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Working Family Values

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Duplicate and distribute these activities. Students may work independently or cooperatively.

Make the Rules
Families are not the only ones who face tough choices involving balancing priorities. Companies such as First Tennessee Bank also must balance productivity with worker happiness. Imagine you have become a manager of a large organization. It’s up to you to set rules for permitted or unpermitted absences, sick leave, vacation, unpaid leave, telecommuting, and flexible schedules. The heads of the organization have told you that their main concerns are to have employees be as productive as possible, and to obey federal and state regulations.

• Work alone or with a partner to draft company policies for these issues. For each rule you set, be prepared to explain why it is fair and how it will contribute to productivity. Check out the government’s Family and Medical Leave Act online (http://www.dol.gov/dol/esa/fmla.htm) to make sure that your rules fall into legal guidelines. Then, browse the "Work and Family" section of the Livelyhood Web site (http://www.pbs.org/livelyhood/classroom/resources.html), which lists groups that are doing research or advocating for work/family policies.

• Obtain a copy of an actual company’s employment policies. To do this, you might use a search engine, http://www.hoovers.com, or http://www.wetfeet.com to find an interesting company. Visit that company’s Web select an option that you suspect will lead to information about the company’s benefits (Be a detective! You may have to hunt around to find the job information, but this is a good skill to have for the job search). Compare your policies with those of that company.

Livelyhood’s "Workplace Benefits and Protection" section lists sites describing 401K, Cobra, and healthcare benefits for workers, which may give you ideas, and the "Gender and the Workplace" section lists groups that are trying to make workplace policy more friendly to women and work/family issues through legislation, lobbying, or education. Both these sections are on the resource page: (http://www.pbs.org/livelyhood/classroom/resources.html).

• List areas in which that company should consider amending their policies to meet the needs of its employees better, while also keeping in mind the goal of high productivity.

• How might a company benefit from creating employee-friendly programs? List some payoffs a company might receive from instituting employee-friendly policies.

Student Telecommuters?
In Segment 5, Rosie Marchiano finds that telecommuting offers her an acceptable balance between work and family. Though there are varying definitions of telecommuting, it can be defined generally as "working from home." "Telework" involves "remote working" – doing work from an alternative site that is not the main workplace building. Two Web sites that can help you learn a great deal about telecommuting and telework are Gil Gordon’sTelecommuting site

(http://www.gilgordon.com/resources/states/usa.htm) and The International Telework Association and Council (http://www.telecommute.org/).

What if you could telecommute to school? Would you try it? What might you gain? What would you miss out on? How would telecommuting to school prepare you for modern-day work? Use your imagination to complete one of these activities:

• After your online research and creative thinking, write about a day in your life as a student telecommuter.

• Create a chart in which you list benefits and drawbacks of student telecommuting.

• Participate in a debate on whether telecommuting should be offered as an option at your school.

Then discuss what it would be like to telecommute to work. Which benefits and which drawbacks would be the same as the ones you identified above? Which would be different? Why might telecommuting be better for work than for school?

• Find an employer in your area who encourages telecommuting. Ask what the costs and benefits are, what the transition to a "virtual" workplace is like, and what lessons the company and the employees have learned from telecommuting.

Discussing Gender and Work
How have changes in traditional gender roles transformed Americans’ work and family lives? Think about how gender and work interrelate, beginning with a focus on your own family:

• What kinds of work have women in your family done? How has this changed from generation to generation?

Create a chart, a time line, or an oral history of the work history of women in your family. Then have a discussion about the complexities of gender and work, asking questions such as these:

• What are common perceptions of a stay-at-home dad? a stay-at-home mom? If they are different, why do you think this is so? Use your own experience to answer these questions, or check out some of the ‘stay-at-home mom or dad newsgroups accessible through Livelyhood’s list of "Work and Family" Web sites on the resources page (http://www.pbs.org/livelyhood/classroom/resources.html).

• David Maxson believes he experiences gender prejudice in his job as a childcare worker. Do you think it is fair for people to regard men as less suited than women for this job? Why or why not? What other instances of gender prejudice related to particular kinds of work are you aware of?

• Is there still a wage differential between men and women? If so, why would it still exist? Do you feel anything should be done about this? Why or why not?

You can find some useful statistics on this topic at the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Web site.(http://www.dol.gov/dol/wb/public/wbpubs/wagegap2.htm)

For help thinking about "Gender in the Workplace," or "Wages in the U.S." visit those lists of sites on the Livelyhood resource page (http://www.pbs.org/livelyhood/classroom/resources.html)

You may want to use what you learn to write an opinion piece on the subject of gender equality in the workplace, and submit it to your local newspaper.