3 Ways To Really Become A 21st Century Workplace
Yesterday, President Obama announced executive actions that would give federal employees more flexibility to take time off to care for their families. He also took the time to instruct us, the business community, on how to better treat our employees:
During a White House Summit on Working Families, Obama said it was time for business leaders and lawmakers to create work environments that respect employees' lives outside the office. "Twenty-first century families deserve 21st-century workplaces," Obama he said. "Our economy demands them because it's going to help us compete." The President instructed government agencies to provide workers with the flexibility to take time off to care for sick family members, to take breaks to nurse, and to telecommute when necessary without running the risk of punishment.
Is this true? Is your business not respecting your employees' lives outside the office? Shame on you, business owner-manager-person! You need to be much, much more flexible. You should respect your employees more. Not sure how to do this? Don't worry! I have at least three great ways to really become a 21st century workplace.
- Have an unlimited vacation/sick day policy. Look, life is too short. So why constrain your employees from enjoying themselves! They should have the flexibility to take as much vacation as they need. Don't you realize that their families miss them when they're at work? How dare you make your accounting manager come to the office when his six year old has yet to visit Disney World. Didn't you know that your marketing assistant always wanted to visit Australia and your stingy vacation policies won't let her take the month off she needs to do this? It's a disgrace. And if your employees feel a little under the weather or had a big night out the previous night just them sleep in. They're not going to be as productive anyway, so they might as well just stay at home.
- Start A "Get In Shape Future Moms!" Policy. As part of your new, innovative exercise regime, extend the working hours of any female employee who's pregnant. Transfer her to the warehouse and have her lift some of those extra-heavy boxes. Get her involved in more maintenance and repair projects around the building. Send her on long trips to wine and dine your customers. This will help build up her strength, endurance and discipline throughout her pregnancy. And you'll save on the dinner bill because she's not allowed to drink alcohol when pregnant. It's a win-win! And the minute her child is born, make sure to get her right back to the office because there's nothing better for mom's health than good old fashioned work, am I right? Rest is totally overrated. It's action that matters!
- Announce a "Bring Your Sick Family Member To Work Day." Your company is already one big happy family so why doesn't that include the extended family of your employees? Have a special day every week so that your employees can get their relatives out of bed and productive again. Who knows? Maybe Grandma Bernice can still process a few invoices or at least clean out those file cabinets between her IV breaks. Or perhaps old Uncle George can get his lazy bottom out of the wheelchair and operate a forklift for a couple of hours like he used to do back in the '60's. I mean, he'll be sitting the whole time so might as well make him useful. Every little bit helps in these difficult times. Oh, and make sure you stock up on those first aid supplies and have a nurse available. You know...just in case.
Of course, I'm kidding here. And of course as business owners we understand that we need to be as flexible as possible with our employees. We want what's best for those that are sick, pregnant or need to care for a family member. We sometimes get sick. We have babies. We need to look after our older relatives. We get it. When I look at my clients, I find that just about all of them have policies that allow their employees to work from home or change their hours when needed. Why? Because we want our employees to be happy and productive. Small business owners are especially sensitive to losing key employees. We will bend over backwards to keep our best people working for us as long as possible.
In the past year the business community has been told by Washington to: A) provide healthcare to our full time people, B) increase our minimum wages and C) be more flexible with our employees. I realize that there are some employers around the country who don't do this. But the overwhelming majority do. They compensate and treat their employees fairly because they know that their people are their biggest asset. We don't need the government reminding us of this. We are reminded and thankful every day when we see our people working hard at our companies.
So thank you, Mr. President, for your thoughts. As head of the federal government we understand that you can do as you please when it comes to your Federal employees. But as it pertains to us, we'd prefer that you spend your time creating a pro-growth, low tax, less regulatory business environment so that we can expand our businesses and put more people to work. We are not the bad guys here. Just ask our employees.
GENE MARKS | Columnist | Owner, Marks Group
Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small-business owner. He oversees the Marks Group, a 10-person technology consultancy to small and medium-size businesses. A certified public accountant, Marks has also worked in the entrepreneurial services arm of KPMG. He writes for The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post.