Tipping, Up In The Air

Next week I’ll be taking my first flight ever on Frontier Airlines.  It’s branded as a low-cost airline that differs from other carriers in that it charges you separate fees for things like your carry-on bag and basic in-flight drink and snack options.  Frontier presents its approach as allowing it to keep base fares low and giving travelers “options that allow you to customize your flight to match both your wants and your wallet.”

flight-crewNow I’ve learned that Frontier differs from other airlines in another, more interesting way:  it’s the only airline that encourages travelers to tip its flight attendants.  Beginning January 1, 2019, individual Frontier flight attendants can accept tips, and if a traveler purchases in-flight food or beverages, they get a prompt from the Frontier payment system notifying them that they have the option to leave a tip — just like you get in many restaurants.  In the article linked above, Frontier explains:  “We appreciate the great work of our flight attendants and know that our customers do as well, so [the payment system] gives passengers the option to tip.”

The union that represents Frontier flight attendants, the Association of Flight Attendants International, isn’t happy about Frontier’s tipping policy and says that the airline should be paying flight attendants more instead.  The union and Frontier have been trying to negotiate a new contract, and one union official has said that “[m]anagement moved forward with a tipping option for passengers in hopes it would dissuade flight attendants from standing together for a fair contract — and in an effort to shift additional costs to passengers.”

I’m not quite sure how I come out on the issue of tipping flight attendants.  Obviously, their job involves a lot more than donning a little apron and serving drinks and snacks, so there’s a bit of a disconnect between the tipping option — apparently presented only when food or drink is ordered — and the actual contours of the flight attendant’s job.  At the same time, many airlines are nickel-and-diming passengers with fees, so perhaps tip income for flight attendants is the wave of the future.  And I’m all for airlines adopting different models — like Frontier’s low-cost approach — as they compete for passengers, and letting the passengers themselves decide which approach they like best.

I’m thinking my flight on Frontier next week is going to be a bit of an adventure.

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Living In A Van (But Not Down By The River)

The Hollywood Reporter has an interesting story about people living in vans in the Los Angeles area.  Unlike Chris Farley’s Matt Foley character, they aren’t motivational speakers — they’re just everyday entertainment workers who happen to live in their cars.

thr_mobile_la_thr_joe_4547_hirez_splashAccording to the article, the number of Angelenos who live in their vehicles has spiked.  In 2017, 600 vehicles were being used as homes; now the number is up to 9,117.  There’s even an organization called Safe Parking L.A. that operates secret, guarded lots where people living in cars can sleep with some security.

Why do so many people in southern California live in their vehicles?  The high cost of housing factors into the decision-making of virtually everyone interviewed in the article.  Some people simply can’t pay the exorbitant rents; others could afford the cost but object to doing so and live in their cars because it allows them to move more quickly toward their financial goals.  But living in your car obviously comes at a cost, too.  You have to strip down your possessions to a minimum and configure your vehicle to allow it, you need to develop a strategy for taking care of basic bodily functions, you’ve got to figure out where to park your car at night, and there are obvious, ongoing security concerns — which is why an organization like Safe Parking L.A. exists.

And there are other issues that people who don’t make their vehicle their home would never consider — like the need to drive very carefully through those crowded southern California highways and byways, because if you get into an accident and your car goes into the shop, you’ve just lost your housing until the repairs are completed.

Humans are highly adaptable creatures, and you have to admire the grit of people who have figured out how to live in vans.  But I also wonder:  is living in L.A. and being part of the entertainment industry really worth it if it means living in a van?

Hound, Or Holiday?

As the end of the year approaches, some American workers are looking at the calendar and realizing that they once again haven’t used all of their allotted vacation time, and won’t be able to do so before another New Year’s Day rolls around.

