Employer-employee relations

How companies gain from letting their people have lives.

For all that I think Gareth was right about some gender issues, I think he's missed the boat on others. From his recent livejournal post:

Feminism doesn't want to help men to achieve an equality in home life, despite the fact that the only way that women will move farther up the payscale is if men are allowed to take their place at home. There will always be one breadwinner and one who primarily takes time off to look after the kids.

I really dislike this type of zero-sum-game attitude. I also dislike one-size-fits-all policies. Surely, if there's one thing we've learned from Eastern-bloc-style socialism, it's that there are no easy answers, and you can't blindly apply rules to an entire country and hope to get better results than you'd get from any old random rules. (I don't have a link to this, unfortunately, but someone told me that that you can apparently instigate new rules in a company - no matter what the new rules are - and get productivity gains in the short term, perhaps because people work harder at meeting the new objectives or working a different way. In the same way that all diets work in the short term, perhaps.)

Consider this. I work from home, and it's great: I can get up and be at work, without a pesky commute, I can split my day the way I want to - so I can take an hour or two to do stuff that I need to do in town, and then come back to work - and I don't have to start, or stop, at the same time as lights go on and off in the office. Steve in Northern Ireland similarly enjoys this. Stu, on the other hand, didn't take to it, and after a while the company concluded (I think unfairly) that there was no other solution than to fire him. One size does not fit all.

An enlightened company that cares about its current employees and wants to recruit more, should offer a gamut of possible schemes and benefits for its employees to take up, whether it's flexitime, maternal or paternal benefits, working from home, or whatever. If a couple have had a baby, then, goddammit, leave it down to them as to how they cope with it. Maybe the mother spends all her time with the baby, maybe she goes back to work and the father is the prime carer, maybe they split the work between them; maybe whoever is in charge of the kid at the moment is doing it full-time, or maybe they're doing some work from home. The company shouldn't care, other than wanting its employee to do what's best for him or her. The important thing is finding a way for people to juggle work and having a goddamn baby in a way that suits them, and surely the best way for a company to deal with that is to give employees as many sensible options as you can think of and manage, and see what happens?

I have seen a couple of times what happened when a company had a number of talented employees and, through management decisions or indecision, lost them one by one. As Howard Dean would say, we can do better than that.