Monday, September 27, 2010

Flexibility on Wall Street?

As a former finance professional who switched careers because of it's innate lack of flexibility (e.g. tied to the trading desk during market hours, 60+ hour work weeks, etc.) I was floored by the profile on Briargate Trading, a Wall Street trading firm with uber-flexible hours and scheduling.

The Wall Street Journal profiled the firm and it's culture- working very hard during trading hours but allowing flexibility for things ranging from lunch with children to playing golf and even suntanning on the building's roof- demonstrated that although it might limit the potential upside they have high retention of the best and brightest traders in the business. A recipe for long-term success.

Although this article evokes images of hot shot traders slinking off after the close to hit golf balls, the essential argument is the same for working parents: there is an economic value to flexibility. Companies faced with tight budgets are stiff hiring needs for top talent need to consider this option.

We're seeing this work every day, from the 8a government consulting firm that steals away Big 5 talent by offering 1 day per week telecommuting to the virtual law firm that snags Top 20 law school talent away from AM Law 100 firms by offering a 30 hours work week, smart companies are luring the best talent with flexibility and fair pay.

It's nice to see a tiny glimmer of positive news out of Wall Street.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Rise of the Village

I read an interesting piece in Sunday's New York Times today (yes, it takes me all week to get through Sunday's Times), A Commune Grows in Brooklyn. In the article, Jed Lipinski details all of the collaborative living arrangements cropping up in "DIY Brooklyn." Long the stomping ground of hipsters, the "breeders" are now forming home school cooperatives, growing public roof top gardens and even collectively running bike shops. Driven by the economic realities of the Great Recession, the grandchildren of the Depression are living the "many hands make light work" mantra.

In my own decidedly less trendy neighborhood, the 3 other families of 5 at my bus stop have formed a weeknight meal swap. Each night, Monday through Thursday, one of us cooks for 20 and we hand off meals at the 4pm bus stop. 3 of the 4 moms work outside the home (albeit with flexible schedules) and the 4th has 2 under 2 at home and works harder than the other 3 of us combined, so this was not about being hipper-than-thou, healthier meal prep or cost savings, but more about the logistics of getting dinner on the table at 5:30 when dance class is at 6 and Dad isn't home till 7 (thank you DC rush hour.) Cook one night (or the night before, my average time commitment is around 90 minutes) and the rest of the nights hot dinner is delivered. Fridays is leftover buffet night, and if we've had a particularly ravenous week, pizza delivery. Brilliant.

We've had all sorts of delicious food outside of my normal weeknight repertoire and I haven't heard a single "roast chicken....again?" out of my brood. We're swapping gladware and pyrex, family recipes and generally collectively lightening the load.

I'd love to hear from our readers on how other folks are working together to make working families work. Is it a MS Excel-worthy carpooling spreadsheet? Farmshare pick up split? What's working and where could you use more help? Because there's no reason we should do this alone.