The week@work – work/life balance in Sweden & @Amazon, the truth about being an entrepreneur, & the value of an arts education

While the most powerful folks in the world were ranked in the annual Forbes list, the rest of the working class spent the week@work managing the challenges of work/life balance. Journalists covered a variety of topics influencing our lives @work ranging from the reality of being an entrepreneur to the value of arts education in translating tech to human practice. And there was good news from the U.S. Labor Department.

As U.S. organizations continue to experiment with innovative work/life balance policies to attract talent, Swedish companies have been implementing trials over the past 20 years.

Maddy Savage examined a six hour workday model being tested in Falun, Sweden.

“Jimmy Nilsson, who co-owns digital production company Background AB, launched the initiative in September as part of efforts to create a more productive workforce.

“It’s difficult to concentrate at work for eight hours, but with six hours you can be more focused and get things done more quickly,” he says.

His staff are at their desks between 8.30am and 11.30am, take a full hour off for lunch and then put in another three hours before heading back to their homes in the Swedish mountains.

They’re asked to stay away from social media in the office and leave any personal calls or emails until the end of the day. Salaries have not changed since the initiative started in September.

“We’re going to try it for nine months and see if it’s economical first of all, and secondly if it works for our customers and our staff,” Mr Nilsson says.”

In Sweden only 1% of employees work more than 50 hours a week. All are eligible for a minimum of 25 vacation days annually with 480 days of paid parental leave to split between a working couple. Contrast that to the new leave policy announced this week by Amazon.

Bloomberg Business reported “Amazon.com Inc. will give new fathers paid parental leave and extend paid maternity leave for mothers, as the online retailer seeks to enhance its benefits as a way to attract and retain talent.

Women who have a child can now take as much as 20 weeks of paid leave, up from eight weeks. New parents can take six weeks of paid parental leave. The Seattle-based company previously didn’t offer paternity leave. The new benefits apply to all births or adoptions on or after Oct. 1, according to a memo distributed to employees Monday.”

As the conversation on work/life balance continues in the U.S., with ‘band aid’ approaches to a significant cultural issue, our European counterparts are experiencing results in health and profitability. The next challenge: managing the stress of what to do with time away from work.

Entrepreneur and founder of IWearYourShirt.com, Jason Zook revealed ‘The Truth About Entrepreneurship’ for Inc.

“The problem with the majority of entrepreneurship is that it sucks and no one wants to just read about the struggles, the constant ups and downs, the risks that don’t pay off, the tiny lessons learned and the small victories that keep entrepreneurs going. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that’s what happens when you work for yourself or start your own company. They’re only thinking about becoming “the next Instagram” or what their incredibly lucrative exit strategy is going look like.”

He continues to share five ‘truths’, including “The truth about being an entrepreneur is that it’s downright hard and lots of people are going to doubt you along the way.”

It’s not just entrepreneurs. Anything that is worth pursuing is downright hard and people will doubt you along the way.

Wired Magazine published an interview with the new president of the Rhode Island School of Design, Rosanne Somerson. At a time when we are mesmerized by advances in technology, it’s the artists who translate innovation into human applications.

“One way our artists and designers help make sense of the tech world is by putting human beings first. They can design new things while really thinking about the user experience and the cultural impact that technology is instigating. A lot of initial research in tech is done by engineers and programmers who may not be as connected to how we perceive and experience things. Artists have a window into that that is highly developed.

Engineers are very gifted at what they do, but they don’t have this piece. I think in the future there will be these collaborations of the best IT and software engineers, along with people who can translate that into a meaningful human experience that is central to the concept as a whole, instead of an add-on. Those days are behind us. It’s really much more seminal than that.” 

The U.S. Labor Department released the latest jobs report on Friday. Journalist Don Lee analyzed the significance of the numbers for the Los Angeles Times.

“Hiring and wages surged last month as the unemployment rate dropped to 5%, a symbolic threshold with potential significance both for the economy and the 2016 election.

The latest jobless figure is the lowest since April 2008 and exactly half the rate from its peak in 2009 during the Great Recession. Moreover, the labor force expanded last month, unlike some previous months when the unemployment rate dropped because large numbers of people had stopped looking for work.

The combination of solid job growth, lower unemployment and higher wages comes at a crucial time politically as the country moves toward an election year. If historical patterns hold, economic conditions in the next nine months will be among the strongest factors in determining which party wins next November’s election.”

In other news this week@work, Forbes Magazine published its annual list of the ‘Most Powerful People’, Fast Company shared ‘What the Gender Pay Gap Looks Like by Industry’ and The New York Times reported on the latest study from the Pew Research Center in ‘Stressed, Tired, Rushed: Portrait of the Modern Family’.

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