher conference.

But the childfree and empty nesters have outside lives too. Really. Some people are taking care of elderly parents, or sick spouses. Some have heavy volunteer commitments, or just plain lives outside of work. So why do some companies get their shorts in a know when a kidless person needs to take off early for a non-work commitment? A commitment is a commitment, regardless of whether it involves the person's kids or not.

As the article points out, some companies are starting to emphasize benefits that make the work/life balance easier on *all* employees. This is actually good, because it stops assuming that all outside needs have to do with kids. For example, my $Company just combined their "sick leave" and PTO pools. This removes the value judgements from why a person is out - the leave all comes from the same place, and rewards those who don't get sick as often with more vacation (no, I'm not usually one of those, but my health has been better in the last year than the year before.)

Flexible hours are great in general. Yes, for certain types of jobs they just won't work. But there is something viscerally demeaning to me about punching a time clock. For people with outside responsibilities, or public transit commutes, it's a burden. (I don't know of a single transit system that truly runs on time. The best just run so often that it doesn't matter.)

But back to the parents and non in the workplace. When I was younger, a lot of times it was assumed that a) I would be available to work longer because I didn't have kids, and b) I would get "my turn" when (not if) I had kids. Noxious. Often I didn't mind too much, since I was hourly, but after a while it got annoying. Now, I have a manager who has kids. Does he expect me to carry his load? No, he manages his schedule so that he can do his family stuff (including his turn picking up the kids after work) and still get his work done. That's called maturity, folks. It's a good thing to have when raising kids.

More to come...


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