Archive: Flexibility

The U.S.: A Balance Laggard, No Matter How You Cut It

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The family-leave policies of the United States are generally the stock evidence used to demonstrate that we remain hopelessly behind the rest of the developed world in work-life policies, but thinking only about paid leave is actually a pretty crude yardstick to measure whether the federal government is really committed to policies that make work-life balance a reality. So, I'm grateful to the Institute for Women's Policy Research and the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California-Hastings, which last month pushed out a report (PDF) that compared the United States to 19 other countries on a whole bunch of other workplace flexibility metrics. The conclusions are no surprise: The United States is a laggard no matter how you look at things. The survey found 17 of 20 countries have laws on the books governing alternative work arrangements for parents. We're one of the three...

 

By Brian Reid | June 3, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Playing Games with Balance

By Rebeldad Brian Reid About a week ago, I stumbled on a simple yet extraordinary autobiographical video game called Gravitation. It's the brainchild of a guy named Jason Rohrer, and it chronicles -- if that's the right word -- his efforts to achieve balance. The gameplay, elegant as it is, almost defies expectation. Essentially, you have the choice to play ball with your child (modeled in the game after Jason's son Mez) or do "work" by collecting stars. But each decision about work or family affects the way the game progresses. Start to finish, the experience takes only 8 minutes, and it's probably best to experience the freeware game (if you can get away with it today) before reading about it. I caught up with Jason to talk through how the game came into being and how it reflects his day-to-day reality: Most people tend to think of work and...

 

By Brian Reid | March 13, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (12)

Balance and the Presidential Race

The 2007 elections are now over, which means you'll again be able to watch TV without seeing ads for candidates you've never heard of before. Instead, we can start thinking about the first Tuesday of next November, when the presidential candidates will most certainly clog up airwaves far worse than any would-be Virginia senators could....

 

By Brian Reid | November 8, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Is the Car the New Dining Room?

I've heard it a million times: Part of raising kids right is eating dinner together as a family every night. In our family, our three kids eat dinner together around 5 p.m.; my husband and I cherish our 9 p.m. dinners together once we've put the kids to bed. So, I've wondered every time I heard the "family dinner" advice: How come I don't feel like we're missing out? And then I figured it out. In our family, our minivan is our dining table. The place where we talk about our day. Squabble. Report test scores. Give the blow-by-blow on whose best friend is no longer her best friend and why. We spend at least an hour a day in the car together. It's our family time. Some might think this pathetic, or clear evidence of the decline in American family values. Not me. I'm just relieved to have discovered...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 24, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (100)

Labor Department on FMLA: We Hear You

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Back in December, I posted that the Department of Labor had pushed out a Request for Information on the Family and Medical Leave Act. At the time, I was concerned. Gutting of FMLA has been a growing priority for the business community, and this administration does not have a reputation for being particularly amenable to regulating the workplace. Apparently, more than a few of you took the opportunity to tell the government how FMLA had worked for you. To those who took the time: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. The Department of Labor ended up sifting through more than 15,000 comments (or what DOL dryly noted was "a very heavy public response") using those comments as a basis for a just-released 181-page report that solely summarizes the general sentiment of the thousands of comments. At first glance, the news is good: ... indeed, the overwhelming...

 

By Brian Reid | July 5, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (319)

Working for the Work-Obsessed

By Rebeldad Brian Reid My old CEO, Mike Bloomberg, made the papers the other day. Actually, he makes the papers pretty much every day now, what with the whole presidential non-candidate thing and the trans fat thing and the global warming thing. But what caught my eye was that he made the Wall Street Journal for talking about his work-life balance. Or the lack thereof. The key to success, Bloomberg told graduates of City University of New York's College of Staten Island, is something that sounds a lot like workaholism: If you're the first one in in the morning and the last one to leave at night and you take fewer vacation days and never take a sick day, you will do better than the people who don't do that. It is very simple. And he joshingly admitted that the parenting thing wasn't his bag. I've managed to raise two...

 

By Brian Reid | June 28, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Can You Make the 4-Hour Workweek a Reality?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid My secret vice is reading about productivity, so much so that whatever gains in efficiency I've seen are probably swamped by the sheer amount of time spent thinking about efficiency. So, I just couldn't resist the hype around the current hot productivity tome, The 4-Hour Workweek, which posits that anyone can work extremely short weeks while scooting around the globe. From what I can tell, the book is aimed at a rather narrow subset of people who have jobs that can be done from anywhere, who don't need to be immediately available to anyone at work, and who have limited personal obligations (like, say, family). Still, there appears to be plenty of food for thought, including this step-by-step plan for working from the road. The plan, essentially, involves coming up with an excuse to be out of the office for a couple weeks but volunteering to...

