Tag Archives: flexibility

Whose career suffers when childcare emergencies arise? Usually the mother

 

 

Last week, I sat in an office waiting to be called in for an annual parent teacher conference and checking my watch. My son is doing well in school so the conference was called purely for administrators to check off boxes. The longer I sat, the more anxious I felt about the work I should be finishing and the deadlines approaching.

I pictured my husband in his office, being productive, and I stewed.

Over our years of raising children, as child care needs have cropped up, my husband and I have negotiated who would handle them. The negotiations often turn into arguments over who has more on their plate, more flexibility at work, and inevitably, whose salary is more critical to our household income.

More often, the negotiations (arguments) end when I agree to “take one for the team.” Some days, I resent it.

My working mother friends in households with two employed parents tell me they, too, struggle with sharing family responsibilities 50-50. A teacher friend told me she has used up her allotted days off staying home with her sick son who has been battling bronchitis off and on almost the entire school year. Her husband claims his boss will dock him pay if he misses a day of work. She’s worried she is about to lose her position as grade leader. Being there for a child and living up to the demands of bosses and clients is no easy feat for a mom or dad. Although men are taking on more childcare responsibility, women still “take one for the team” more often.

Lately, I’ve been surprised at how much this inequality bothers men in supervisory roles.  A male friend who manages a radio station recently complained about a mother on his staff who has had to leave early several times in the last few weeks to handle childcare emergencies. “Why doesn’t her husband take a turn?” he asked me. “Yeah, why doesn’t he?” I responded, wondering if this situation would make my friend any more likely to pitch in with childcare emergencies in his household.

Unfortunately, when mothers take time off to handle childcare needs too frequently, they are viewed as uncommitted to their jobs or not serious about their careers. It is the reason more mothers are looking carefully at flexibility in our workplaces and resources our employers provide such as paid sick leave.

So, I’m wonder what your thoughts are on taking one for the team. Is this something you argue about with your significant other? How do you think who handles childcare needs should be decided? Do you take one for the team more often than your spouse and end up resenting it?

How to negotiate workplace flexibility

After having two kids a year apart, I realized at that time in my career, I could not survive motherhood and news deadlines unless I negotiated flexibility. I asked for a four day work week. For me, the key to getting that schedule and finding some work life balance was the fact that I had proved myself and I was able to tell my boss exactly what he would gain by giving me flexibility. 

Today, my guest blogger, Tonya Lain, Regional Vice President at Adecco, the world's largest staffing firm, provides great advice for anyone who want to negotiate flexibility. Although Lain targets moms who want flexible schedules, there are dads out there who want them too. Her advice is useful to all.

 

Tonya
 

It seems a day doesn’t go by without reading or hearing about whether it’s possible for working mothers to “have it all” successfully, advance and balance their careers with their responsibilities to their children. Given today’s economy and cost of living, a family with two working parents is the norm, and in many cases an absolute necessity. A Pew Research poll shows that though the gap between the number of hours moms and dads spend with their kids and doing house chores has grown smaller in recent decades, women still spend more time than their spouses tending to the kids and home. This leaves mothers often feeling as though they are expected to be in two places at once.

 

A lot of this stress can be alleviated by pursuing a flexible work schedule – something 13 million Americans are doing. Stanford University conducted a study to debunk any misconceptions associated with the productivity, revealing that those working from home “were noticeably more productive, spending 9 percent more time on calls and handling 4 percent more calls per minute.” Even so, many of us aren’t prepared to have that conversation with our supervisors. Here are some ways to best make a case for a flexible working arrangement:

 

  • Do your research. Your company may already have guidelines about flexible working arrangements in the employee handbook. You may also want to consult with other moms in the company who have successfully negotiated a more flexible work schedule. This will allow you to develop a proposal based on what’s been done and what’s possible.

 

  • Determine what works for everyone. Really think about what arrangement would produce the best results for you and your employer—whether working from home three days a week or coming in later in the morning, allowing you to send your kids off to school. Consider how your employer will benefit as well. Will you be less preoccupied with how your children are being cared for? Will you gain two extra hours a day for working that you would normally spend commuting? Emphasize how this will produce results that will please everyone.

 

  • Establish quality control. Approach your employer with your research and a clear proposal on what your ideal flexible arrangement will be. This gives your supervisor a starting point to react to.  In the proposal, include recommended check-points to ease any doubts they may have on your performance. Suggest implementing frequent performance evaluations and communications standards, such as joining meetings electronically or establishing the expectations for responsiveness while you’re working from home. Emphasize a feedback system so concerns are communicated and rectified quickly. You may also want to suggest a trial run where both parties test the flexible working schedule for a month to three-month period before committing to anything long term.

 

Women today must take pride in all they have accomplished as far as their career and in their role as Mom. Carefully planning a conversation about work flexibility with an employer can help women gain the flexibility they need to make their lives less stressful and more productive.  

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Older men will make workplace flexibility and work life balance a reality

 

Thank you Sheryl Sandberg. Thank you Anne Marie Slaughter. You have brought the conversation of work life balance back into public discussion. But let's face it women, for all our years of talking about work life balance, flexibility and having it all, we really haven't made any huge progress.

