25 Oct #195 – Integrity Idea 034: Fortify Family
ESSENCE: Integrity Ideas are specific actions a faithful leader can consider in leading faithfully through business a better way.
INTEGRITY IDEA: Fortify Family
COVERT-OVERT CONTINUUM (six Continuums for action): Practices
COVERT-OVERT RATING (several levels from Highly Covert to Highly Overt): Highly Covert
STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees/Community/Kingdom
Most Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization. “Fortify Family” is about adopting practices and benefits that are specifically designed to encourage and support healthy employee families. It recognizes that God created marriage as the foundation of family, that a healthy relationship between parents in an intact family-unit helps create an environment conducive to healthier children, that healthy parenting can help children grow up to be confident, caring and compassionate adults who value family, and that the prioritization of “family time” is important to maintaining healthy marriage relationships and healthy parenting. “Fortify Family” acknowledges that an organization pursuing faithful integrity through business a better way should help each employee prioritize the health of their family over their work. “Fortify Family” is also a pre-emptive and redemptive response to wreckage of a broken world that recognizes Imago Dei and furthers the commandment to love our neighbor. It is about prioritizing the flourishing of people over profit. “Fortify Family” is one way to lead faithfully through business a better way by curating and reinforcing a caring and compassionate organizational culture that aligns with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.
Integrity Ideas are specific actions a leader can consider during the Re-Align step of Integriosity®–actions that will begin to Re-Align the organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities. You can find more Integrity Ideas at Integrous | Integrity Ideas (integriosity.com)
Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization. We believe some are critical (and necessary) steps in the RENEW/RE-ALIGN/RE-IMAGINE/RESTORE process. Others are just ideas to be considered if they feel like a good fit based on what leaders prayerfully discern is best for stewarding the organization toward its WHY.
“Fortify Family” is about employee benefits, and we believe employee benefits usually fall into the “if its a good fit” category.
INTEGRITY IDEA: Fortify Family
“Fortify Family” is about adopting practices and benefits that are specifically designed to encourage and support healthy employee families.
It recognizes that God created marriage as the foundation of family, that a healthy relationship between parents in an intact family-unit helps create an environment conducive to healthier children, that healthy parenting can help children grow up to be confident, caring and compassionate adults who value family, and that the prioritization of “family time” is important to maintaining healthy marriage relationships and healthy parenting. “Fortify Family” acknowledges that an organization pursuing faithful integrity through business a better way should help each employee prioritize the health of their family over their work. John Beckett, Chairman and CEO of R.W. Beckett Corporation and author of book Loving Monday: Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul, wisely wrote:
Our priorities should be ordered like this: First, our relationship with God; then commitment to family; and only then commitment to our work and vocations.
A similar prioritization of family was implemented by Bandwidth.com, a telecommunications provider that went public in 2017. It was co-founded by David Morken and Henry Kaestner. Kaestner has been very open about the role that his and Morken’s faith played in how they led Bandwidth. In fact, he made available online the notes from a talk he has given numerous times called “The Business Lessons that God has taught us at Bandwidth.com”. In it, Kaestner explains the following about the Bandwidth values and culture (emphasis added):
David and I wanted to see the same core values drive the company that drove our
life. For us that means that we focus on Faith, Family, Work, and Fitness…in that
order. We believe that if we balance all 4 of them well and in that order that we’ll be
“Fortify Family” is also a pre-emptive and redemptive response to wreckage of a broken world that recognizes Imago Dei and furthers the commandment to love our neighbor. It is about prioritizing the flourishing of people over profit. “Fortify Family” is one way to lead faithfully through business a better way by curating and reinforcing a caring and compassionate organizational culture that aligns with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.
We have devoted several posts to the negative impact on families of business as usual and the positive impact on families of business a better way. Business as usual is de-humanizing, and business a better way is humanizing.
Business as Usual. Most recently, we talked about the brokenness of work, workplaces and workers in post #164 (The Brokenness of “Business as Usual”). Business as usual cultures fail to treat people with dignity and respect, because they are cultures in which the WHY is Profit as Purpose, which means people are, by definition, tools of production. Families suffer when one or both parents are working and commuting long hours, under tremendous stress, and not taking vacations. Business as usual can make it difficult for an employee to prioritize their family over work.
In prior posts, we pointed you to the book Profit with a Higher Purpose, which does a good job highlighting the significant changes in the demands on workers in America over the least several decades leading to increased hours and greater stress (and the impact of those changes on health, marriages and children), including:
• The 40 hour work having broken down for various reasons they explain.
• U.S. workers taking less vacation than at any time in four decades.
• 37% of Americans sleeping less than 7 hours, mainly due to work and commuting.
