What Will Be the Biggest Work/Life Balance Stories of 2009?

NWJobs columnist Michelle Goodman, author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube” and My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire, offers her predictions for 2009’s biggest work/life balance stories:

  1. The continued rise of flex work.
    Goodman notes that wise companies will seek to avoid laying off trained staff by increasingly offering, even mandating, flexible work arrangements. Though employees will be affected financially by the changes, policies like shorter workweeks, job sharing and telecommunting can sustain morale—as well as jobs—during lean times.
  2. The “working” retirement.
    Recent investment upheavals have shaken portfolios; though young investors have years to rebuild lost wealth, employees approaching—or already enjoying—retirement may be forced to drastically re-evaluate their financial plans. Would-be retirees may choose to push back retirement by continuing to work full time, or might supplement retirement income with one or more part time jobs.
  3. The accidental small business owner.
    Though starting a small business is challenging in even stable financial times, job scarcity may provide some self-starters with the motivation they need to establish a low-overhead business (online ventures might prove particularly attractive). Some business strategists suggest that a recession may create an environment conducive to a start-up: harsh economic times weaken competition and create a consumer demand for inexpensive products.
  4. The reluctant freelancer.
    During recessions, companies may avoid opening a salaried position by hiring project-based freelancers. A laid-off worker can use freelancing to make contacts, not just rent; these contacts may serve the worker well when the economy rebounds.
  5. The marriage of convenience.
    Goodman cites results of a 2007 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation: seven percent of Americans admitted to marrying so that they or their partner could be covered by the other’s health insurance plan. The recent recession may lead to an increase in this trend. 
  6. The putting off parenthood.
    Though parenthood has many rewards, few are financial. Goodman refers to a 2007 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the annual expenses of raising a child. A middle-income married couple with two children would expect to spend between $11,000 and $12,000 per year, per child. Fertility rates do tend to fall during difficult economic times, notably during the Great Depression in the 1930’s and after the 1970’s severe recession and oil crisis.
  7. The never-ending fascination with the Obamas’ family life.
    From the President-Elect’s commitment to fitness, to Michelle Obama’s choice to leave a lucrative career to become a “First Mom,” the Obamas’ work/life balance decisions are often admirable, sometimes controversial and always the subject of spirited conversation.