 

By Brian Reid | May 17, 2007; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Part-Time Perils

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I'm closing in on kind of a weird anniversary: Next month will mark five years from the time I walked away from the full-time workforce into the wild world of part-time work, part-time-at-home-fatherhood and full-time angst. I've since rejoined the professional rat race, but you've probably noticed that I still spend a lot of time writing about the magic of part-time work. I'm not the only one -- this blog is full of tales of do-it-all parents whose work arrangements make it possible to get some sort of rudimentary balance between work and family (Tuesday's wonderful guest blog on equal parenting is only the most recent example). As I think back over my days as a part-timer, I'm realizing that it was no picnic. And though I don't have a moment's regret about my arrangement, no one ever warned me about any drawbacks. So, in the...

 

By Brian Reid | February 22, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (62)

Telecommuting Meet Career Advancement

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Telecommuting took a hit a couple of weeks ago. A survey of executives conducted by Korn/Ferry found that 61 percent of execs believe that telecommuters will damage their career prospects by working from home. But that's not the weird part. Those same executives believed overwhelmingly (78 percent) that telecommuters are at least as effective -- if not more so -- than their in-office colleagues. I've argued here before that telecommuting, for the huge swaths of the workforce for which it is practical, is enormously beneficial. It gives employees the option of working where they work best, it eliminates time-sucking commutes, it can aid in work-life balance, it reduces the expense of office space and so on. And while I have no desire to belittle the importance of face-to-face contact in corporate culture, let me be honest: the pleasure of discussing "The Office" at the office is...

 

By Brian Reid | February 1, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (263)

Family Leave: Back on Congress' Radar?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The United States is so backwards when it comes to family leave that I am prepared to celebrate any successes. The fact that our world-lagging Family and Medical Leave Act hasn't yet been gutted is, in a certain twisted way, good news, and this month has brought additional reasons for optimism. As Stephen Barr noted a couple of weeks ago, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), champion of the federal employee (and of the tortured, not-quite-right Internet-related metaphor), is pushing for a bill that would give federal employees paid leave -- eight weeks for moms, five days for dads. There are a whole bunch of reasons why this is hardly the ideal policy or the ideal time to push it. Naturally, I would have been a lot happier if Stevens had introduced the bill a decade ago, when his party was in power, a Dem was in the...

 

By Brian Reid | January 25, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (292)

Best Buy Goes 100% Flextime

If anything could persuade me to move back to Minnesota, this might be it. Business Week reports in Smashing the Clock that the nation's leading electronics retailer, Best Buy, is expanding a successful experiment to give ALL employees at its corporate office 100 percent flexibility and the company plans to roll out the clock-free world to its retail stores. So far, productivity of employees living the new work environment has risen about 35 percent. The Minneapolis-based company calls the move ROWE, for "results-only work environment." The policy -- the brainchild of two HR people "seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours," reports Business Week. "Workers pulling into the company's amenity-packed headquarters at 2 p.m. aren't considered late. Nor are those pulling out at 2 p.m. seen as leaving early. There are...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 11, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (138)

Make Your Voice Heard on FMLA

By Rebeldad Brian Reid It was almost exactly five years ago that my parental leave ended and I prepared to go back to work. Thinking about saddling back up to my desk every day was not appealing. The bonding and 3 a.m. feedings and first smiles and desperate calls to the pediatrician changed me in a fundamental way. I couldn't go back to being the guy who put in 12-hour days at his desk and who traveled at the drop of a hat. I had more important things to attend to. If I were to pick, the decision to take family leave ranks up there as one of the single most life-altering choices I've ever made. And I still thank my lucky stars that I worked at a company with a generous policy and lived at a time when family leave was a protected right. Family leave is on my...

