The week@work – ‘Walden, a game’, Uber’s culture, pollution & the stock market, and the ‘folly’ of abolishing the N.E.A.

This week@work the designers of a new video game would like us to take a walk in the woods, a former Uber engineer authored a blog post that opened a window on corporate culture, an economics professor demonstrated the link between air pollution and stock market fluctuations, and the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art warned against cutting funds to the National Endowment for the Arts.

When we talk about work/life balance we typically think about disconnecting from technology, not using it as a portal for relaxation. Robin Pogrebin‘s article ‘In Walden Video Game, the Object is Stillness’ offers an example of a seemingly contrarian application.

“…the new video game, based on Thoreau’s 19th-century retreat in Massachusetts, will urge players to collect arrowheads, cast their fishing poles into a tranquil pond, buy penny candies and perhaps even jot notes in a journal — all while listening to music, nature sounds and excerpts from the author’s meditations.

While the game is all about simplicity, it has actually been in development for nearly a decade. The lead designer, Tracy J. Fullerton, the director of the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, came up with the idea as a way to reinforce our connection to the natural world and to challenge our hurried culture.

“Games are kinds of rehearsals,” Ms. Fullerton said in an interview. “It might give you pause in your real life: Maybe instead of sitting on my cellphone, rapidly switching between screens, I should just go for a walk.”

“Maybe we don’t all have the chance to go to the woods,” Ms. Fullerton added. “But perhaps we can go to this virtual woods and think about the pace of life when we come back to our own world. Maybe it will have an influence — to have considered the pace of Walden.”

Uber has a new logo and a new ranking as #3 on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies. “Uber’s most valuable asset is its data, which has been an important part of Uber’s business since it first launched.” Which is why we should not be surprised if the company is having a bit of a dysfunctional workplace moment.

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Christina Cauterucci investigated ‘The Sexism Described In Uber Employee’s Report Is Why Women Leave Tech – Or Don’t Enter At All’.

“Uber is staging a major PR defense for the second time in recent weeks after a former employee published a detailed account of persistent sexual harassment and discrimination she allegedly faced while working as an engineer at the company. Susan Fowler, who left the company in December after about a year of employment, claims in her Feb. 19 blog post that her manager sent her sexual chat messages soon after she was hired. When she reported him to human resources, she writes, she was told that it was his “first offense” and that she should switch teams if she didn’t want a negative performance review from him. Fowler later found out that other women had reported witnessing inappropriate behavior from this same man, and each were told that it was his “first offense” and not a big enough deal to require action.

In her blog post, Fowler accuses a manager of changing her performance scores after a stellar review to keep her from getting a transfer to another team, because it reflected well on the manager to prove he could retain female engineers on his team. This is a particularly outrageous deed in an account full of outrageous deeds. Instead of enforcing a zero-tolerance sexual-harassment policy or asking female employees how management could better support them, Uber has allegedly moved to improve its substandard track record on gender by narrowing opportunities for women on staff and sweeping harassment allegations under the floor mat. Fowler writes that she made repeated, documented human resources complaints about the unfair treatment she endured, but she was gaslighted by an HR representative who told her the emails she sent never happened and that men are better suited for certain jobs than women. It took a statement on a public blog to get any action from company leadership.”

The folks who work in climate science have been under fire in recent weeks. The photo below is a reminder of what the New York City skyline looked like 44 years ago, before environmental protections were enacted.

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For those not yet convinced of global warming, maybe a direct financial consequence would be more persuasive. Scott Berinato found ‘Air Pollution Brings Down the Stock Market’.

“When University of Ottawa economics professor Anthony Heyes and his colleagues compared daily data from the S&P 500 index with daily air-quality data from an EPA sensor close to Wall Street, they found a connection between higher pollution and lower stock performance. Their conclusion: Air pollution brings down the stock market.

The effect was strong. Every time air quality decreased by one standard deviation, we saw a 12% reduction in stock returns. Or to put it in other terms, if you ordered 100 trading days in New York from the cleanest-air day to the dirtiest-air day, the S&P 500 performance would be 15% worse on the 75th cleanest day than it was on the 25th cleanest day. We also replicated this analysis using data from the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, and saw the same effect.”

