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CustomFit Workplace blog

The CustomFit Workplace blog is part of the Open, Flexible Work blog. It is a place where workers, managers, educators and Human Resources professionals can share their insights and questions. The views expressed in this blogs aren't necessarily representative of the initiative or of policy positions. Interested in blogging? drop us a line

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The federal budget: A high-stakes love story

In 2011, I taught two summer courses, directed a federal budget research organization and paid taxes.

Taxes are the dues I pay for living in a democracy. Like you, I contribute at the local, state, and federal levels.

I want us to fall a little bit in love with the federal budget and there’s no better place to begin than understanding where our federal tax dollars go. So, I’d like to tell you a story – my story – of how the federal budget – our tax dollars – affects my life.

Meet my children.

My daughter is six going on 33, a courageous, big-hearted cyclone. My son is four. In one instant, gentle and wise, and in another, some sort of combo-platter super hero. My wife Ann and I adopted our children a few years ago, though the Department of Social Services. They are the joys of our life and each other’s best friends. We think our son will be an engineer or a scientist. He uses words like stupendous and ominous. Ann and I can no longer spell in front of him. Our daughter belts out original compositions in the shower and is a fierce protector of the under-dog.

What do my kids have to do with your taxes?

What Romney Didn’t Say Most Troubling for Working Mothers

More telling than Governor Mitt Romney’s inaccurate “binders full of women” comment during the presidential debate last week, were his comments about workplace flexibility, and, the comments he didn’t make. When asked by voter Katherine Fenton how he planned to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, Romney said, “I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.”

In saying that, Romney most likely meant to portray himself as someone who understands the plight of working mothers. But instead he perpetuated an outdated attitude about the workforce, and women’s role in it.

Will Marissa Mayer’s Baby Give Birth to a Leader?

How fitting that Marissa Mayer birthed her baby on the eve of National Work and Family month.

Yet she disappoints other moms, bloggers and work-family advocates by stating she’ll work throughout her maternity leave, appearing on Fortune Magazine‘s cover in a decidedly not-pregnant glam shot and remaining silent about the feminist status her new power-mom-CEO role confers.

The Impact of Technology on Our Work and Family Lives

This blog was originally posted on October 2, 2012 on the Huffington Post


I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of information and communication technology (ICT) on our work and family lives and continue to be fascinated by this topic. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported this September that, “on the eve of Apple’s unveiling of the iPhone 5, 45% of American adults own smartphones.” This reflects a 10% increase from May 2011. In addition, “smartphones are particularly popular with young adults and those living in relatively higher income households; 66% of those ages 18-29 own smartphones, and 68% of those living in households earning $75,000 also own them.”

5 Steps to Building a High-Commitment Workplace

In 2004 I co-founded a digital strategy company that focuses on inbound marketing (i.e., getting clients found via the Internet). My team consists of independent contractors that work virtually throughout the US as well as in other countries. In talking with Joan Blades, I learned that we worked under a high-commitment workplace model. At the time I didn’t really know what that was. The business structure was initially created out of necessity. But indeed, that is how I have worked, in my company as well as a few prior corporate and entrepreneurial assignments. So how did I figure this out? Below are five guidelines that set me on the path, and that I still follow today.

1. Think Like an Engineer

The New Girls’ Network: “The Polite Little Girl in the Room”?

Every year The Center for WorkLife Law, which I direct, runs a leadership academy for women law firm partners. One key message we send is that sometimes what it takes to make partner is different from what it takes to rise in the partnership.

“I’ve noticed that the women work so exceptionally hard,” said a management consultant, when I asked her whether she thought women have to Prove It Again!  “It’s really hard for anyone to be biased against them because they are doing above and beyond many of their male peers.” This could be, she continued, because they sense the bias. Or it could be that “there’s something cultural about a level of accommodating men—and mostly their bosses are men—where they do whatever they say, they never push back, they don’t know how to say no. And so they become incredibly valued on the junior level.”

