Category Archives: Flexible Work Arrangements

Low Pay Has Teachers Flocking to the Sharing Economy

Source: Alia Wong, The Atlantic, August 17, 2018

One in 10 Airbnb hosts in the U.S. is a teacher, a new report shows.

Airbnb, the popular platform that lets people rent out their homes and apartments, released the results of a volunteer survey this week containing the striking statistic that nearly one in 10 of its hosts in the United States is an educator. In some states the trend appears to be even more pronounced—more than a quarter of all Airbnb hosts in Utah and Wisconsin, for example, work as teachers or in education (the company includes in that category administrators and college professors). This is especially noteworthy given that an analysis of census and National Center for Education Statistics figures suggests that just less than 2 percent of adults in the country work as full-time K–12 teachers.

Many of these 45,000-plus educators in the U.S. are presumably using Airbnb to supplement their regular income, as teachers struggle with stagnant, if not declining, pay. The average annual salary for K–12 public-school teachers is roughly $58,000, and they typically spend a sizable chunk of that on classroom supplies integral to their jobs. Teachers’ frustration with the situation has become so acute that it drove educators en masse to the picket lines in certain parts of the country this past spring.

New Benefits—Time to Address Benefits for Alternative Work Arrangements?

Source: Lori Welding Jones, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 44, No. 1, Summer 2018
(subscription required)

On February 6, 2018, the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on “Exploring the ‘Gig Economy’ and the Future of Retirement Savings.” Although the title would suggest a focus on gig workers only, some of the testimony addressed the retirement security of a broader group of individuals engaged in alternative work arrangements, i.e., all workers employed other than as common law employees.

Four-Day Working Week Trial

Source: Perpetual Guardian, 2018

Perpetual Guardian is embarking on a world-first: we are running an unprecedented productivity trial for six weeks, starting 5 March. As part of the trial, all our staff – more than 200 people around New Zealand – are being offered a free day off every week. All other employment conditions, including remuneration, are unchanged. Andrew Barnes, our founder and CEO, says the decision to test the new way of working is “the right thing to do.” He was inspired to conduct the trial by several global productivity reports and our recent internal survey, which asked staff how productivity, innovation and engagement can grow. …..

Related:
A 4-Day Workweek? A Test Run Shows a Surprising Result
Source: Charlotte Graham-McLay, New York Times, July 19, 2018

A New Zealand firm that let its employees work four days a week while being paid for five says the experiment was so successful that it hoped to make the change permanent. The firm, Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts, wills and estates, found the change actually boosted productivity among its 240 employees, who said they spent more time with their families, exercising, cooking, and working in their gardens…..
Four-day working week trial at New Zealand company so successful its boss wants to make it permanent
Source: Tom Embury-Dennis, The Independent, July 19, 2018

A four-day working week trial at a company in New Zealand was so successful its boss wants to make it permanent. The firm, which deals with wills and trust funds, conducted the eight-week experiment earlier this year. It saw its 240-strong workforce, in 16 offices across the country, retain full pay alongside a three-day weekend. Andrew Barnes, chief executive of Perpetual Guardian, said he had made a recommendation to the board to continue the policy after an analysis revealed a “massive increase” in staff satisfaction with no drop in productivity. The research, Mr Barnes said, was conducted by two independent academics drafted to ensure an objective analysis of the impact on the company and workforce.

Research suggests there’s a case for the 3-hour workday
Source: Chris Weller, Business Insider, September 27, 2017
– The average worker spends most of the eight-hour workday doing many other things beside work, including eating, socialising, or reading the news.
– Psychologists have found the brain can’t focus on tasks for more than a few hours at a time.
– Some companies have started adjusting their schedules to help employees maximise their efficiency.

In Sweden, an Experiment Turns Shorter Workdays Into Bigger Gains
Source: Liz Alderman, New York Times, May 20, 2016

Arturo Perez used to come home frazzled from his job as a caregiver at the Svartedalens nursing home. Eight-hour stretches of tending to residents with senility or Alzheimer’s would leave him sapped with little time to spend with his three children. But life changed when Svartedalens was selected for a Swedish experiment about the future of work. In a bid to improve well-being, employees were switched to a six-hour workday last year with no pay cut. Within a week, Mr. Perez was brimming with energy, and residents said the standard of care was higher. …. The experiment at Svartedalens goes further by mandating a 30-hour week. An audit published in mid-April concluded that the program in its first year had sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health. ….

The Future of Work: 8 Facts About Office Design, Telework, and Coworking

Source: Elizabeth Ballou, Clutch, June 6, 2018

Sophisticated communication technology means that people can work from anywhere, but that changes the social dynamics of work. Clutch’s 2018 Future of Work survey shows that most employees still work in offices but that many would prefer to telework. In addition, coworking spaces are rising in popularity. …. The 8 statistics this article explores shows that while the majority of employees still use traditional offices, many would rather telework, or use technology to work elsewhere, and think they’re more effective outside the office. ….