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Finally, this story is not only for those who work in the arts, but for all of us whose curiosity and creativity were sparked by a play, music or a visit to a museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director, Thomas P. Campbell warns against ‘The Folly of Abolishing the N.E.A.’

“All too often, art is seen as a “soft” subject, the first thing to be cut, whether by local school boards or the federal government, when money is tight. But looked at purely in dollars, it is a false saving. The N.E.A.’s budget is comparatively minuscule — $148 million last year, or 0.004 percent of the total federal budget — while the arts sector it supports employs millions of Americans and generates billions each year in revenue and tax dollars.

The United States has no ministry of culture. In this vacuum, the N.E.A., founded in 1965, serves three critical functions: It promotes the arts; it distributes and stimulates funding; and it administers a program that minimizes the costs of insuring arts exhibitions through indemnity agreements backed by the government. This last, perhaps least-known responsibility, is crucial. This fall, the Met will host a major exhibition on Michelangelo that will bring together masterpieces from across the world. The insurance valuation is a whopping $2.4 billion — not even our museum, the largest art museum in the nation, could come close to paying the premium for such coverage without the federal indemnity the N.E.A. makes possible.

I fear that this current call to abolish the N.E.A. is the beginning of a new assault on artistic activity. Arts and cultural programming challenges, provokes and entertains; it enhances our lives. Eliminating the N.E.A. would in essence eliminate investment by the American government in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens. As the planet becomes at once smaller and more complex, the public needs a vital arts scene, one that will inspire us to understand who we are and how we got here — and one that will help us to see other countries, like China, not as enemies in a mercenary trade war but as partners in a complicated world.”

This week@work take a break and visit your local museum. Then go home and send an email to your member of congress. Remind them of the importance of “investing in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens”.

 

Photo credit: Manhattan Skyline, May 1973 – Chester Higgins NARA

The week@work – the top stories of ’16, a new year, the eternal optimist’s talking points, French workers get the right to disconnect, and leadership lessons from Michelle Obama

Happy New Year! This week@work we take a final look at the top stories of 2016, and the stories from the first week of 2017. On the work-life balance front – French workers now have the legal right to disconnect from the office. The U.S. unemployment rate is at 4.7%, with hourly salary earnings rising 2.9%. And for women@work, an article considered the future of women in this new year, as First Lady Michelle Obama delivered her final formal remarks on Friday, giving us a parting gift – a model for what a leader looks like.

The Economist’s top ten most read stories of 2016 centered on the U.S. election and Brexit. In the U.S., NPR’s top 20 did not include Brexit, but the question of how Donald Trump will govern, led the list. “The top 20 most popular stories from the past year ranged from fact checks to mosquito bites, from Aleppo to taxes, and how to raise kids who will thrive, whatever the future brings.” 

There were many stories about work and the workplace, but most became a subset of the larger stories. Susan Chira reflected on ‘What Women Lost’.

“This was supposed to be the year of triumph for American women.

A year that would cap an arc of progress: Seneca Falls, 1848. The 19th Amendment, 1920. The first female American president, 2017. An inauguration that would usher in a triumvirate of women running major Western democracies. Little girls getting to see a woman in the White House.

Instead, for those at the forefront of the women’s movement, there is despair, division and defiance. Hillary Clinton’s loss was feminism’s, too.”

2017 will be the year we ask, what are the long term implications for women@work? On January 21, in Washington, and cities around the country, women will have an opportunity to reinsert themselves into the national conversation.

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For additional reading @year end:

‘The Echoes of 1914’ by historian Margaret MacMillan for the BBC. She responsed to a query about which year in history most closely resembled 2016.

“I wish I could stop, but I find myself thinking of 1914. The world then had seemed so stable, so manageable. Crises – political, social, economic, military – came and went but “they”, bankers, statesmen, politicians, always managed them in the end.

Yes, there were grumblings – from the working classes or women, or those who were losing their livelihoods because of free trade or mechanisation.

And there were some strong emotions about: fears of rapid change, passionate nationalisms that meant love of one’s own country and hatred of others. Ominous in retrospect because we know what happened. But at the time there was a complacency – it would surely all work out all right.

That confidence was dangerous because it meant that people didn’t take the warning signs seriously enough.

I wish I could stop making the comparisons.

In ‘1999 Was The Last Time Everything Was Fine’ BuzzFeed Culture Writer Doree Shafrir revisited her first year@work.