Comcast Worker’s Story Reminds Us of Why We’re Here

You’ve heard of Reddit, right? It’s a social link sharing site with a very active user base, and it’s called the front page of the internet.

On Reddit, they do this thing called “AMA” (ask me anything) where users will post their occupation and answer any question they’re asked from other users.

Anyway, there was an AMA from a Comcast employee the other day that was called to our attention. And when Cali and I read it (reddit.. see what I did there), it just pretty much blew our minds. It was so familiar, and it’s the kind of thing that drives us to make Results-Only Work Environment the new normal.

From user dlenoxx - I work for Comcast, and it is ruining my life. AMA

When I started working for Comcast I thought it’d be the job of a life time. I love the internet, computers, and love helping people. I’d like to think I’m a really nice computer guy, but that’s not what this place wants.

HLN Featuring Mompreneurs

Today, on Making It In America, Vinnie Politan will feature Holly Reisem Hanna who is a mom entrepreneur committed to helping other women successfully start their own businesses. Her book, The Work at Home Woman is a site dedicated to mom entrepreneurs.  The show airs today at 4 p.m. Eastern.  Making it in America takes viewers into the struggles and triumphs of people trying to carve out their own path to the American Dream.   Viewers will leave armed with ideas they can use in their own lives. Making it in America inspires you to take a risk, reinvent yourself and live your own American dream life.

The Best Anti-Poverty Program? Effective Scheduling of Hourly Workers

Susan Lambert, Associate Professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and the author of a much-discussed op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, once told me that she gets a lot of grief. “You study what,” say her social work friends. “Scheduling?”

I am happy Susan’s brilliant work is getting the attention it deserves, because reshaping schedules of low-income workers is actually the single best shot we currently have at an anti-poverty program.

Susan makes bold proposals for the redesign of the Fair Labor Standards Act that deserve serious attention. But, as she acknowledges, changing the FLSA is a heavy lift. It’s too much to imagine labor wanting to re-open FLSA protections in the current political climate.

Eat, Read, Sleep

Back-to-school night: With four kids, I’ve attended a few. Last night the Principal at my children’s grade school delivered an opening message worth memorizing: Eat, read, sleep.

Families today are busy! It sounds trite, but it’s true. With 24/7 connectivity, a recession, and a global economy, most parents are working longer hours than ever. The majority of American households have two parents in the paid workforce; hence, the Principal’s heartfelt message: try to eat dinner together as a family, sans gadgets! Even if some are absent because of extra-curricular activities, sit down with those who are home, he implored. Now, I’m no Julia Child, but my gut says, “He is right, even if dinner is a store-bought roast chicken or kids claim they must complete homework at the table.”

Real Stories from Pregnant Workers: Making Their Voices Heard and Making a Difference

Natasha Jackson was working as a customer account representative at a Rent-A-Center in South Carolina when she became pregnant. For the first month her supervisor accommodated her without incident (other workers were available to move large items), but when the district manager found out what was going on, he made her use up her vacation days and then pushed her onto unpaid leave from work. The company never let her come back to her job despite repeated attempts. Natasha and her husband lost the house they were hoping to buy once she was no longer bringing in income. We heard about Natasha’s case from her lawyer—they had taken her case to arbitration, but the arbitrator found that Rent-A-Center’s actions were not discriminatory.

It Shouldn’t Be A Heavy Lift: Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Introduced in Senate

By Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel, and Liz Watson, Senior Advisor, National Women’s Law Center

Heather got fired from Wal-mart for carrying a water bottle.

Natasha was forced onto unpaid leave and then fired because her district manager at Rent-A-Center found out she needed help with occasional heavy lifting on the sales floor.

Sarah* lost her job at a fast food restaurant for taking bathroom and water breaks.

What do all of these women have in common? They were all pregnant.

They all needed minor adjustment to their jobs to continue safely working during pregnancy. And they all lost their jobs because of it.

Michelle Obama is Not Mom-In-Chief: Who Is?

