Im not one who often fumbles for words. Im also not the type to break down in tears at work. One day, however, I found myself doing both. It was the day I told my boss I was going to become a mother.
Learning that youre about to become a parent is a wondrous, emotional experience in and of itself. But worrying, even briefly, about how that news is going to be received by your employer especially if you want to spend time at home with your new one while continuing to advance your career can bring feelings of guilt and fear into the mix.
Im lucky. SBN understands the importance of balancing work and family life. A couple years ago, our CEO established a flex time option that lets employees whose jobs can be done outside the traditional 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. office hours set different schedules for themselves or telecommute a couple days each week with management approval, of course. This simple benefit costs virtually nothing to offer and has helped SBN keep some of its best employees.
Think about it: Forcing a worker to choose between work and family is ludicrous. It breeds animosity. Thats anything but productive. Employers who are more flexible who understand that productive work can, and actually does, take place beyond office walls and outside regular work hours not only wind up with more satisfied employees, but ones who are better focused at work. These employees appreciate being treated as adults and they repay that respect with loyalty.
I know Im working harder than ever to be sure my boss is satisfied with the amount of work Im producing from my home office, the quality of that work and the timeliness with which I complete it. I appreciate the privilege Ive been given to spend a few days each week at home with my baby daughter and I work some pretty long, strange hours to make sure neither she nor my job suffers due to this arrangement.
It appears to be working. In fact, Ive been surprised to learn that distractions at home are fewer and farther in-between than those encountered daily at my office. I can sit down at the computer and write, uninterrupted, for three or four hours at a time while my daughter naps. In the office, its rare that I can get a full hour in at the keyboard before an unexpected phone call, fax or package delivery interrupts my train of thought.
Staying on task when household distractions do arise, however, requires serious dedication and some creative thinking. For instance, the phone rings 10 times a day when Im home. Less than half are work-related calls. The rest are telemarketers or friends calling to check in on the baby. It took me a week to learn to route all co-worker and corporate calls through my cellular phone and to let our answering machine pick up the rest when Im working.
Modern technology is a beautiful thing. Its also making it possible for more employers to entertain the concept of flexible work arrangements. Thats not to say every job is as mobile as mine or capable of being done before or after typical office hours. But for those in your organization who are disciplined in what they do, whose skills are valued and who can get the bulk of their duties done with a computer, e-mail access and a cell phone, its certainly an option worth considering. Just ask my daughter.
Nancy Byron (email@example.com) is the editor of SBN Columbus.