We also noted a recent Wall Street Journal article titled “Sunday Night is the New Monday Morning, and Workers are Miserable”, which cites one study that found 62% of working adults between the ages 23 and 38 “said they felt pressure to be available around the clock through email, Slack and other work communication channels” and another survey in which 80% of all participants (and 91% of millennials) “experienced a surge in stress related to their jobs on Sunday nights.”
Business a Better Way. By its very nature, business a better way promotes family health because its “end” is people–maximizing the flourishing of God’s creation. The bigger WHYs of work and business are to Humanize People, Beautify the World and Glorify God, and that there is a wonderful way in which Humanizing and Beautifying create a virtuous circle. Humanizing People leads to better physical and mental health, better family relationships and stronger communities, thereby Beautifying the World, and the sense of bigger purpose employees get from understanding how they Beautify the World through their work is itself Humanizing.
But “Fortify Family” is about additional practices and programs an organization can implement that are specifically focused on encouraging and supporting strong marriages, informed parenting, and quality family time.
The Bible speaks loudly to the importance of, and provides a wealth of guidance for, loving and healthy relationships between husbands and wives. One need only read Colossians 3, 1 Corinthians 7 or Ephesians 5.
The Bible is also very clear about the importance of, and provides a wealth of guidance for, raising children.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
Post #175 (Reward Rest) was devoted to the need for employees to have rest–including a weekly Sabbath day.
The Integriosity model organizes “heart change” along six Covert-Overt Continuums. There is nothing magic about these categories, but we believe they are helpful in thinking about practical execution of a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture. The Continuums are Prayer, Proclamation, Policies, Practices, Products, People.
Each Continuum represents an area in which leaders can begin to think about, plan and institute Re-Alignment changes to the heart of the organization.
“Fortify Family” is on the Practices Continuum. It involves practices the organization can adopt to affirm its commitment to the Biblical concept of marriage and to the Biblical principle of love your neighbor, to reflect and reinforce its purpose and values, and to care for its employees.
COVERT-OVERT RATING: Highly Covert
The Integriosity model breaks the Covert-Overt Continuums into six gradations–from Highly Covert to Highly Overt–that we believe are helpful in beginning to pray and think about what is most appropriate for an organization at a particular moment in time.
Most Integrity Ideas will have one place on the scale. Some can vary depending on how they are implemented. We identify “Fortify Family” as Highly Covert (An action that would be taken by a secular company) because every organization could and should strive to promote the well-being of employee families.
“Fortify Family” can also be Overt (An overtly faith-based action known generally within the organization) if the leaders of the organization choose to explain its importance in terms of the Biblical significance of marriage, loving your neighbor, and caring for the “little ones”.
STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Customers
When we categorize faith-based actions, we also consider the stakeholders principally impacted by the action: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community and Kingdom.
“Fortify Family” principally serves employees by caring for their well-being and the well-being of their family. It also enriches the community because the entire community benefits from healthy families and children, and it furthers the Kingdom by supporting marriage and caring for children.
Our priorities should be ordered like this: First, our relationship with God; then commitment to family; and only then commitment to our work and vocations. (John Beckett)
Every faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way should be praying and thinking about ways their organization can encourage and support healthy employee families, because it will lead to increased human flourishing through healthier employees and a healthier community. It will also glorify God by Humanizing People and Beautifying the World.
We have identified three potential areas of focus: marriages, parenting and family time. Here are a few ideas to consider in each category. Any idea must be considered prayerfully in the context of the faithful leader’s responsibility to steward wisely the organization God has put in their care. Some of these ideas would be impractical in certain industries.
• Providing employees with access to marriage resources. In post #132 (Provide Humanity Resources), we presented various resource ideas, including subscribing to RightNow Media@Work. RightNow Media@Work is a customizable online library of thousands of faith-centered videos on topics such as leadership, teamwork, ethics and integrity, marriage, mental health, parenting, and personal finance. It also includes material specifically for men, women, teens and children. Pricing is based on an organization’s size (number of employees).
• Holding an in-house marriage workshop or marriage information sessions.
• Paying for employees to attend a marriage workshop or retreat.
• Pay for marriage counseling services.
• Hiring a chaplain who would be available to counsel employees. In post #127 (Hire a Chaplain), we looked in detail at the benefits of a corporate chaplain.
• Providing paid time off or a “honeymoon stipend” when an employee gets married.
• Recognizing/celebrating wedding anniversaries.
• Providing employees with access to parenting resources.
• Holding an in-house parenting workshop or parenting information sessions.
• Provide employees with protective software/devices to safeguard personal computers and phones from content inappropriate for children
• Providing paid or unpaid maternity and paternity leave beyond legal requirements. In post #166 (Adopt Adoption), we suggested extending any such benefits to employees who adopt. We also suggested other adoption-related ideas.