“I had no job and almost no money. My parents had given me the security deposit on the apartment as a graduation present, but now I was on my own. I was entranced by the classifieds section of the New York Times, with its pages and pages of appeals for secretaries and programmers and architects and retail store managers. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I liked to be around words, but I wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of actually making money. Maybe now was the time to try something new. Maybe I could close my eyes and point to something on the page and that would be my destiny.

That was how 1999 felt, like anything was possible.”

Artist Tucker Nichols created a rainbow rendering of an ‘Eternal Optimist Talking Points for 2017’ as OpArt for The New York Times.  A sample of musings: “Somehow not as freaked out by scary clowns anymore…Midtown traffic has always been pretty jammed up…Smog makes great sunsets…Still a chance it’s a very long dream.”

On January 1, a new law in France went into effect allowing workers to ‘disconnect’ from their workplace.

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The BBC reported on France’s implementation of a law to protect work-life balance.

“Companies with more than 50 workers will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails. France has a working week of 35 hours, in place since 2000.”

And then there was this from the professionals who go to work every day in U.S. Intelligence Services.IMG_8057.JPG

On Friday afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a memorable farewell speech at a White House event honoring the 2017 School Counselor of the Year. The text set an aspirational vision for all Americans and provides all of us with a lesson in leadership.

“…for all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you — to all of you, from every background and walk of life. If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition — the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on earth.”

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“If your family doesn’t have much money, I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little. But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming President. That’s what the American Dream is all about.

But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Right now, you need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation. You need to prepare yourself to be informed and engaged as a citizen, to serve and to lead, to stand up for our proud American values and to honor them in your daily lives. And that means getting the best education possible so you can think critically, so you can express yourself clearly, so you can get a good job and support yourself and your family, so you can be a positive force in your communities.

And when you encounter obstacles — because I guarantee you, you will, and many of you already have — when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago, something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our lives, and that is the power of hope — the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it.

It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe they, too, will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves.

So that’s my final message to young people as First Lady. It is simple. I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid — you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.”

We work in the context of global events, as responsible citizens. Our role in our workplace is to reflect the best in human and organizational values. In this new year@work, stay focused, be determined and lead by example with hope, never fear.

 

Photo credits: New Year’s Eve London – Ben Cawthra/LNP, Michelle Obama – BBC.com

The year @work – equal pay, organization culture, Mark Zuckerberg’s books, the widening class divide, space exploration & Hamilton

Topics of work and the workplace often captured the headlines in 2015. And some of those headlines seemed to echo the 1970’s. As the economy improved, the wage gap between rich and poor increased. And we are still talking about equal pay for equal work.

One flashback was posted on the NPR website on January 2 in tribute to former New York governor, Mario Cuomo, who died on New Year’s Day. The post included the text and video of his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1984, two years after the Equal Rights Amendment  failed to gain support from the 38 states required to pass.

“We speak for women who are indignant that this nation refuses to etch into its governmental commandments the simple rule “thou shalt not sin against equality,” a rule so simple —

I was going to say, and I perhaps dare not but I will. It’s a commandment so simple it can be spelled in three letters: E.R.A.”

Even though this year’s slate of Presidential candidates includes two women, the legacy of Cuomo’s passion is largely ignored.

Two stories in the past year served to visibly illustrate the continuing inequity.

In Hollywood, major studio, Sony was hacked, revealing, among other things, the disparity between the compensation of lead actress Jennifer Lawrence and her male co-stars. Madeline Berg covered the story for Forbes

“More frequent are anecdotes of discrimination like those recently related by Selma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and even Streep.

All of these women have echoed the sentiment of Patricia Arquette, who brought the issue to the world’s attention at last year’s Oscars when she said in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress, “It’s our time to have wage equality for once and for all.”

But it is not only the number on the paycheck that is the problem: Women are also greatly underrepresented on the big screen, leading to fewer opportunities to make money, an issue that Reese Witherspoon brought up at the American Cinematheque Awards in October: “Women make up 50% of the population, and we should be playing 50% of the roles on the screen.”

That is a dream that is far from a reality. According to a report by the Annenberg School at USC’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative released in August, only 28.1% of characters in 2014’s top 100 films were female and of that percent, only 21 had a female lead or co-lead.”