Motherhood, apple pie and a good speech: Michelle Obama hit the bull’s eye in her Democratic Convention speech. But naming herself “mom-in-chief”–while endearing–missed the mark. Much ink has spilled already over her use of the phrase “mom-in-chief”:

Stop! Don’t Listen to Advice that Women Can Plan Our Way to Worklife Fit

I am so fed up with advice from people telling women that if they just make the right personal choices at the right time in the right order then there is no problem fitting career, marriage, and kids into our lives.

That’s a load of crap. If anyone had been able to figure out a way to PLAN her way through this mess it would have been me.

Let me just take one example of this kind of advice – Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg tells women in commencement addresses and TED talks:

The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry. I have an awesome husband, and we’re 50/50…having a supportive spouse — a real partner — will play a huge part in your success.

The implication is that as long as you marry the right guy you’ll be fine, and if you aren’t fine, well, you made the wrong choice. Too bad.

Warehouse Workers Marching for Their Families

It’s no secret that Walmart is the largest employer in the country, diligently working to create a softer image of itself to consumers, environmentalists and others. What most consumers don’t know is that Walmart contracted warehouses across the country make it a common practice to put profits over people; they allow working women and men to toil in containers that can reach 120 degrees. Water breaks are rare. They routinely steal the hard-earned wages of their workers, and even lie to American judges when their practices are called into question.

Feminism, on a Tightrope

Co-written with Katherine Ullman

Like just about every other feminist on the Internet, I’ve read quite a bit about Marissa Mayer lately: She’s the new CEO of Yahoo, she’s about to have her first child, she’s going to be making $59 million, she’s behind some of Google’s most influential contributions and she likes periwinkle turtlenecks. But then I read some strange rumors about Marissa Mayer saying that she’s not a feminist.


Back to Work, with Cigars

The Labor Day op-ed I co-authored with Anne-Marie Slaughter was written before I read a stupendous, and sobering, article by Erin Kelly, a sociologist at University of Minnesota, who is one of the foremost work-family researchers in the country. (All data and quotes in this article are from her study.)

Kelly’s 2010 study estimated that only about half of employers who are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) comply with its parental leave provisions. Given that only 60% of American workers are both covered and eligible for FMLA leave, that means that only about 30% of American employees have access to the (paltry!) twelve-week-unpaid leave offered by the FMLA.

How’s that for sobering news? But there’s more.

Labor Day: A Time to Take Stock of Women’s Progress

This blog was cross-posted from Womenstake, the National Women’s Law Center’s blog.

By Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel, and Liz Watson, Senior Advisor, National Women’s Law Center

Labor Day provided a moment to take stock of how women are doing in today’s economy. For many, it’s not a pretty picture.

This might seem surprising given that during the recovery many of the occupations that have shown the most rapid growth are occupations where women hold the majority of jobs. Unfortunately, these occupations are also marked by low wages. In fact, low-wage jobs have grown almost three times faster than middle and high-wage jobs during the recovery.

The National Women’s Law Center’s Labor Day Index

This blog was cross-posted from Womenstake, the National Women’s Law Center’s blog.

In honor of Labor Day, here’s a snapshot of how working women are faring in today’s economy, by the numbers.

10 Tips for Becoming an Office Politics Rebel

The other day, I read an article on Forbes called “Tips For Dealing With Lazy Co-Workers.”

It’s a fun topic, isn’t it, because we all love to feel like we are the only ones working hard. And it’s such a hardship to put up with lazy old Joe in the next cube over. Ugh!

Time to review one of our favorite words: Sludge.

“Sludge” is the toxic language we use to judge people for how they spend their time. It’s based on old beliefs about how work should happen.

Sludge is when someone says, “10:00 a.m. and you’re just getting in? I wish I could come in late every day.” The belief being expressed here is that work happens between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The person who isn’t in the building at 8:00 a.m. is therefore not working.

Focusing on lazy co-workers is a waste of time. It’s Sludge.

Changing Workplace Culture

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