 

By Brian Reid | December 7, 2006; 07:12 AM ET | Comments (229)

The Government Is the Answer (Maybe)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid In the search for answers to questions of balance, I've spent a lot of time thinking about ways that employers can make life easier as well as plenty of ways that individuals can try to arrange things to their advantage. But I've pretty much given up on the government stepping in to help. The landmark law in the United States is the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was enacted in 1993 and guaranteed leave to (most) workers. But by international standards, the law was late in coming and weak. The U.S. is one of two OECD countries that still don't have paid maternity leave. (Australia is the other, and the lack of paid leave is a political issue there.) FMLA, meager as it is, has still come under attack from business interests, and advocates for strong leave remain vigilant. But there is hope, of sorts....

 

By Brian Reid | November 2, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Holiday Worth Taking Time For

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Of all of the ginned up holidays, next Tuesday is one of my favorites. It's Take Back Your Time Day, and if you haven't heard about it, it's probably because the folks at Hallmark haven't figured out how to make card for it yet. The underlying rationale is simple: We're working way too much and need some perspective. While the folks behind Take Back Your Time Day have a bunch of smart policy suggestions (more vacation, guaranteed sick time, paid family leave), that's not what sets them apart. What I really like is their call to step back and reflect on the craziness that is daily life: The main goal of TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY is to call attention to the problem and begin the public conversation about what to do about it. Some of the solutions will be personal, each in our own lives....

 

By Brian Reid | October 19, 2006; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Working Mother Top Companies

For the 21st year in a row, Working Mother magazine has come out with their issue listing the top 100 family-friendly companies in America. All of you looking to change jobs or step back into the workforce, take a look at the "Best Companies" in your area. Companies complete a 550 word application to be considered. Seven areas are measured and scored with the help of NetX, an independent survey research firm in Columbus, N.J.: workforce profile, compensation, child care, flexibility, time off and leaves, family-friendly programs and company culture. I was recently a guest on the public radio show The Intersection with Working Mother editor-in-chief Susan Riss, who explained that flexibility is the No. 1 issue for working moms. No argument here. "Most working moms just need a little flexibility to get into work a few minutes late or leave a few minutes early, or to stay home a...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 2, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Flexibility for Those In Less-Than-Flexible Positions

By Rebeldad Brian Reid My last couple of posts have focused on a minority of the workforce -- digital Bedouins such as myself whose job it is to sit behind a computer and think great thoughts. And a good number of readers, both in the comments and in e-mails to me, very politely noted that I have a pretty narrow-minded view of the work world and that the great majority of the country is tied to their job by something more than a Wi-Fi signal. I'm not purposely ignoring the nurses and dentists and teachers and baristas and law clerks and on and on. I just believe that the fight for flexibility needs to start somewhere, and what better place than those workers whose work life consists of staring at a flickering screen, something that can be done anywhere at any time? But asking about those who aren't solely computer-oriented...

 

By Brian Reid | September 21, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (237)

Get Flexible

By Rebeldad Brian Reid This should be a golden age of flexibility. Not only do most of us have the tools to do our jobs from anywhere, at any point in time, but today's modern "knowledge workers" also have enormously powerful technology that helps us do those jobs far faster than could have been imagined a decade or two ago. But it's not a golden age, and that appears to fly in the face of basic logic and economics. Post writer Shankar Vedantam had an interesting Labor Day piece that argued that the absolute inability of most companies and bosses to measure productivity is what keeps flexibility from really taking off. It's hard to figure out when a guy like me is really firing on all cylinders and making things happen. You can't measure the number of widgets I create every day/week/hour. And judging me on the quantity of my...

 

By Brian Reid | September 14, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Are Today's Dads Really Different?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, in the discussion over the super-silly Forbes piece, I let loose with one of my favorite points: today's dads "are much more interested in getting family and work time in the right proportions" than previous generations. But I was so busy scratching my head over the whole Forbes flap that I didn't get around to reading the study lying on my desk, "The Effect of Fatherhood on Men's Patterns of Employment." It's an interesting piece of work that pretty much contradicts my argument, coming to the conclusion that dads are working every bit as long as men without kids. There's only one problem: One of the two sources of data the researcher relies on is a survey of men born in 1958. And while guys born in '58 pioneered a lot of things -- disco, stagflation, the personal computer -- I don't think they're...

