As women, we are lucky to live in this decade, where flexibility is much more prevalent in corporate America than just 10 years before. Not to say that we don’t have a long way to go to help mothers balance work and family, but many companies are now offering ways to help.
Two wonderful initiatives in corporate America today include the opportunities for moms to telecommute and work flex time. We’re sure you’ve heard these words before, but what exactly are they? And how do you find these opportunities?
Telecommuting is the process of working from home, by means of telephone, internet, e-mail, and other modes of communication. With the recent invention and perfection in such technologies as the Internet, Blackberries, PDAs, cell phones, fax machines, and corporate intranet networking, telecommuting has become a relatively common reality in many companies.
Companies are realizing the benefits of telecommuting. Telecommuting reduces employee turnover, reduces costs (no office expense), and increases employee satisfaction. Many companies are willing to let you telecommute; if not permanently, at least temporarily. When a company offers this option to new moms, they are showing that they care for their employees.
The concept of flex time rejects the notion of the 5 day, 8am-5pm work week. This new idea takes into account that 8-5 doesn’t work for everyone. Some examples of flex time are a work week of Mon – Thurs 7am-5pm (no lunch) or Mon-Fri 6am-3pm. Flex time allows moms to maximize the time they have to spend with their babies during their babies’ awake time.
Many new moms are in need of flex time. For example, Heather had her baby boy in July and was back to work in September. She worked 8:30 to 5:30, so she was able to get her baby up in the morning and drop him off at daycare. By the time she picked him up and brought him home, it was after 6pm. He went to bed at 7. Heather got less than 2 hours with her baby a day during the work week, which is a tragedy.
Depressed and deflated, Heather decided she had to find another job. Then she heard of flex time. Her company did not have a flex time policy, so she wrote a proposal herself and presented it to her supervisor. She vowed to answer work related calls after hours on her cell phone, and made herself available for any late meetings that may have come up within reason. She was able to get a 7am-4pm schedule, and by that time her son was going to sleep at 8:30pm. That gave her over 4 quality hours with her son in the evenings. She was a much happier, much more productive employee, and practically kicked herself for not pushing for flex time in her son’s early months.
Now that you know what telecommuting and flex time is, how do you get it for yourself? Investigate your employer’s policies about these options. If they have no policy, write a proposal like Heather did, detailing what you want to do, how it will work, and what you will do to make sure that your work is done. Offer a trial period of three months or so. Most employers are very reasonable and will do what is necessary to keep you happy. If they reject your idea, it’s probably time to go looking for a new job anyway.