Marriage and the Workplace - 12/28/06
smartmarriages at lists101.his.com
Wed Jan 3 12:03:05 EST 2007
- WORK MAKING WAY FOR FAMILY LIFE
By Gregory Lopes
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
December 28, 2006
More employers adopt flexible schedules and telecommuting
WASHINGTON -- The daily grind is losing a bit of its bite.
Instead of 9-to-5 schedules, a growing number of Americans work
personalized schedules that allow them to fulfill the responsibilities
of their home lives while balancing the demands of their jobs.
Creating a positive work environment for married people has become a
priority for both the employee and employer, according to pro-marriage
organizations such as the Alliance for Marriage and the Families and
Work Institute. An unbalanced work and family life can significantly
increase the odds of marital instability and divorce, which can hurt
employees' production, researchers said.
"There is a widespread recognition that it is very expensive to hire
and train a new employee," said Judi Casey, director of the Sloan Work
and Family Research Network at the Boston College Graduate School of
Social Work. "Companies need to keep their talented people, and
they're doing more than ever to make sure they do."
In this series, The Washington Times examines the changing views of
marriage and what various institutions -- religious groups, government
and businesses -- are doing to preserve it.
To hold on to their employees, companies are implementing flexible
schedules and compressed workweeks that allow employees to work the
same number of hours per week but break away from the traditional
Some companies are even investing in marital counseling for employees.
Chick-Fil-A, the fast-food chicken chain, provides its executive
employees with "marriage coaches" for couples at company retreats.
"We believe strongly that you can be successful in the marketplace and
successful in marriage," said Donald "Bubba" Cathy, president of the
Atlanta-based company. "We make it a point to incorporate spouses in
company meetings, and they're expected to attend annual meetings."
Compressed workweeks allow employees to work more hours over fewer
days. But the most popular option among employers and employees is a
practice known as flextime.
Flextime was born out of the Clean Air Act of 1970, when local
governments attempted to ease traffic congestion and air pollution
during prime commuting times by allowing employees to choose their
starting and quitting times.
The number of employees who have access to flextime has increased
significantly, jumping from 29 percent in 1992 to 43 percent in 2002,
according to the Families and Work Institute. In 2005, 73 percent of
employees who had access to flextime took advantage of it.
Among employees who have high flexibility with their work schedules,
about 65 percent say they are satisfied with their marital
relationships, said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work
Best Buy, the Minneapolis-based consumer electronics store, recently
began a flextime program called ROWE, for "results-only work
environment." The program is designed to judge employee performance on
productivity output rather than hours worked.
Best Buy started the program in response to high turnover and a high
corporate stress level, caused in part by retail giants Wal-Mart's and
Target's biting into some of Best Buy's electronics sales. The hope is
that ROWE, by freeing employees to make their own work-life decisions,
can boost morale and productivity and keep the service initiative on
Since the program's implementation, average voluntary turnover has
fallen and productivity is up an average of 35 percent in departments
that have switched to the program, spokeswoman Dawn Bryant said.
Easing the burden
In addition, telework programs are being used to retain employees who
move to the suburbs and are faced with long commutes -- and more time
away from home. These programs allow employees to work from anywhere,
including their homes, using technology that keeps them in touch with
their employer throughout the day.
"Recruitment and retention of employees has become a driving force
behind the implementation of telework programs," said Chuck Wilsker,
co-founder of the Telework Coalition. "Companies need to keep their
Fairfax County has implemented a telework program, along with
corporate giants Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and Intel.
Local companies Arnold and Porter, a D.C. law firm; consulting company
Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean; and mortgage giant Fannie Mae, also
based in the District, made the "100 Best Companies of 2006" list in
Working Mother magazine.
Nearly 80 percent of Booz Allen Hamilton's employees change their
hours to adjust to their home lives, and at Fannie Mae, an on-site
day-care center provides a variety of services for children ages 6
months to 12 years.
But Americans are working more than ever, and some researchers contend
that businesses can do even more to make employees' schedules more in
tune with their home lives.
In a 2002 study conducted by the Families and Work Institute, 63
percent of the married employees say they don't have enough time with
their husbands or wives -- up from 50 percent from 1992.
For the most part, smaller employers more often than larger companies
offer their employees flextime options, according to a 2005 national
study of employers by the Families and Work Institute.
"My sense is companies are doing more than ever to help people
maintain their home lives, but there is a culture in this country that
drives people to work harder and that culture places a strain on
marriage," said Barbara Schneider, a professor of sociology and human
development at Michigan State University and co-director of the Alfred
P. Sloan Center on Parents, Children and Work.
"It is the mentality that has to be changed, and the burden is on
businesses," she said.