The misrepresentation is even worse behind the camera: Of the same films, women made up only 1.9% of directors, 11.2% of writers and 18.9% of producers. This only aggravates the problem. The report found that in productions where women held key positions off-screen—as directors, writers and producers—the films featured women more often, and in less sexualized roles.”

We may find it hard to garner sympathy for those who earn millions @work for acting or competing in sport. But those are the visible workers who set the bar for the rest of us on the lower rungs of the career ladder.

The year in sport was dominated by the FIFA scandal, but women who work in sport created the memorable moments of the year. Christopher Clarey, summarizing the year in sport for women noted ‘Women Surge On Playing Field but Fall Behind in Boardroom’.

“As visible as female athletes were in 2015, women lost prominence and power in another key domain in the sports world: the boardroom.

Stacey Allaster, chief executive of the WTA Tour, stepped down citing burnout and the desire to spend more time with her young children. Debbie Jevans, a Briton who was perhaps Europe’s leading women’s sports executive, also cited personal reasons for resigning as chief executive of England Rugby 2015 less than six months before the start of the Rugby World Cup that she had been instrumental in organizing.

Another industry leader, Mary Wittenberg, who oversaw the New York City marathon as chief executive of New York Road Runners, resigned to lead a start-up lifestyle company, Virgin Sport.

Allaster, Jevans and Wittenberg were all replaced by men, and by year’s end there was no woman leading a major professional sport, not even one for women. Steve Simon is in charge of the WTA, Michael Whan is in charge of the L.P.G.A., Jeff Plush runs the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States and Mark Tatum oversees the W.N.B.A., the most prominent women’s professional basketball league, on an interim basis after Laurel J. Richie stepped down after five seasons in 2015.

Considering the scandals and governance crises that enveloped leading male-dominated federations like FIFA and the I.A.A.F. in 2015, more women in power looked very much like part of the solution. The men could clearly benefit from new perspectives.

“For me, the most important thing about diversity in a workplace is definitely making everyone feel included,” Wittenberg said. “But the diversity that comes from diversity of thinking is also invaluable, and if you don’t have diversity around your executive table or any table, I think you really run a risk today. Organizations, and especially political organizations that lack diversity in any number of ways, including gender — you’re not coming close to representing a world view. Leadership today should be challenged at every turn.”

The topic of work/life balance continues to dominate the water cooler conversations from Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And the conversation is at the heart of defining organizational culture.

In mid-August The New York Times published a story, ‘Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace’ with the following sub-heading: “The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push
white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.” 

Definitely not a ‘puff piece’, but an important piece of journalism that ignited a dialog not only between the Amazon PR machine and the editors of The NY Times, but among workers in a variety of work settings about organizational values and personal tradeoffs. How an individual’s values mesh with those of their employer will determine ultimate success or failure. Who will you become? is a far more important question to ask than   What is the salary offer?

This was also the year that Mark Zuckerberg encouraged others to follow his example, and read a recommended book every two weeks. The final recommendation in  ‘A Year of Books’ was announced today, number 23, ‘The Beginning of Infinity’ by David Deutsch.

Richard Feloni compiled a list of the first 20 recommendations.

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made a tradition of dramatic New Year’s resolutions, and this year he decided that he’d read a book every two weeks.

He wanted his selections to focus on “different cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies.”

“Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today,” Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook page. “I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”

Hopefully, we have all met our resolutions from January and shifted our media diet to include some ‘long reads’ outside our comfort zone.

As the economy continued to improve, the gap between rich and poor widened. Claire Cain Miller examined the impact of differences in child rearing on growing class divisions.

“Children were not always raised so differently. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is 30 percent to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than those born 25 years earlier, according to Mr. Reardon’s research.

People used to live near people of different income levels; neighborhoods are now more segregated by income. More than a quarter of children live in single-parent households — a historic high, according to Pew – and these children are three times as likely to live in poverty as those who live with married parents. Meanwhile, growing income inequality has coincided with the increasing importance of a college degree for earning a middle-class wage.”

And for awhile, a movie about space, not that one, the other one – ‘The Martian’, seemed to re-energize NASA’s plan to restart manned space exploration beyond the International Space Station.

Doug Bolton of The Independent reported on last week’s suspension of a proposed mission to the red planet.

