With the approach of Thanksgiving, I got to thinking about some of the things I’m grateful for. Not in my personal life, but in the world of work and life for Americans, in general. While there is much work still to be done to ensure everyone has the opportunity both to earn a living wage and to be treated like a human being while doing so, it’s good to be able to stop occasionally and appreciate the progress we’ve made.
With that in mind, here are eight top work-and-life-related things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving:
- I’m grateful that work-life is no longer just about women—that we’re suddenly hearing a public debate about topics like paternity leave, stay-at-home dads and whether men can have it all.
- I’m grateful that the bar is being raised on what it means to be a good employer. Wellness incentive programs, for example—a concept just beginning to catch on a decade or so ago—are increasingly common (The value of the incentives is increasing, too.) And “best company” lists like the Working Mother 100 Best now have minimum policy requirements even to apply (such as, in the case of Working Mother, at least one week’s paid maternity leave and some sort of options for working flexibly).
- I’m grateful that napping, one of my favorite pastimes—er, I mean—topics, is now being taken at least somewhat seriously as a work-life issue in the media and among employers. And that a complementary topic, sleep deprivation, has also emerged from the closet.
- I’m grateful that feminism (both the term and the concept) seems to be making a comeback. Women still have a long way to go, but at least in recent years there’s again been a public conversation (and some actual legislation) about: equal pay for equal work; disparities in the way women are talked to and treated in the workplace —and on the streets; and women’s rights, in general.
- I’m grateful that gay marriage is riding a tidal wave of legitimacy, currently legal in 35 states (plus Washington, D.C. and St Louis, Missouri) and pending in 9 others. And that more and more Americans are just fine with that. And that, according to the Human Rights Campaign, 90 percent of large companies now offer same-sex domestic partner benefits. (That’s a jump from a couple dozen companies just twenty-five years ago, according to the same source.)
- I’m grateful that workers increasingly have legal access to paid sick time and paid parental leave, and that “right-to-request” laws in a couple of places have put flexibility on the legal map, too.
- I’m grateful that thanks to Obamacare, lactation rooms—and the breaks needed to use them—are no longer optional in most companies.
- Finally, I’m grateful that “work-life” has gone from being an obscure term that needed explaining with each mention to a common phrase, brought up on a regular basis in social circles and on the media. In doubt? Here are some numbers I came up with on the topic last year—and I’ve got a strong, anecdotal-based hunch they’d only be better if we checked them again now.
Are there things I’m not so grateful for? Sure. Trying to integrate work and personal life continues to be a stressful, near-impossibility for many people. Technology seems to be creating as many problems as it solves. Too many people continue to be un- or underemployed, and these folks are ripe for exploitation .
Yes, the list of things to be ungrateful for is long. But I spend a lot of my time thinking about that list, and I guess one more thing I’m grateful for is the chance to take a break this week and think about the good stuff. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
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