Meanwhile, the federal government is making an unprecedented push to
encourage Americans to get married.
The Healthy Marriage Initiative will give $500 million over the next
five years to organizations ranging from pro-life centers to
social-service groups that conduct marriage education initiatives. It
is the first time that the government has dedicated a specific amount
of money to support marriage education services.
"We are not promoting marriage. What we are trying to do is help
couples attain a healthy marriage," said Wade Horn, head of the
federal Administration for Children and Families and architect of the
government's plan. "A healthy marriage can make a difference with kids
and the community; that's why we are involved."
The California Healthy Marriages Coalition received $2.3 million over
five years, the largest amount granted by Mr. Horn's agency.
"This is a very appropriate way for the federal government to spend
money. What is not widely known about divorce is that it is a drain on
state and federal funds," said Patty Howell, the grant director for
For example, divorces top the list of causes for bankruptcy in the
United States, leading many people to require public assistance, said
Diane Sollee, founder and director of the Coalition for Marriage,
Family and Couples Education.
"A single divorce costs state and federal governments about $30,000,
based on such things as the higher use of food stamps and public
housing as well as increased bankruptcies and juvenile delinquency.
The nation's 10.4 million divorces in 2002 are estimated to have cost
the taxpayers over $30 billion," said Barbara Dafoe Whitehead,
co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University in
Benefits of marriage education
Building Stronger Families, a program within the Healthy Marriage
Initiative, is aimed at couples who recently have had children out of
wedlock and are contemplating marriage. Reversing the rise in
out-of-wedlock births is a significant goal of the Bush
administration's marriage initiative.
The National Center for Health Statistics recently announced that 1.5
million babies a year are born out of wedlock, a record.
Out-of-wedlock births lead to child poverty and welfare dependency,
said researchers and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think
tank in Washington.
"All the research shows that parents are good for kids. We want to get
them at the 'magic moment' when they are thinking about marriage," Mr.
Horn said. "The good news is we can teach them the skills they need
for a healthy marriage."
He said more than 50 percent of the couples who have children out of
wedlock are considering marriage.
Other programs within the federal initiative, such as Supporting
Healthy Marriage and the Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, target
low-income married couples and improve marriages through pre-marital
counseling and outreach to troubled marriages.
The funds being used for marriage education could lead to changes in
traditional expenditures for social-service programs, Mr. Horn said.
"If we are successful in forming healthy marriages, there will be less
of a need for other social services," he said. "There will be less
need for children's social-service programs such as for neglect and
runaway programs. If this is successful, it will have implications
throughout the social-service delivery system."
Divorce made easy
But while the federal government is pressing for more marriages,
America's divorce rate is only slightly lower than in the 1970s, when
a surge of divorces occurred.
Patrick Fagan, a social science researcher at the Heritage Foundation,
said America's divorce laws, in particular "no-fault-divorces," are
devaluing the institution of marriage.
"The government has failed massively and has essentially become the
enemy of marriage and in the process, the child," Mr. Fagan said. "If
the government did with economic contracts what it does with marriage
contracts, the whole economic system would gradually collapse into
Third World status."
Declining divorce rate
No-fault-divorces are granted when either spouse can show that the
marriage is irreparably broken. These types of divorces emerged in the
1970s as a recognition that two people who were determined to end
their marriage would get what they wanted by any means necessary,
including faking adultery or cruelty.
John Crouch, a longtime divorce lawyer in Arlington and executive
director of Americans for Divorce Reform, says the no-fault-divorce
law has been inadequately implemented by the states and subsequently
No-fault-divorce proceedings were intended to provide counseling to
couples prior to granting a divorce. However, states have not been
willing to fund the counseling services, making it easy for couples to
get divorced, Mr. Crouch said.
"No-fault-divorce has not been carried out, and it gives people the
message that when you're married, you can still be in the market for
somebody else instead," Mr. Crouch said.
Divorce law is decided on a state-by-state basis. New York does not
have a specific no-fault statute, and other states have varying
waiting periods or separation requirements. Only two states, New York
and South Dakota, do not have a no-fault-divorce clause. Maryland has
a two-year waiting period before a divorce is granted, the longest of
any waiting period. Virginia has a six-month waiting period, and the
District one year.
The divorce rate in the United States has been steadily declining
since the early 1980s, according to data from the National Center for
Health Statistics. Today, about one in three marriages ends in divorce
in the United States.
The no-fault divorce laws have resulted in a substantial number of
divorces that would not have occurred otherwise, according to the
Journal of Marriage and the Family.
Said Katherine Spaht, a law professor at Louisiana State University:
"Easy divorce that makes for an easy exit communicates society's view
that it has little interest in the lasting commitment of two people to
love and care for each other and to bear and rear the next generation."
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