1523383408931It’s a surprisingly common situation.  Polls and estimates indicate that U.S. workers are not taking as much as half of their permitted paid vacation days each year — benefits that are worth about $62 billion.  One study concluded that only 23 percent of employees used all of their permitted vacation time.  Another 23 percent used less than one-quarter of their allowed time off, 19 percent used between one-quarter and one-half of their vacation time, 16 percent used between one-half and three-quarters of their holiday allotment, and 9 percent took no vacation time at all.

Why aren’t people taking the time off that they’ve earned?  Believe it or not, one of the more common stated reasons for forgoing vacations is that it’s hard to arrange for pet care.  Other workers confess that they’re just worried about their jobs — whether it’s purported concern that nobody else can take care of their responsibilities while they are gone or fear that leaving might put their job in peril somehow.  In my experience, still others simply have the martyr complex, and like to portray to their co-workers and supervisors that although they in fact would prefer to take a vacation, they’re just too busy and important to actually do so.  (Here’s a tip for the martyrs out there:  no one believes you when you say that, and it’s irritating, besides.)

I long ago decided that vacations are important — in fact, as important as anything else about your job.  I think it’s crucial to take regular holidays to avoid job burnout and to remain fresh and engaged with your workplace responsibilities.  My practice is to always have a vacation somewhere on the upcoming calendar so there is something to look forward to, and as soon as I return from one I try to get the next one scheduled.  Otherwise, six months down the road you realize that you really could use some time off but your upcoming calendar is filled and there are no openings until months in the future — by which time you’re approaching a year since your last vacation.  That’s a pretty miserable way to live your life.

And by the way, there are lots of good facilities out there to take care of your pets, so you can’t use that as an excuse.  In fact, if you’ve gone months without taking a vacation, your pooch probably senses your mounting stress level and is finding you pretty hard to be around, anyhow.  A stay at the Pet Palace might be a holiday for Fido, too.

Candy Confirmation

Yesterday some well-intentioned soul — or, alternatively, some desperate person who still had a huge amount of leftover trick or treating fare and wanted to finally and conclusively get it out of their house before Thanksgiving — left a bulging, quart-sized bag of various candies by our fifth-floor coffee station.

As expected, the bag quickly looked like it had been attacked by a passing plague of locusts, and it went from packed to picked over in the blink of an eye. But as I passed by on multiple occasions to and from my secretary’s office during the day, I realized the bag also was providing a practical experiment in fifth floor candy preferences.

The mini Snickers and Milky Ways and other interesting chocolate candies were the first to go, followed by mundane Three Musketeers bars. By the end of the day, all of the chocolate candies were gone, but the Skittles and other fruit-flavored options remained. Colorfully packaged, perhaps, but clearly not the preferred route until no other option was left for colleagues desperate for their sugar fix.

Chocolate candies 1, fruit-flavored candies 0, and Three Musketeers somewhere in between. Useful information to keep in mind the next time you’re buying Halloween candy.

Bring Your Parents To Work Day

According to the Wall Street Journal, it’s becoming increasingly common for businesses to host “Bring Your Parents to Work” days.  The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that around 1 percent of American employers host such an event, with advertising and tech companies like LinkedIn leading the way.

fullsizerender__1_Companies see such events as appealing to young employees who are close to their parents. (Or, stated alternatively, some companies may realize that they’re hiring Gen X/Y/Zers who have helicopter parents who have always been deeply involved in every facet of their children’s lives and expect that to continue into core adulthood activities like working at a job.)

The article reports that the parents who attend these days wander around the office, wearing matching “Josh’s Mom” and “Josh’s Dad” t-shirts and snapping pictures of their kids at work and posting them on Facebook.  And, parents being parents, it’s not unusual for them to corner executives and pepper them with questions about how the company is doing — and, presumably, why their gifted kid isn’t moving faster up the corporate ladder.  For that reason, some of the children admit that having Ma and Pa at the office can be an anxiety-inducing experience.  Others, though, think that visits from their folks will help their parents understand what they do and where they spend a lot of their time.