“NASA has decided to suspend a mission to Mars scheduled for March 2016, due to the lander springing a leak.

The InSight Mission, which would have seen a rover analysing seismic activity and the interior structure of the red planet, was called off by Nasa bosses after technical staff failed to repair a leak in one of the rover’s prime instruments.

John Grunsfeld, the associate administrator for Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said: “We push the boundaries of space technology with our missions to enable science, but space exploration is unforgiving, and the bottom line is that we’re not ready to launch in the 2016 window.”

Which leaves our space efforts to two remarkable American entrepreneurs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. In May, Jessica Orwig expressed optimism in the future of private space exploration.

“This year is shaping up to be an extremely exciting time for the future of commercial spaceflight, which will be built upon the backbone of revolutionary 21st-century rockets. The private American space companies Blue Origin and SpaceX are paving the way.

Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2000, successfully launched its “New Shepard” space vehicle for the first time on April 29. The vehicle was named after Alan Shepard, who became the second human and first American to enter space 44 years ago. It is designed to eventually boost six people to space, where they can experience weightlessness for 10 minutes before returning to Earth. The ride is for entertainment and therefore not exclusively for astronauts, but these kinds of temporary spaceflights could become a new way for astronauts to train for coming space missions.

Two weeks earlier, on April 14, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, founded in 2002, attempted to land one of its Falcon 9 rockets on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are designed to boost spacecraft to greater heights than Blue Origin’s and are therefore involved in other missions outside of commercial spaceflight, including supplying the International Space Station, launching satellites into orbit, and aspirations to reach Mars.”

On December 22, NBC News reported “SpaceX completed an historic vertical landing of its Falcon 9 rocket on Monday night — the first time such a feat had been achieved.

The launch and landing in Cape Canaveral, Florida, were the first from the private U.S. spaceflight company since its rocket exploded on liftoff in June.

SpaceX has come close to landing a rocket but until now, never actually pulled the feat off. Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, stuck a landing last month — but Musk pointed out that was a suborbital trip, the requirements for which are considerably different.”

And then there was ‘Hamilton’ the musical. Just as the founding father was about to be replaced on the U.S. ten dollar bill, his story took center stage this summer on Broadway. In a 2015 recap article, ‘Surprises from 2015 and Reasons for Hope’, Gina Bellafante examined the ‘Hamilton effect’ on five year olds.

“As if it weren’t surprise enough that a hip-hop musical about the life of the country’s first Treasury secretary would become a Broadway sensation, finding impassioned fans in both President Obama and Dick Cheney, “Hamilton” has found an unlikely cohort of obsessives among 5-year-olds in New York, thanks to the cast album and scenes available on YouTube. At least one kindergartner in Brooklyn is regularly going to school with white socks pulled up over his pants. Some children are demanding quill pens, and many are singing the songs at home over and over and over.

“This is the new ‘Frozen,’” one already fatigued mother observed. Expect heated arguments about the limitations of Federalism among first graders next year.”

 

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’.

Representative Paul Ryan negotiates for work/life balance

I have always considered it a bonus to work for a leader who has children. Why? At any point in the day, someone out of their control can force the most organized professional to recalibrate their priorities to honor their values. For them, work/life balance is not an option and a sense of perspective is a requirement.

This week, Republican Representative Paul Ryan joined the conversation about work/life balance and provided a tutorial in job offer negotiation. He responded to requests to become a candidate for House Speaker with a vision for what he believes success looks like. Prior to accepting the offer, he outlined his non-negotiables.

“I cannot and will not give up my family time. I may not be able to be on the road as much as previous speakers, but I pledged to make up for it with more time communicating our message.”

His message was to create party unity, but his ‘personal’ requirement of family time attracted the most media attention. Many questioned his ability to perform the duties of the office if he stepped away for weekends at home. One tweet wondered how the congressman would respond to an employee making the same request. Others felt a congresswoman with the same demand would be discounted immediately.

If Paul Ryan can reimagine the role of speaker, consider the ripple effect among lawmakers. Perhaps a serious effort to address the everyday worker’s challenges with balance @work?

We are at a turning point in the work/life balance conversation. Although still in the majority, those who value work at the expense of life are retiring in record numbers and their replacements have no interest in maintaining a legacy that forces a choice between work and life. Yes, we are connected 24×7, but technology can also offer both the freedom to meet our work commitments and disconnect for family, friends, lifelong learning and fun.

