March 23, 2009

Recession puts fear into workplace

The fear of layoffs is pushing many U.S. workers to silently cut back on some of their fringe benefits, concerned that the ax could fall, worker advocates said.

Joanne Brundage, executive director of Mothers & More, said the workplace environment was driven by a silent fear, causing workers to quietly forgo such items as flexible schedules, telecommuting and using policy-approved sick days, The Washington Post reported Monday.

That's what it feels like we're returning to. Work as many hours as you possibly can. Make yourself indispensable. Don't ever complain. Don't ever ask for anything, she said.

The trend is hard to quantify. But anecdotes such as Madeliene Arcega's giving up her telecommuting option at a New York media company is a typical example, the Post reported. I was worried the alternative was no job at all, she said.

The trend had been moving toward more flexibility. Now we're going in the opposite direction, said Gary Phelan, a partner with Outten and Golden, a law firm that works on family discrimination cases.

Most employers, when it comes to any initiative in human resources, have sort of hunkered down, said Paul Rupert, president of Rupert and Co., a consulting firm. They're almost paralyzed because they don't know what's happening, he said.