Work perks and benefits: what employees and candidates want

Source: Randstad, Workforce Insights June 19, 2018

From the press release:
….The takeaway? Almost all employees (94%) want their employers to ensure the benefits offered have a meaningful impact on their quality of life, like paying off student loan debt and offering more flexible work arrangements. But before employers attempt a benefits overhaul, they should perhaps focus on better education and communication about their existing benefits. Just under half (48%) of employees report knowing all the perks their employers offer, and only 40 percent say their employers help them understand the benefits that are available…..

Benefits can be an even stronger incentive than salary when considering a job offer, and an unattractive benefits package may drive candidates away.

– Sixty-six percent of workers agree that a strong benefits and perks package is the largest determining factor when considering job offers, and 61 percent would be willing to accept a lower salary if a company offered a great benefits package.
– Forty-two percent of employees say they are considering leaving their current jobs because their benefits packages are inadequate.
– Fifty-five percent have left jobs in the past because they found better benefits or perks elsewhere.

Both benefits and perks matter

When evaluating benefits, quality health insurance reigns supreme. But when it comes to perks, the survey findings indicate that workers want to maximize their time spent at work and appreciate conveniences that help them get the most out of their days.

– When considering a potential employers’ benefits (defined in the study as “standard forms of compensation paid by employers to employees over and above salary”), workers prioritize health insurance (75%), followed by retirement funds and/or pensions (21%).
– Highly rated perks (defined in the study as “workplace-related extras”), that workers want to see more of in the workplace are:
– early Friday releases (33%)
– flexibility and remote working (26%)
– onsite lifestyle amenities, like gyms and dry cleaning (23%)
– unlimited vacation time (22%)
– in-office meal options, like communal snacks or food courts (18%)
– onsite childcare (15%)

When it comes to benefits and perks, one size does not fit all

Age, income level and gender all play a role in the benefits that employees prioritize:

– Forty-one percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 said their current employers do not offer student loan repayment benefits, but wish they did.
– Workers aged 50+ named health insurance as the top benefit they wish their employers offered.
– Nearly a third (28%) of respondents who earn more than $150,000 annually say bonuses are one of the most important perks when considering new employment.
– More women than men want better parental leave policies (women: 22% vs. men: 14%) and onsite childcare (women: 15% vs. men: 6%).
– More men than women would like to see their employers offer life insurance (women: 15% vs. men: 23%).

Workers, Protections, and Benefits in the U.S. Gig Economy

Source: Seth D. Harris, Global Law Review (forthcoming Sept. 2018), Date Written: June 18, 2018

From the abstract:
Under existing American labor, employment, and tax laws, in any one work relationship, a worker is either an “employee” or an “independent contractor.” This binary classification of workers, and the high-stakes outcomes it produces, have been challenged by “gig economy,” or “online platform” companies that provide personal labor services (e.g., ride-hailing, home cleaning and handyman/woman, and food delivery services that use smart phone “apps”). Employees in the United States are entitled to a long list of legally mandated benefits and protections. Independent contractors are not. Independent contractors are presumed to have sufficient individual bargaining power to secure their own individual compacts with contracting partners, and either ward off undesirable outcomes or use their freedom in the market to evade them. This article argues that online platform companies’ relationships with their “independent workers” force these workers into a gray area between employee status and independent contractor status. It also argues that American law does not offer a clear and broadly applicable rule for resolving the resulting ambiguities and ensuring consistent and predictable decisions by adjudicators. Serious social and economic problems have resulted.

This law and policy article considers these work relationships in the online platform economy with a particular focus on independent workers’ lack of individual bargaining power. The article also extends its bargaining power analysis to workers outside the online platform economy, including those currently classified as independent contractors. Based on this analysis, and after reviewing the state of the law in the U.S. and the size and shape of the workforce in the U.S. online platform economy, the article articulates a set of principles that should guide policy makers in determining how to reform the worker classification system to address its ambiguities and the problematic social and economic outcomes it produces. Most important, the article provides a menu of policy solutions with an assessment of how well each solution serves these principles (i.e., “selection criteria”). The solution advanced in the author’s 2015 paper with Alan Krueger entitled “A Proposal for Modernizing Labor Laws for Twenty-First-Century Work: The ‘Independent Worker’” is included on this menu.

96% of U.S. Professionals Say They Need Flexibility, but Only 47% Have It

Source: Annie Dean, Anna Auerbach, Harvard Business Review, June 5, 2018

Employers today know that employees want flexibility, and many companies say they offer it. But there are lots of people out there who need flexibility but don’t have access to it.

In our study on flexibility in the modern workforce, we set out to determine whether a gap exists between flexibility supply and demand. In other words, how many people need flexibility, and how many people actually have it? To find out, we surveyed 1,583 white-collar professionals representative of the U.S. workforce at large…..