I think that soon will change.

I think it will change because older men will make it happen. 

Just the other day, I was talking to Miami law partner in his late 60s who excitedly was telling me all about the summer home he was building in the mountains. I asked him whether he was going to take the summer off work. "Oh no," he said, "I'll just bring my laptop, my cell phone and I'll work from my cabin." This came just days after another senior partner told me he wasn't retiring but instead scaling back his schedule to work from home in the mornings.

Historically, men have been excluded overtly and subtly from the work life conversation. Tanvi Gautam,  managing partner at Global People Tree wrote this for Forbes.com: "The assumption remains that “real” men (single or married) don’t need/want work-life integration. They work long, hard hours and miss meals with family, skip social events, so they can rise to the top of the corporate ladder, if need be at the expense of all else."

For the last decade, women and Millennials have struggled to get organizations to realize that flexibility is needed. Yet, male boomers — the ones who have resisted giving flexibility to others — are going to be the ones who make it happen. For them, it's about to get personal.

They are law firm founders, senior executives and chairmen of the boards. But as they age, they still will want their name on the masthead and to share their expertise. They just won't want the 10 to 12 hour days anymore. They will seek the ability to work from home a few days a week or from a vacation home. They will want to pull back from the extreme schedules they worked in the past, and make a gradual transition into retirement, even managing to get organizations to lift or delay mandatory retirement age.

Currently, just 13 percent of Americans are ages 65 and older. By 2030, 18 percent of the nation will be at least that age, according to Pew Research Center projections. The typical Boomer believes that old age doesn’t begin until 72, and the majority of Boomers report feeling more spry than their age would imply.

These senior male leaders will push for flexibility for their own personal use and they will get it because they have the clout and connections that women and younger workers lacked. And when the policies change to accommodate them, the women and Millennials will benefit, too. And that's how and when the workplace and policies will evolve.

For now, the rest of us just need to do our best to make our work and life fit together, and then "lean in" and wait for change to happen. It will happen. I see it on the horizon.

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Do collaboration and flexibility go together?

Think about the last Pixar film you watched. Pretty creative, wasn't it?

Such creativity usually comes from collaboration and that usually comes from face to face interaction.That's collaboration is kind of hard to do if you work from a home office.

At the same time, workers like me want work life balance and the ability to work remotely at least on ocassion. So the question is…. Can companies be innovative and still allow remote working? Is there a middle ground that gives employees flexibility in their schedules and work place but also gives employers the critical mass at the office that's needed for ongoing collaboration?

One business owner told me this is a major challenges he faces as a leader and motivator. Now that Best Buy has followed Yahoo's lead in banning telecommuting, the topic is sure to heat up. What are your thoughts on whether flexibility and collaboration are compatible?

 

WORK/LIFE BALANCING ACT

Face time vs. flexibility: Do employees need both?

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
  This Feb. 20, 2013 file image released by NBC shows Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer appearing on NBC News' "Today" show, in New York to introduce the website's redesign.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (Peter Kramer / AP)

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

balancegal@gmail.com

Years ago, on the legal beat at The Miami Herald, I often collaborated with other reporters and editors in the newsroom who weighed in on my story ideas and worked side by side to move a project in a bigger, better direction. Now that I work at home, I miss the back-and-forth banter than can lead to ramped up creativity. and I can understand why companies are taking strong measures to step up collaboration.

Today, the buzz word in business is collaboration, the 21st century driver of innovation and the inspiration behind corporate decision making. The focus on collaboration has led Burger King to take down the walls between its cubicles. It triggered Yahoo’s announcement last week to bring remote workers back to the office. And in October, Apple even attributed executive management changes to a need to encourage more collaboration between the company’s hardware, software and services teams.

This intensified push for face-to-face interaction and information sharing comes at a time when workers are pushing for flexibility, begging the question: Can a collaborative culture be created without impeding work/life balance?

In a bold move last week, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer argued in a memo banning remote working that collaboration happens when people are working side-by-side. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with physically being together."

The backlash against Mayer’s banning of telecommuting work was swift and angry. Telecommuting and work/life advocates worried aloud that Mayer was attempting to reverse flexible workplace advances. Outspoken CEO Richard Branson called her decision “a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.”

But can anyone really argue that Mayer is wrong to feel that there is value in the conversations that arise when people are physically together in a room? There’s a reason that Google has configured its offices with a lunch room extraordinaire. It’s to keep people on campus and working together.

Most workplace experts believe the best practices in collaboration strike a happy medium — allowing workers to come to the office some of the time but also manage their own schedules.

Prerna Gupta, chief product officer at Smule, a music app developer, has come up with her ideal solution, which she recently explained in the New York Times. She believes employees should have the flexibility and proper tools to work when and where they want but that the office should remain a gathering place to communicate ideas. After Smule bought her company, Khush, she pushed for the same schedule she had previously instituted; employees come to the office three days a week for five hours, starting at noon, allowing for collaboration. The rest of the week they work from wherever they want.