 

By Brian Reid | August 31, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (115)

Couric, Vargas, Us? We're No Different

Newscaster Elizabeth Vargas enjoyed brief poster-girl-for-working-moms status when she became the ABC World News Tonight co-anchor alongside Bob Woodruff (four children) earlier this year. Weeks into the limelight, Bob Woodruff was injured in Iraq; in January, Vargas announced she was pregant with her second child (she has a three-year-old son and two stepchildren). Along the way, the queen of TV working moms, Katie Couric (two children), decided to leave The Today Show (watch pieces of her last appearance this morning.) to anchor the CBS Evening News starting this fall. Note the good news: Most potential replacements for Katie's chair were working mothers -- Soledad O'Brien (four children), Natalie Morales (one child) and Ann Curry (two children). Meredith Vieira (three children), who was accused of abandoning her career when she left a coveted 60 Minutes job after her first child was born (see Divided Lives by Elsa Walsh for the back...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 31, 2006; 07:12 AM ET | Comments (80)

Mother's Day Chorus: Give Us Flexibility!

Along with the rosy-hued Mother's Day ads for flowers, chocolate and spa packages, Sunday's holiday prompted the media to fill up on Mother's Day editorials and high-profile public statements from reporters, politicians, and mothers about parents' and kids' needs. The most common theme -- hallelujah -- was the need for flexibility from employers. Some articles worth checking out: The San Francisco Chronicle profiles four working moms in the Bay Area who show that despite the hype, most moms are not "opting out" of the workforce. Instead, they're finding creative, flexible solutions to juggle kids and work. The four are Blair Christie, 34, vice president of investor relations at Cisco Systems, whose husband reduced his work hours to be at home in the afternoons with their daughters, ages 3 years and 8 months; NaNoshka Johnson, 43, who found that owning her own business gives her the flexibility to work from home...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 15, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Good Mom Meet Good Employee

A female marketing colleague who now runs a medium-sized business told me over lunch recently about a conversation with an administrative assistant that speaks volumes about an-all-too-common working mom fears. The assistant approached my friend to share her fear that her new boss, a man, might not support her flexible schedule. She explained that her nine-year-old daughter has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The only 35-minute window when the child's medication allows her to concentrate enough to do homework is between 4-4:30 p.m. Mom has to be there to help. "What time do you come in?" My friend asked. "Eight a.m." "What time do you need to leave to meet her bus?" "3:10 pm." "So, you're asking to leave 80 minutes early each day?" "Yes." My friend later told her that it would be fine for her to leave at 3:10 each day. It would take too long and cost too...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 2, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (113)

Find a High-Skilled Flex Job

Interesting, financially meaningful, flexible work: It's the Holy Grail for many working moms -- and dads. A lucky handful successfully negotiate part-time or flex-time work at our current companies. However, some companies are not so flexible. What do you do then? There have always been temp agencies for entry- and mid-level jobs -- a good option for many employees looking for flexibility. The latest trend seems to be connecting companies with high-level employees looking for part-time and project work (and I'm sure there are many more out there, so spread the word on the blog if you know of others). MomCorps: Specializes in high-level accounting, legal, marketing and IT services on a special project or contract basis. Offices in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Started in September 2005 by Allison Karl O'Kelly, a Harvard Business School graduate and certified public accountant, with the vision of matching companies looking for flexible staffing...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 27, 2006; 06:56 AM ET | Comments (24)

Putting Family First

I visited the dermatologist recently to get some petite, classically feminine warts frozen off my left big toe and to have my right big toenail biopsied for abnormal growths. There was an exceptionally kind nurse whom I didn't recognize. She told me funny stories to distract me until the painkillers took effect. "Are you new?" I inquired, my bare feet in the air. "Just a month working here." "How do you like it?" I asked, wondering how enjoyable wart removal and toenail biopsies could be. "Good so far. But I loved my old job working with morbidly obese patients. I left because I have a new baby. There was nothing wrong with the other assistants taking ten-minute cigarette breaks. But the surgeons gave me a hard time because I took ten-minute breaks to pump milk for the baby. I worked there five years. I had to quit. Here, Dr. S.,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 19, 2006; 08:40 AM ET | Comments (68)

Advice for Negotiating At Work

During my mom years, I've worked full-time, part-time and not at all. I am at my best when doing paid part-time work that gives me "enough" time with my three kids. I've negotiated rewarding, flexible management level positions at Johnson & Johnson and The Washington Post. I've also lost a few negotiations along the way. In this recent interview with Business Week, I shared what I've learned. What are your negotiating insights?...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 30, 2006; 04:00 AM ET | Comments (62)

 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company