It’s another example of how family dynamics have changed over the years.  My parents were interested in making sure that I got a job, kept a job, and became self-supporting, because that was part of the road to responsible adulthood, but they sure didn’t express any desire to experience the workplace with me for a day — and I really wouldn’t have wanted them to do so, anyway.

Some people obviously see the notion of “Bring Your Parents to Work” days as a way for parents who are close to their kids to further cement that bond.  I see the workspace, in contrast, as off-limits territory, where people should be making it on their own, without oversight from Mom and Dad.  I think it’s part of the boundary drawing that has to occur as children grow up and make it on their own.  Apparently, not everybody wants to draw those boundaries these days.

Tinkering With The “Work Week”

A New Zealand company called Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts and estates, decided to experiment with moving its 250 employees to a four-day work week.  In the experiment, employees worked four eight-hour days, rather than five eight-hour days, and researchers from the Auckland Institute of Technology studied the results.

videoblocks-african-young-man-with-glasses-in-white-shirt-and-black-tie-working-in-office-african-man-shaking-hand-another-worker-indoor_rsrwtwcxb_thumbnail-full01The experiment worked so well that Perpetual Guardian has decided to permanently implement a four-day work week option.  The researchers found that, during the trial period, there was less absenteeism, employees showed up on time, didn’t leave early, and took fewer breaks.  The employees also reported increased productivity, more energy and focus, lower stress, and a better work-life balance under the new system.  The experiment also indicated that workers at Perpetual Guardian identified where time was being wasted — such as in unnecessarily long meetings or office chatter — and changed their practices to be able to get their work done in a shorter work week.

And, because the Perpetual Guardian workers are completing the same quantity of work under the new system, they’ll continue to be paid what they were being paid for working a five-day week.

It all sounds good, but would it work in the United States?  During my more than 40 years of working, changes to the standard 9-5 five-day work week — whether it’s shorter working days, or fewer working days — have been the Great White Whale of workplace reformers . . . and the five-day work week still generally prevails.  But during that 40-year period many standard practices have changed.  Leaves of absence and work-at-home arrangements are much more common.  Workplace attire rules are much more relaxed.  And employers generally seem to be a lot more flexible about taking time off to pick up kids or take an aging parent to a doctor’s appointment.

Of course, the morphing of the 9-5 five-day work week has worked in the opposite direction, too.  With the advent of smartphones and laptops, white-collar workers are no longer tied to their office desks — and many find themselves toiling after hours and on weekends to answer emails or finish reports.

Will the four-day work week catch on?  I’m skeptical — not because it’s not workable, but because I think the old days of standard, across-the-board practices applying to all workplaces and all businesses are behind us.  Technology is allowing employers to shape their practices to their individual needs.  For some employers, it might be a four-day week, for others, it might be an understanding that certain work needs to get done, without much concern about when or where that occurs, and for still others it might be something entirely different.  And employers seem to have a much better attitude about the need to keep productive, capable workers on the job, even if it means bending or changing rules to accommodate their needs.  I’m convinced that the American workplace will continue to morph.

 

 

Cookie Culprits

The kitchen at our firm is legendary for its cookies.  Some of our lawyers intentionally schedule their meetings in the afternoon so they can get a plate of cookies to munch on while the discussion is proceeding.

But when the scheduled meeting is ended, and before the conference room table is cleared by the staff, the office cookie culprits go on the prowl.  They might just be innocently passing by when the sight of an available plate of cookies in an empty conference room tempts them into action, or they might intentionally take a foraging swing past all of the conference rooms to see whether there are any cookie remains that could provide them with a sugar boost during the mid-afternoon lull.  Whatever the reason, the abandoned cookie plates don’t hold on to their cookies for long.

When I left the meeting in this particular conference room yesterday, the cookie plate was virtually full, but when I passed by a short time later, the cookie culprits had been at it in force, leaving only orphaned oatmeal raisin and sugar cookies — and another sugar cookie from which somebody had taken two huge bites.  Hey, and what’s with putting a half-eaten cookie back on the cookie plate?  I thought the cookie culprits were more genteel than that.