b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: Work-Life Balance?



Work-Life Balance?

My friend told me an atrocious story. Actually, she told me a few of them, but I’m only going to share one of them with you right now.

My friend, we’ll call her Ms. Worksforwhat, is lucky enough to work for a company listed in Working Mother magazine as one of the Top 100 companies for working mothers. This company made this list because of all the benefits offered to working moms (duh). So, in a company where half of all employees flex their hours, 10% work from home, and many more take advantage of laptop computers, cell phones and BlackBerry wireless email devices – all provided by the company, I have to wonder why my friend has been left out in the cold.

Ms. Worksforwhat just returned to work from her maternity leave. Prior to her leave, she discussed the possibility of changing her hours a couple of times a week (“flexing” her hours) in order to pick her child up from day care. Her manager said, “Sure - we’ll work something out”.

HOWEVER, when she came back and asked about her flex hours, her manager dodged the issue and refused to give a direct answer. He told her something to the effect of, “I don’t remember this conversation… we’ll have to see”. And of course, she hadn’t sent an email to follow up when they had the original conversation.

As it turned out, Ms. Worksforwhat discovered that her manager was coming in early and leaving early. Hmmm, that’s odd (she thought). After a few days back at work, he finally told her that she was not allowed to alter her hours the few times a week she needed to (of course she’d still be adhering to a 40-hour work week). However, he was now going to be working the exact hours that she requested – 5 days a week. So, the excuse she got was, “due to departmental needs” she needed to be at the office. So much for accommodating the working moms. This manager by the way, has no other responsibilities awaiting him at home like a wife, kids, or pet (or anything else we’re aware of at the time of this posting). Is it really so necessary to keep her an extra half-hour 3 days a week instead letting her pick her baby up at day care? She now has to perform gymnastics in order to make sure her baby has coverage – all the while hearing how “understanding” and “flexible” her company is.

Come ON. If you’re going to have this kind of policy in place, it needs to be fair for all employees – not just some – or in this case, for someone who doesn’t truly need the flex time – someone who’s not a working parent.

I disagree with the sentiment here.

If only 1 person gets to have flex time in an office, who gets it should *not* be determined by who "needs" it. It should handed out fairly by merit, by the fact one person will leave if they don't have it, or some other objective criteria.

I'm glad you've got children, society needs them. Things like maternity leave facilitate the process. Some countries, like France, pay you for having kids. At a societal level, giving something to parents is worthwhile.

Because I have chosen to not have kids for 8 years doesn't mean I should have to sacrifice my work life balance so you can have a better one for the sole reason "I have children". That should not merit preferential treatment. If I willingly say, "I'm not using this flexibility, you can have it" that's one thing. But if there is some reason you can't have universal flextime, your position of "I have children, so I deserve the much better hours" doesn't fly with those of us who don't.
I sort of see Michael's point if there is say a limited number of flex positions open for sharing in a department. However, flex time is all about need, and it really has nothing to do with merit. A company has a person working for them who needs different hours, be it a knowledge worker who performs better under those conditions, or a mother (or father now a days) who needs to take care of her kids.

Still, any policy to limit flex time is arbitrary and absurd. Not only is the manager or company just being mean and uncaring, but it's hurting the bottom line. I doubt forcing this woman to run around and manage such an awkward schedule is really improving or maintaining her performance level any. Plus, again, it's just out right mean and uncaring.
While I think that my friend's boss should also have the option of flexing his time (regardless of family status) as Michael suggests, I think it's slimy that he did so at her expense. Clearly this is what happened.

As mynameismatt said, this does not benefit her or the company to stress her out to the point where she needs to do gymnastics to take care of her baby and be able to perform at optimal levels at work. The thing that really gets me (and her) is that she works at a company touted as one of the best for working moms (and dads for that matter). That was my main point. She's been at the company for 8 years... you'd think at this stage of the game they'd work a little more with her than against her.
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