Before you head into you boss’ office this afternoon and demand time away for family, consider the elements of Paul Ryan’s negotiation and decide if your situation fits.

He didn’t want the job. He was heavily recruited. He is negotiating from a position of strength.

He has no competition. There are no other candidates.

If his conditions are not met, he will walk away. He has a job he loves and can be successful without being Speaker.

If you meet all of the above, you might be at the peak of your demand @work and it may be time to ask. If not, develop a strategy to move you to a place of strength and time your ask.

There will always be a place @work for those whose work is their life. It may just be a bit lonelier for the workaholic of the future.

Marissa Mayer – Tag Team Parent?

On Tuesday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced via Tumblr that she is expecting twin girls. On the same day New York Magazine writer, Oz Spies described her life, as a mother of three, as a ‘tag-team parent’. These two distinct narratives provide a vivid illustration of how folks cope with balancing work and life in a world of income inequality.

Ms. Mayer became one of the highest profile working mothers three years ago, not long after her appointment as head of the global internet service. A 2013 profile in Vogue described her strategy to balance work and child care.

“She set up a nursery next to her office, and for several months after Macallister was born, he and his nanny came to work with her.”

In her announcement this week, she implied she would utilize a similar approach with the birth of the twins.

“Since my pregnancy has been healthy and uncomplicated and since this is a unique time in Yahoo’s transformation, I plan to approach the pregnancy and delivery as I did with my son three years ago, taking limited time away and working throughout. I’ve shared the news and my plans with Yahoo’s Board of Directors and my executive team, and they are incredibly supportive and happy for me. I want to thank them for all of their encouragement as well as their offers of help and continued support.”

What is the message to the employees at Yahoo who might be planning family leave when the CEO opts out?

Writers Claire Cain Miller and David Streitfeld explored the issue in their NYT article, ‘Big Leaps for Parental Leave, if Workers Actually Take It’.

“Such contradictory signaling from Yahoo, which lengthened its parental leave in 2013, is typical and ambiguous, said Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings. “The underlying work culture sends the message that if you’re really committed, you’re here all the time,” she said.”

On the other side of the spectrum, meet a Colorado couple, parents of three. One is a firefighter and the other a writer and consultant in the non-profit sector.

“We’re tag-team parents. It’s a term coined by the Center for Economic and Policy Research for parents who work alternating schedules, taking turns at both paid employment and child care, and it’s a work-parenting setup that’s on the rise. More than one-fourth of two-income couples include an adult working a nonstandard schedule (other than nine to five with evening or weekend hours).

Shift work is nothing new, but traditionally, many men who worked overnight, including firefighters, had wives who were stay-at-home moms. Now, more of these couples trade off work and kid duties. On my husband’s crew (all married fathers), the wives are all in the workforce, most of us fitting that work in around our husbands’ 48-hour shift blocks and our children’s school schedules. As a nonprofit consultant and writer, my job often gets done from a computer in our basement late at night, and I fit in the rest on the days when my husband is home with the kids. It’s yet another way that families today don’t look like the breadwinner father and stay-at-home mother ones of the past.”

While the media focuses on the birth announcements of business rockstars, it ignores the larger issue facing middle class families today. The average parent cannot bring their child and nanny to work. The cost of child care for two or more children exceeds the additional revenue of most second incomes. In the majority of families there is only one solution, alternating schedules with frequent handoffs of toddlers in parking lots when the best plans fail and shifts overlap.

This is our new American dream.

“Single parents, deployed parents, grandparents who are raising the children of their children — there are all kinds of complexities with which to wrestle. We figure it out as we go and we keep going.”

For the majority, including Oz Spies and her family this is the new normal.

“For us, tag-team parenting is the best way to see the kids we adore, do work we love, and still pay the bills. We’ll never have a standing Friday date night or every weekend together, but all this tag-team parenting has made us appreciate that we’re a team.”

Maybe Marissa Mayer’s strategy for blending family and work is a version of ‘tag team parenting’. It’s just hard to visualize a pre-dawn Silicon Valley McDonalds parking lot where a CEO and venture capitalist husband exchange toddlers, diaper bags and car seats.