Related:
The Future is Flexible: The Importance of Flexibility in the Modern Workplace
Source: Werk, 2018
(registration required)

From the summary:
Werk commissioned a professional research firm to conduct a comprehensive study on the state of flexibility in the U.S. workforce. According to our research, there is a significant gap between the supply and demand of workplace flexibility. This flexibility gap is impacting the workforce and its health and wellness, performance and productivity, and ability to care for others. Our study examines the demand for flexibility across flextypes, generations, genders, and more. Our research quantifies the impact of flexibility on organizational metrics like retention, engagement, and net promoter scores and provides a practical path forward for companies who are ready to make the leap towards a more flexible future.

Inflexible jobs also make non-parents miserable

Source: Jared Wadley, Futurity, April 30, 2018

Work-life balance is not an issue exclusive to women, particularly mothers, new research shows. Men and people without children can suffer when they feel that their workplace culture is not family-friendly, as well.

When employees think their careers will suffer if they take time away from work for family or personal reasons, they have lower work satisfaction and experience more work-life spillover. In addition, they are more likely to intend to leave their jobs, say researchers…..

….People typically think only women and moms experience work-family issues, and need flexible work arrangements, like telecommuting, part-time work, or job sharing. Society believes it’s women who bear the brunt of unfriendly work cultures, when it actually impacts all genders, says Lindsey Trimble O’Connor, lead author and assistant professor of sociology at California State University Channel Islands…..

Related:
Not Just a Mothers’ Problem: The Consequences of Perceived Workplace Flexibility Bias for All Workers
Lindsey Trimble O’Connor, Erin A. Cech, Sociological Perspectives, Online First, April 13, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Flexibility bias and the “ideal worker” norm pose serious disadvantages for working mothers. But, are mothers the only ones harmed by these norms? We argue that these norms can be harmful for all workers, even “ideal” ones—men without caregiving responsibilities who have never used flexible work arrangements. We investigate how working in an environment where workers perceive flexibility bias affects their job attitudes and work-life spillover. Using representative survey data of U.S. workers, we find that perceived flexibility bias reduces job satisfaction and engagement and increases turnover intentions and work-life spillover for all types of workers, even ideal workers. The effects of perceived bias on satisfaction, turnover, and spillover operate beyond experiences with family responsibilities discrimination and having colleagues who are unsupportive of work-life balance. We show that workplace cultures that harbor flexibility bias—and, by extension, that valorize ideal work—may affect the entire workforce in costly ways.

Why are more people doing gig work? They like it

Source: Cheryl Carleton, The Conversation, March 29, 2018

….The share of Americans doing everything from accounting to driving as independent contractors rose from 10.7 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015, according to a study by economists Lawrence Katz at Harvard University and Alan Krueger at Princeton University. The trend was more pronounced among women, they found, rising from 8 to 17 percent.

Based on my prior research regarding labor markets and job satisfaction, I wanted to know if this number was rising so fast partly because Americans enjoy the flexibility these jobs offer….

….The approximately 3,600 people in this nationally representative sample included workers holding down regular jobs, as well as independent contractors and self-employed workers with some degree of control over their schedules. It also included contract employees lacking autonomy and flexibility, such as those working for temp agencies or with on-call obligations.

We also contrasted job satisfaction for employees in managerial or professional roles with workers in blue-collar occupations, and checked whether there were any differences for men and women.

As you might expect, we found that people with more control over their schedules and who could choose to some extent which tasks they would take on are significantly more satisfied with their work than their peers who hold regular salaried jobs – despite losing out on benefits and security…..

Organizing On-Demand: Representation, Voice, and Collective Bargaining in the Gig Economy

Source: Hannah Johnston, Chris Land-Kazlauskas, International Labour Organization, Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 94, 2018

…. We begin with an overview of gig and platform work and the structural and institutional challenges that gig- and platform-based workers in building collective, group agency. This is followed by a review gigworker organizing strategies based on the institutions or organizations that workers have formed or joined for the purpose of building agency. We stress the importance of workers’ organizations – broadly defined – as a site to agglomerate the economic, political, and cultural resources necessary to provoke change. The tenure of organizations allows workers to experiment with various tools and strategies to improve conditions and adopt those that are effective. The four organizational structures we explore (union renewal strategies and new organizing initiatives, worker forums, worker centres, and cooperatives) represent a comprehensive list of organizations that are actively organizing and supporting gig economy workers. Given the rapid turnover of the on-demand workforce, we view the tenacity and adaptive strategies of workers’ organizations as vital to developing a sustainable and dynamic labour movement. Each initiative examined has its own section delineated by a heading and a summary of the principle strategies used. We then turn to efforts by employers’ organizations to support their members in adapting to, and influencing these new realities.

The paper ends with a discussion of barriers that self-employed platform workers face to effectively achieve collective bargaining and efforts to achieve effective representation and collective bargaining for workers in the gig economy. In this section we discuss important steps that could be taken to ensure the right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining among independent contractors, who often find their these rights curtailed by anti-trust legislation. This section also highlights a number of recent efforts at collective regulation undertaken by workers and platforms in the gig economy…..