BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

First Lady Gets It When Comes to Work-Life

Posted by espressodog on January 21, 2010

“Things like paid family leave and sick days and affordable childcare should be the norm, not the exception.”

First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Department of Labor on January 14, addressing a roomful of DOL employees on the necessity for work-life balance. In her remarks, Mrs. Obama took the time to recognize and thank both veteran agency workers and those workers just beginning their careers. 

After commending the Department for their child care center, Mrs. Obama discussed the need for better policies that would allow parents more flexibility to balance family demands and work. “It’s time we viewed family-friendly policies as not just niceties for women but as necessities for every single working American — men and women — because more and more men are shouldering that same kind of burden.”  Work-life balance is an issue “near and dear” to Mrs. Obama’s heart, involving the “constant struggle” to meet our responsibilities as employees and parents. 

Although many employers recognize the value of good work-life policies, we, as a society, “haven’t figured it out yet.” Many people don’t have access to good family leave policies or any flexibility in the workplace.  “So they struggle to find affordable childcare and emergency childcare when their usual arrangements fall through, which they always do — right?”

“Roughly 40 percent of private-sector employees work at companies that don’t offer a single day of paid sick leave.”  As a society, we view work-life balance policies as special benefits for women, rather than “essential policies that can benefit everyone in the workplace.  Our perception is that, workers that need the time off are less committed, and that places that accommodate these needs “are destined to be less profitable, less productive somehow.”

However, evidence reveals the benefits of work-life balance policies; they actually make employees more productive.  “Instead of spending all day at work worrying about what’s happening at home, they have the support that they need to concentrate on their jobs.”  We need to change our perceptions of family-friendly policies “so that our workplaces can catch up to the realities of our lives.” 

Workers shouldn’t have to risk their jobs to care for a family member or attend a child’s school event.  The Administration thinks its “important to highlight companies that are embracing family-friendly policies, ones that are experimenting with things like flex time and telecommuting and focusing on performance and output rather than face time.”

For these reasons, the Administration supports The Healthy Families Act.  It would let millions of working Americans earn up to seven days a year of paid sick time to care for themselves and their families.  “And all of us, in both government and the private sector, will need to come up with new ideas, try out new approaches, and rely on our courage and our common sense to guide us along this new effort.”

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One Response to “First Lady Gets It When Comes to Work-Life”

  1. Lenda said

    Like many of us in our 30’s – I’m starting to realize that the years are passing me by and as I’ve focus on my career, my friends, myself, my travels etc…

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