I recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which includes a call to action for men and women to end gender bias in the workplace. Yet, Lean In is not only a discussion about gender bias and stereotypes, women being held back or holding back themselves but, it’s a call to action as a society to work together toward equality. A common question that has followed for many who have read the book is where do we begin; how can we move forward as a society to address the issues that face all of us in the workplace, men and women of all races, cultures, ages, and religious backgrounds. How do we all, regardless of our backgrounds or position in life, move forward to lead more happy, prosperous, fulfilling lives while delivering to our employers. It seems insurmountable, and, also unfortunate to say we cannot do anything unless the entire world changes. But from an economic standpoint, can’t we make changes one business at a time, one industry at a time?
The technology industry seems well-poised to make advancements in this regard as it is an industry replete with intelligent, creative, forward-thinking people and the perfect place to set standards, trends and changes. The technology industry is also fertile ground for start-up businesses to start from scratch and implement new ways of thinking about getting things done. This industry can advance the workplace of tomorrow by implementation of progressive workplace policies and benefits while achieving what has yet to be achieved in technological advancements.
The time is long overdue to examine workplace policies and benefits which are already governed by a myriad of employment and benefit laws in the U.S., and find ways to further develop or expand these policies. Research has shown that one of the keys to productivity and improving the company bottom line is fostering an engaged and happy workforce. When workers feel valued and able to progress in their positions, they are more likely to contribute their all to the job and the company. Workplace policies alone will not end workplace biases or discrimination, but they can provide the workplace culture and supportive infrastructure that will enable all workers to perform their jobs to their best ability, to have their performance judged based on objective, realistic and attainable goals, and allow them the flexibility to juggle their personal and familial responsibilities in order to be the happy and fulfilled workers they need to be in order to attend to their employer’s demands.
In this vein, and as a starting point, I encourage our technology business leaders to strategically think about the following types of workplace policies and benefits that can be implemented or enhanced in their companies to foster revolutionary change:
- Creative solutions to the 24/7 workweek (which may include flexible work schedules, shifts or mid-day siestas that can still equate to 40 hours per week minimums)
- Remote Working Arrangements (which may include certain standards for in-office time)
- Incentive Compensation Programs based on objective metrics and hours of service
- Performance reviews conducted by objective third-parties
- Paid maternity and paternity leave policies (which may include gradual return-to-work programs during the first 3 to 6 months following birth or adoption)
- On-ramp and off-ramp Programs for men and women to re-engage workers who may have left or need to leave the workplace for a myriad of reasons
- Business Development and Mentoring Programs to provide roadmaps for business-specific progression tailored to the company’s needs
- Sabbaticals (which can include time-off for professional enhancement to serve business needs)
- Wellness Programs (to promote the health and well-being of workers)
- Dependent Care Reimbursement Account Plans
- On-Site Child Care
- Access to long term care policies at group rates
This list is not exhaustive. Once an assessment is completed regarding the business’ current workplace and benefits policies in effect, I encourage business leaders to work with legal counsel to determine how to further develop or implement these types of policies and benefits in compliance with applicable laws. We at Epstein Becker & Green are well-positioned to assist in this endeavor.
Technology has brought us the ability to accomplish tasks that were previously unimaginable. The technology industry can also help us re-design the workplace of tomorrow. All businesses can thrive and be more profitable when everyone is engaged, valued and firing on all cylinders.