Attorney Ronald Kammer, who manages the Miami office of law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, says employers have no choice but to find middle ground if they want to keep top talent. “Banning flexibility could lead to losing brain power.”

In law, Kammer has found firms have to be nimble to keep their talented attorneys and most allow myriad flexible arrangements — including working on occasion from vacation homes. Firms also must adopt the right technology to work with legal teams spread across the country. “Clients want the best legal minds working together,” he says. “They don’t care if they’re doing that from the same office or remotely.”

Most companies, though, are struggling to find a structure that satisfies the needs of employers and employees. Corporate futurist Christian Crews, principal of AndSpace Consulting in Fairfield, Ct., says companies with the greatest competitive advantage are “managing the tension between getting engagement from employees who can make their own hours with the tension of getting critical mass in a building to create innovative new approaches to business.”

Crews says requiring employees to work from the office isn’t enough; Collaboration takes management that is forward-thinking and open to embracing technology that facilities brainstorming, along with office configuration that encourages serendipitous run ins. “It’s about taking it beyond Post-it notes on a wall or huddling around a white board.“ Futurists, studying how to encourage and improve face to face collaboration, are looking at new tools for running meetings, he says.

At the same time, experts are studying how to get more from virtual collaboration. Citrix, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, has developed technologies that allow workers to hold virtual meetings, share documents and join together in online work rooms. Now, the company is creating platforms to enter virtual conference rooms where you can actually see who is in them before deciding to enter.

Brett Caine, senior vice president and general manager of the Online Services Division of Citrix, says he sees the benefit of face-to-face meetings, but the advanced technology to allow online collaboration has made the experience richer. “With HD video, it’s as if you are sitting around a conference table sharing content and looking at the emotional reactions.” However, he says, “you have to want to cooperate this way.”

At Citrix, 86 percent of employees work remotely at least some of the time during the week. Teams are spread across the globe and have webcams on their computers. It is an expectation that a colleagues are working from somewhere other than the office. And, it’s a model that works, which is why Citrix is continually improving technology around online collaboration, Caine says. “We believe that notion that being in office is rule right now, but increasingly in the future it will be the exception.”

For now, at least, group meetings are sometimes irreplaceable. A few weeks ago, Miami PR firm owner Tadd Schwartz called his staff together for an impromptu brainstorming session. About a dozen account executives sat in a circle on the floor and couch tossing out ideas for how to tie Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign into more business for its grocery chain client. One suggestion met with giggles, but within seconds a colleague came up with an alternative.

“That back-and-forth banter, that’s where collaboration comes into play,” Schwartz says.

Finding the right balance is one of his biggest challenges, Schwartz says. “Offering employees the option to work from home from time-to-time is something we do, but I know for a fact we work better and are more creative as a unit in the office where we are interacting.”

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Storms test workplace flexibility

The minute I heard that South Florida schools were closed on Monday, my kids cheered and I groaned. If I listened hard enough, I could hear other working parents groan, too. Up north, parents have to contend with snow days. Here we have to deal with storm days. Regardless, all of us have to contend with bosses who may or may not understand the predicament parents face when kids are off school and we are expected to come to work. To me, that's when companies who call themselves family-friendly are put to the test. Talking to crazed parents on Monday inspired me to write the article below: 

 

The Miami Herald

Storms, school closings provide ultimate workplace flexibility test

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
balancegal@gmail.com

 
Daniella Aronsky, left, 9, takes more folders from her mom, Emira, who works at the office, while her sister, Sofia, center, 7, and cousin, Shayna Soffer, right, keep inserting papers into brochures, at the Soffer Health Institute in Aventura. With school being closed, from Isaac, the office finds duties to keep the kids busy and helping out.
 
As Floridians set out frantically buying storm supplies this past weekend, one announcement created almost as much panic as the threat of high winds: public schools would close on Monday.

For working parents, the news triggered a mad scramble for child-care solutions, particularly when most businesses chose to stay open. Trapped, some parents were forced to take a vacation or sick day, others showed up at work with kids in tow, while the desperate begged relatives or babysitters to step in at the last minute.

Across the country, hundreds of companies boast of being family-friendly workplaces. But to me, days like Monday speak volumes about the reality of that label. For parents, it’s not only how our employers react to our need for accommodation during weather related events; it’s also how well they’ve planned for it.

As news of Tropical Storm Isaac circulated, top managers at C3/CustomerContactChannels in Plantation held meetings to prepare for various scenarios. Supervisors were told to allow employees to work from home when possible and encourage staff to download documents to their laptop hard drives to be able to work on them even without an Internet connection. Even more, the company, which operates call centers around the world, began brainstorming ways that hourly workers could make up time off for weather-related office closures.

On Monday, when downpours flooded the streets, Alicia Laszewski, vice president of communications at C3, asked to work from home. Pregnant, Laszewski says she felt uncomfortable making the commute to the office and had two young children out of school. She got the green light to work from home. “It builds loyalty that they have respect for me and my health and my family,” Laszewski said.

Read more….

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act