did you know?
Workers of all ages and ranks - even executives in Fortune 500 Companies - say they want more flexibility and would prefer it to a pay increase.
wise words we heard
The juiciest carrot to dangle for prospective employees is not cash; it's flexibility.
The building blocks of the custom-fit workplace are flexible work arrangements that allow employees to create a work-life fit while successfully meeting the needs of their employers. Alternative scheduling, flexible hours, compressed work weeks, reduced workload, part-time, job-sharing, and working virtually are some of the best known options.
You probably already know someone who takes advantage of such an option: a nurse who works four ten-hour shifts each week, an administrator who negotiated a 32-hour reduced schedule, or a salesperson who telecommutes. These common flexible work arrangements affect when, how, and where we work and are critical pieces of the custom-fit workplace.
Advice for Employers
Even small changes in an employee's schedule add up to large improvements in people's lives, such as letting a dad start work at 9 am instead of 8:30 so he can drop his child off at daycare.
Examine any rigid scheduling traditions. Don't let tradition block you from making changes that will make your workforce more able to manage the dual demands of job and life.
Work with your employees to determine schedules that work for them and the company. Seek win-win solutions.
Advice for Workers
When making a case for a flexible work arrangement, cite the business benefits of worker loyalty, decreased absenteeism, even improved health. (See Studies and Research)
Work with your employer to determine a flexibility strategy that works for both you and the company.
Honor your commitment. If your employer allows you to start work at 9am instead of 8:30, don't push your time out to 9:05 or 9:15 without making prior arrangements. If you work from home one day each week, make sure that day is productive.
Real Nurturing Leave
When my partner and I were graced with the news that we were expecting our first child, I was in my fifth year of service as an assistant professor in a research university. Tenure reviews are generally scheduled for the sixth year of service. Thus, in the academic profession, this is the crucial time when a scholar is expected to “publish or perish.” Usually connoting lifetime job security and academic freedom, tenure is one of the great blessings a college or university can award a professor. Conversely, however, being denied tenure (and thus losing one’s job) can act as a major setback to a life and career.
I like to believe that I have a clear sense of my priorities. No scholarly or professional accomplishment could ever compare to the joy or responsibility that comes with bringing a child into the world and raising him or her. Fortunately, however, I did not have to choose between family and career. While I still had critical work to do on a book that I had toiled on in various guises for a decade, I took advantage of my university’s parental leave option. As such, I was allowed a one-semester leave from teaching, a break that spanned the last trimester of my partner’s maternity and the first two months following my daughter’s birth.
Such forms of leave are a relatively new phenomenon, especially for men and parents of adopted children, and they are far from universal among employers. They provide an important measure to stabilize careers and aid families. And sadly, many academic women find there is still a stigma attached to “maternity leave.” Women professors who take parental leave may be viewed—even by ostensibly feminist peers—as lacking dedication to their scholarship, professionalism, or their academic colleagues. I wish it didn’t have to be so, but men exercising their rights to parental leave may help to normalize and standardize the concept of parental leave across gendered boundaries.
Parental leave undoubtedly helped me to keep my career on track. I managed to finish my book and get tenure. I certainly want to recognize the significance of economic and career stability to protecting families and children.
However, what truly stands out for me are the added benefits my parental leave afforded. While I conduct research as part of my job, parental leave gave me the time and space to research the maternity process while becoming an active participant in it. My partner and I started largely from a position of ignorance and fear. We wanted expert doctors in a “highly-ranked” university-run hospital to get the labor and birth over and done with as quickly as possible, using whatever advanced technology they had at their disposal.
We learned, however, that in most cases, the safest, easiest, and healthiest option for mother and baby is natural childbirth. During my partner’s sixth month, we enrolled in a wonderful natural childbirth class and found a certified nurse midwife with access to a great alternative birthing center. As a result, my partner had a smooth and drug-free labor with less than an hour of pushing in a room furnished more like a hotel than a hospital. I had the great fortune to be right there—literally acting like a firm pillow propping up my partner’s back—and involved at every step. After birth, my education shifted to subjects such as lactation, cloth diapering, and attachment-parenting vs. Ferberizing.
As the father of a healthy, creative, and spunky seven year-old, reflecting on those precious times reminds of how intense and irreplaceable those fleeting moments are. They help us to discover and experience the full range of our humanity.