Keeping Staff Afloat

By James G. Leventhal


Rosalind Bedell

On Tuesday, I was lucky enough to be invited to be a part of a session entitled Sustainable Work Practices: Keeping the Staff Afloat at #wma09 organized by Rosalind Bedell, Human Resources and Volunteer Director, Nevada Museum of Art and Program Committee Co-chair for WMA, San Diego.

In difficult economic times how do you keep the staff sustained and on board? This session looks at alternative staffing models including part-time work, job sharing, working from home, as well as the problem of burn out. In addition, staff spends time texting, on the internet and cell phones. Should this multitasking be incorporated into the work day? When and how much is acceptable? Are these ways of working models for the future?

I started the session off talking about the new work model -- weisure -- 24/7, total interconnectedness and the impact of the use of social media as part of a plan for institutional enhancement and the impact of organizational horizontilization.

Increasingly, it's not clear what constitutes work and what constitutes fun [be it] an office or at home or out in the street...all of these worlds that were once very distinct are now blurring together.

- Sociologist Dalton Conley, New York University

In the non-profit sphere we have all been doing the work of three people for a long time, and now with new technology we can do the work of five or more.  But this might not be good.


Regina A. Petty, Esq of Fisher & Phillips

I purposefully made an effort to "fill the room with joy," to quote one of the other panelists and to help, in that way, to prepare for the presentations to follow by Valerie Nelson, Director, Human Resources, Autry National Center; and Regina A. Petty, Attorney, Fisher & Phillips LLP.

Valerie Nelson talked about how the Autry has navigated these difficult times and Regina Petty spoke about in a focused and detailed manner about the issues every organization is presently dealing with:

  • Hiring freeze and pay freeze
  • Compensation reductions and furloughs
  • Voluntary programs
  • Reductions in force

Petty's presentation was incredibly helpful and really well received.  Her presentation can be viewed on SlideShare here.  She presented daunting facts like, "People furloughed or working part-time rose from 3.7 million in June 2008 to 6.5 million in June 2009."


Valerie Nelson and Rosalind Bedell during Regina Petty's presentation

Petty also drew particular attention to the legal issues around furloughs, noting that employees are strictly prohibited from performing any work during the furlough period.  This includes checking work-related email and voice mail.  Regarding social networks, and their impact now, Petty cautioned that an employer’s Social Networking Policy:

  • Prohibit unlawful harassment/ discrimination
  • Prohibit use of Company’s Proprietary, Confidential Information without express authorization
  • Confirm no expectation of privacy where Company-provided system or e-mail
  • Prohibit use of employee work e-mail address for social networking account

Thanks, Rosalind.  It was a great session.

Were you there?  What was your take-away?  How do we continue that sense of dialogue -- finding encouragement and constructive advice during the challenging financial time in the industry, indeed most every industry in the United States?  Share your thoughts, please.




This was such an excellent session. I learned so much from each of the presenters... in fact, I have already put a number of ideas into practice at my institution. I was especially grateful for the discussion on weisure, on social networking protocol at work, on when work is work and when workers should not be working...and on the legal ideas and challenges stemming from temporary measures such as furloughs and layoffs. I thought that many of the creative economic measures taken at the Autry were excellent. This was a very happening and timely session; thank you Rosalind, Valerie, Regina and James!

excellent post James. It occurs to me that the opposite of weisure is "lurk." Thank you for all of your thoughtful posts and for blogging this session. Marjorie

Huh. That last item about companies prohibiting the use of a company email account for social networking is really interesting to me. When I first became deeply involved with social networking, it was primarily for research I was doing *for* work--all of my social networking accounts were tied to my work email.

Now that I am freelance, I try to differentiate between my two personal email accounts, keeping one for "fun" and one for "work," but I find the lines are too finely blurred to really adequately make those distinctions.

I'd be curious to know what these "voluntary programs" Petty spoke of are about, as well as the specifics of what the Autry is in fact doing.

Thanks for whetting my whistle, James!

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