• Providing financial assistance to new parents through a birth/adoption stipend.
• Recognizing/celebrating births and adoptions by employees.
• Creating flexibility to allow parents to attend important child events (e.g., teacher conferences, school plays) during normal work hours.
Family Time. Consider:
• Setting work week expectations at 35-40 hours and meeting with employees regularly exceeding the expectation to understand the situation.
• Strongly encouraging employees to utilize all vacation time and meeting with employees not utilizing vacation time to understand the situation.
• Requiring employees to leave the office at a specified hour to allow dinner with their family. For example, Bandwidth.com required employees to leave the office from 6:30pm-8:30pm.
• Putting in place practices and processes to prevent employees from being contacted unnecessarily about work on evenings, weekends and vacations. For example:
• As part of Bandwidth.com’s “Whole Person Promise”, there is an e-mail embargo when someone is on vacation or taking a personal day off.
• According to a Wall Street Journal article on work stress, Bandwidth also has a “vacation blackout policy that bars employees from attending to business during time off.”
• Another company, Vynamic, received a great deal of press regarding its “zzzMail Policy” that prohibits e-mails between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and on weekends. It is enforced with a custom e-mail tool.
• Holding fun family events, such as a picnic, barbecue or day at a circus or amusement park, for all employees.
• Acquiring a recreational property (e.g., a property on a lake or near a ski resort) for use by employees and their families.
In considering whether or how to implement “Fortify Family”, a faithful leader must also consider whether to move toward the Overt end of the Practices Continuum. For example, providing RightNowMedia@Work is overt. Providing only Biblically based marriage and parenting resources or paying only for a specified Biblically-based marriage workshop or retreat is overt. Explaining the Biblical basis behind “Fortify Family” initiatives is overt. Overtly faith-based resources should be made available to all employees on an optional basis, recognizing that some may choose not to utilize them.
If the choice is made to offer overtly Biblical marriage or parenting resources and some employees are uncomfortable with the faith perspective, a faithful leader should prayerfully consider offering secular alternatives. “Fortify Family” is about creating a culture that values and supports healthy marriages, healthy parenting and healthy families for all employees.
An organization must use great caution before implementing a “Fortify Family” practice in a way that excludes certain employees (e.g., providing marriage benefits only to employees in heterosexual marriages or denying parenting benefits to a same-sex couple). Whether or not such an implementation is legally defensible, we believe it is not advisable (and certainly shouldn’t be done without advice from legal counsel and much prayer).
We are suggesting “Fortify Family” as a way to Humanize and Beautify by reinforcing a culture of care and compassion, recognizing Imago Dei and love your neighbor, by supporting employee families–not as a way to make a moral or political statement. WHY matters. Excluding certain employees from those practices is neither caring nor compassionate. An employee in a committed relationship is healthier if that relationship is healthy. Children need healthy parenting regardless of their family situation. Children benefit from quality family time regardless of the makeup of their family. Withholding the benefits will only alienate the employee (and potentially other employees), deprive their children and undermine the WHY of “Fortify Family”.
If a marriage, parenting or family time benefit is offered, we believe it should be offered without distinction or exclusion. If a faithful leader is uncomfortable offering the benefit to some people because of sincerely held religious beliefs, we suggest simply not offering that benefit. Again, we believe excluding employees from a benefit based on a Biblical belief is very different from offering a Biblically-based benefit available to all employees, even if some may choose not to avail themselves of the benefit.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): Having spent 23 years of my legal career in “BigLaw”—a large Wall Street law firm–I know all too well how work can become all-consuming. Having almost lost my marriage and family due to prioritizing work over family, “Fortify Family” is an Integrity Idea near and dear to my heart.
If you had asked me in 2003 what my priorities were in life, I would have told you:
- Work (because I grew up believing that if you were a good provider, then you were, by definition a good husband and father).
- Children (wouldn’t my wife want this to be next?)
- Spouse (if anything was left)
- God (in theory, at least, but it was certainly somewhere down on the list).
What I learned (the hard way) was that my priorities were literally upside-down. They needed to be:
- God (He wants me to excel in the other areas)
- Spouse (healthier together, we are better for our children)
One thing I realized is that people involved “in ministry” (using this in the traditional and narrow sense of church and non-profit work rather than the accurate sense of all work) often confuse “Work” with “God” in the heirarchy because they see themselves as “doing God’s work”. All work should be seen as “God’s work” aimed at glorifying God, but that does not jump it up the priority list ahead of family into the category of “God”. I think this confusion has hurt many, many spouses and children of people “in ministry”.
God miraculously restored our marriage, but that is a much longer story that you can read about in the book Miracles by Eric Metaxas. For those interested, here is a link to a PDF of the chapter called “God and Marriage”.