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.

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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.

Before And After

We’ve been working on the lower yard this week. It was totally overgrown, with weeds that were knee high in some spots and a bunch of spindly chokecherry trees blocking the visibility of the huge granite outcroppings and the nifty birch tree growing out of a crack in the rocks.

We wanted to see what the yard looked like with the overgrowth cut back and the chokecherries chopped down. Fortunately, Russell is skilled with a weedwhacker — a great invention if there ever was one — and I can manage a saw and clippers. Together we tackled the jungle-like growth, and after a few days of cutting, sawing, clipping, and raking we cleared away the underbrush and ended up with a lower yard that is neater, cleaner, and (in my view, at least) a lot more visually appealing. The before picture is above, and the after picture is below.

Incidentally, yard work like this also makes you feel like you’ve really earned that cold beer at the end of the day.

Tools Of The Lobsterman’s Trade

Yesterday we went our for a boat ride on a beautiful day.  We were the guests of our neighbors and cruised around Stonington harbor and the nearby islands aboard their lobster boat.

They say you can learn a lot about an occupation by its tools.  For a lobsterman, the principal tool is the lobster boat.  Our neighbors’ boat is a hardy, trim craft that is clearly built for work.  Every inch seems to be devoted to the pursuit of the tasty crustaceans that dwell on the ocean floor.  There’s a lot of open space at the back of the boat for the lobster traps and the bins and buckets that hold the bait — which typically is some kind of fish that lobsters crave, occasionally mixed in with “de-haired beef hide” flavored with water, salt, and lime.  De-haired beef hide?  Our neighbor explained that the material is so tough that lobsters can munch on it for days, meaning they’ll hopefully stay in the baited trap, chewing away ,until the lobsterman hauls it up.

Every lobsterman has his or her own unique buoy, marked by color and configuration.  When they arrive at one of their buoys, they use a gaffer to catch the rope connecting the buoy to the trap, then haul the trap to the surface.  Our neighbor says he typically tries to check about 275 of his traps every day on the water. — and his days start at 5 a.m.  If there is a lobster inside the trap, the lobsterman uses the tool pictured above to stretch the yellow rubber bands and place them over the lobster’s claws, then put the lobster into a large plastic tank filled with water.  The trap gets baited and then returned to the ocean floor.  And every square inch of the cabin — and the exhaust pipe for the diesel engine, shown below — is used to store equipment, navigational monitors, knives, brushes, ropes, bungee cords, and other tools of the trade.

As I said, they say you can learn a lot about an occupation by its tools.  A lobsterman’s tools tell you that lobstering for a living is hard work. 

The Random Restaurant Tour (XVIII)

I’m a firm believer in the importance of getting out of the office, taking a break from the workday grind, and having lunch with friends, family members, and colleagues.  However, there are days when the press of work is just too much.  You realize you’ve got to work through lunch, and that means you’ve got to eat lunch at your desk.

When that happens, as it did yesterday, I’m extremely grateful for Cafe Phenix.

The Phenix is one of our Gay Street neighbors, located right across the street from the firm.  You can dine in at their pleasant shop or the sidewalk eating area just outside, or take out, ordering from a full menu of sandwiches, quiches, soups, and pastries, with a full array of teas, milkshakes, smoothies, and other beverage items.  The proprietor and his staff are friendly folks who are likely to engage you in a pleasant bit of conversation while your food is being prepared, and the menu changes daily, with specials shown on a sign outside and soup offerings written on a chalkboard behind the counter.

When I’ve visited the Phenix to get carryout for a desktop working lunch, I inevitably get the soup.  I’ve had the croque monsieur sandwich, which was very good indeed, but the proprietor’s true medium for culinary artistry is bisques, chowders, gumbos, and other forms of hot, steaming, spoon-friendly nourishment.  In my opinion he is one of the very best soup makers in town.  In fact, his sausage and seafood gumbo and seafood bisque are the stuff of Gay Street legend.

Yesterday, I got a carry-out bowl of the white chicken chili, a creamy concoction stuffed with chunks of chicken, onions, potato, and great northern beans.  The Phenix threw in some moist, ridiculously buttery corn bread that I crumbled into the soup, licking my fingers all the while.  I enjoyed every bite of the result, and for only $3.99, a bowl of soup from the Cafe Phenix is awfully easy on your wallet, too.

The Phenix almost makes you look forward to a lunch at your desk.

The No-Desk Zone

I’m on the road again, this time in NYC for work. My room at the Hyatt at Grand Central Station is fine, except for one small detail — there’s no desk.

Seriously? No desk? Where are you supposed to set up your laptop, roll through your emails, and get some work done before the meetings begin? I’d gladly exchange the modern sofa and the large hardwood floor area that seems suited only for ballroom dancing for a simple desk, chair, and electrical outlets. But I’ll be using the sofa as a makeshift desk instead.

I’m perfectly willing to put up with the weirdness of modern hotel room decor, but when they sacrifice function for form I’ve got to draw the line. Hotels rooms should always — always! — have a desk.