Monday, November 15, 2010

Taming the Holiday Mayhem

I love being organized, always have. This year I hit a new PR (personal record for you non-runners) in holiday organization: Holiday cards ordered and received by November 1st and holiday shopping completed by November 15th. Recounting this story to a friend, it occurred to me, living in the present requires one helluva lot of advanced planning.

This year I aim to spend more time snuggling on the couch with my boys watching cheesy holiday movies and hitting some of our favorite DC-area holiday sites and less time at the Target check-out counter. In order to get this done, I had to tame the holiday madness by:
  • Reducing the list: With every cute shot on Facebook, the need to send photos to every person I've ever known is, as they say in the military, OBE (Overcome By Events). Cut the list, write long notes to far flung family members and friends.
  • Keeping it to the Kids: Rather than swapping $50 gift cards with adult family members, we're focusing on the kids. They're much more fun to shop for anyway!
  • Giving experiences: Instead of adding another Barbie to a friend's girls' collection, we're meeting up for a holiday display at the U.S. Botanical Gardens. Free, much more fun and guaranteed to be remembered by all.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Flexibility in Small Businesses

I read a great blog today on about two small business owners and what they're doing to accommodate flexibility polices and to promote a positive work-life balance among their employees. Yes, even in this market.

The owners of Kerbey Lane Doll Shoppe and Business Access, a retail doll store and technology company respectively, have found the secret to getting "the cream of the crop" and surviving amidst economic turmoil: grant flexibility.

The two Texas small business owners detail several policies, from adjusting start and finish times to allowing reduction in hours (with pro rata reduction in benefits while the rate stays the same), to keep their best employees. Why do they do this? Is it some feel-good initiative? For good press? No. Because it makes business sense.

A few key tidbits:
-These business owners provide paid sick leave so that their sick employees stay home and don't infect the rest of the office, potentially bringing down an entire organization. We're headed into cold and flu season people, keep those germs at home!
-Allow telecommuting, it's a free way to reduce office space expenses and gives back to employees precious time otherwise spent on the road.
-Best summary: "It's inconvenient to have someone out on leave. But it's plain disruptive and plain expensive to lose someone permanently."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Where to Find the Flexible Jobs

I spoke on a panel last week for the Detours & On Ramps Forum on negotiating flexibility when returning to work after a hiatus for child-rearing. There were, of course, lots of questions on where to find those jobs and how to get them.

Working Mothers's Top 100 companies to work for is a great place to start, but bear in mind that it's just a starting point. Many of the self-nominated companies are advertisers in the magazine (paid advertising is, after all, their business model) and although they have verified these family-friendly policies in place, they don't apply to all locations, departments and job families.

For example, I worked for one of these companies that touted on-site pumping facilities. My particular role landed me on a client site where I shared an office with my client. I was not exactly in a position as a new employee to say, "excuse me, sir, would you mind vacating your office for 20 minutes every 3 hours while I, uhm, took care of business?"

Instead, work your network. You'll hear it time and again, but instead of looking at national lists take a look at your bus stop. Who's showing up in a suit and heels at 3:30 for pick up? Which parents are volunteering in your child's classroom midweek, where do they work? What do they do? ASK THEM! People are willing to talk, share their stories and how they've achieved some measure of balance. In fact, I'm willing to be they'd be flattered that you think they've arrived at a secret formula to work-life balance.

Ask for their card, send an email, take them to coffee. Then figure out to replicate that process in your own search.