Monday, September 10, 2007

Family-friendly, or freeloader-friendly?

Family-friendly, or freeloader-friendly?
Dear Annie: My team has been together for about 8 years, with very little turnover. We're pretty close-knit, and I've tried to foster a very supportive environment, where we focus on what we all need as people and figure out how to make workloads balance out over the long haul.

Several folks have started thinking about, and others have already started, families. Our company tends to be relatively family-friendly, with good vacation policies (4 weeks for all non-hourly employees), and leaves a great deal to the discretion of the manager.
. . .
I would love to hear your thoughts on whether the following should be taken as vacation time, or sick time, or what seems fair to an uninvolved outsider. I do think if I give some in this regard, it comes back in spades, but I also think that this philosophy opens me up to being taken advantage of, and there are different expectations around the team.

1. A wife's prenatal visits, if the expectation is that the employee will go to all of them.
2. The little one didn't sleep last night. May the parent take a sick day to try to recover?
3. The little one needs to go to the doctor.
4. The little one is sick. The parent "works" from home.

-Single and Trying to be Supportive
The response is not specific to the single/childfree issue, despite the title. Instead it focuses on general workplace leave policies and procedures, such as the assumption that face time is productive, and working from home is not. However, the following comments disclose that the expert (Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute) has her own agenda.
Something else to remember: "At some time or other, all of us - whether we have children or not - need help from teammates. It could be because your house is flooded, or your mother is in the hospital, or it could be anything. Willingness to cover for each other when someone is in a jam is part of what being a team is all about."

So try to encourage a spirit of generosity, and don't let people get too nitpicky.
. . .
"In practical terms, sick days really cover everyone in the household, not just the employee," says Galinsky. Besides, a parent who hasn't slept all night is unlikely to be at the top of his or her game anyway - rather as if he or she had a really bad cold.
Except that that philosophy allows a person with other household members who are frequently ill will have lower productivity, which leaves single and childless workers to pick up the extra work. Her only attention to the disparity is the statement that those who "take advantage" of the policy can be weeded out. She ignores the fact that differing contribution levels can result occur even without abusing the system. If you ask me, that might be even worse than attempting to justify it.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I'm missing something large here but being team member does not mean taking advantage over others. As far as employment contracts are concerned, if an employee takes a sick day the inference is that THEY are sick. The fact that they decide to take a sick day to cover for someone else in their family is entirely their choice. In my opinion this is an abuse of sick time. If you personally are not sick (and that could mean you are over tired, weak, exhausted, whatever) then any other days off should be taken as vacation time or some other excused/unexcused absence. If my house is flooded, I either take it as a personal day (allowed) or a vacation day. It is NOT a sick day and I don't take it as such. So why should a parent? When you work from home, you should be working - that's what you're paid for - not dealing with kids stuff. Otherwise, take it as vacation.

Sorry, but anything else is an abuse of privilege and your employer.

Covering for team mates is one thing and I think everyone is willing to do so to a reasonable extent. We certainly do. But people skiving off to do "kid things" is one reason that the childfree/single people without kids feel taken advantage of - and often are, since they tend not to have kid related things for which they can simply take time off work under the guise of being "sick."