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January 26, 2006
Why Work Works
Working Mother magazine is currently calling for entries for its’ 100 Best Companies list. This annual exercise is “intended to promote the interests of working moms in corporate America by recognizing companies that successfully help employees balance the demands of work and home life.” But as a ten-year veteran employee of one of the companies on that list (McGraw-Hill Cos., which owns BusinessWeek, was a 2005 winner), I can tell you how the magazine has managed to help me successfully balance my work/home life.
First, a brief synopsis of a few work/life situations that BusinessWeek has been through together with me:
** Two pregnancies within 18 months
** Two six-month maternity leaves
** The diagnosis and ongoing treatment for health issues of each of my two sons
** A nanny horror story in which we discovered our babysitter of three years had stolen $25,000 worth of jewelry to support her cocaine habit (that’s a separate blog topic in itself)
** A three-month family leave following the theft to emotionally support my children, who were devastated when their nanny suddenly disappeared
** Attending to the ailing health of my father, who lives on the other side of the country
Through out all of these “life issues,” work has been the least stressful component of the equation. I’ve thought a lot about why and I’ve created a list of what has made my work/life balance work so well:
1.Talk about home. Chat about your kids at the office. Share their artwork, their triumphs and tribulations. When serious issues arise, speak openly and honestly with your superiors about what is happening at home. That way, you can work together to come up with creative solutions to meet your responsibilities in the office.
2.Humanize your managers. Most likely they are parents too. Be genuinely interested in their family if you expect them to identify or be sympathetic to yours.
3. Respect your job. Understand that your managers have responsibilities they must meet and that you’re an integral part of that plan. Make sure you inquire what kind of deadlines they have and how you can help. It will go a long way to being able to get the type of flexibility you need to create a healthy work/life balance.
What has worked for you in your workplace? Any additional tips you can give me or our readers?
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As usual, you've got great insights on working parents. I think the other part of the story needs to be told, too. And that is how small business, not just the giant corporations, can often offer the flexibility, support and understanding to working parents that mega-corporations frequently cannot.
As a small business owner myself, with a staff of 14, I've been able to attract star performers from leading Wall Street firms by providing them a rhythm of life that works for them. And interestingly, it is not just the moms that want this level of flexibility and choice about their working lives, it's the dads too.
While we all focus on the sacrafices working mothers make, I've seen how hard it is for some working fathers (even that phrase sounds odd - we usually just say fathers, assuming they're all working) to climb aboard one more flight, miss one more soccer game and feel like a heel for appearing to put their career ahead of time with the kids.
Kudos to the megas that have figured it out. But remember to recognize the small businesses that may be a better answer for many working parents.
Posted by: Lois Scott at February 4, 2006 06:27 AM