Archive for February, 2011

It’s Official–U.S. Department of Labor Advocates Work Life “Fit”

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There have been many noteworthy milestones during my decade-long  Work+Life “Fit” ® campaign.  But one of the highlights happened last Thursday when U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis used the term “work+life fit” a number of times in her keynote address at the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Conference in California.  Here’s an example:

“Employers need to know that there are tools out there…It’s a balance, having that competitive edge and work-life fit.”    Yup, (emphasis mine).

This particular forum highlighted the unique flexibility needs of low wage workers to manage their work and life.  Her use of the term is exciting because, as I’ve noted before, “fit” makes a big, meaningful difference.  The language allows us escape the innovation-killing “10 Tyrannies of Work/Life Balance,” which are:

  • Balance is always discussed in the negative-what you “don’t” have.
  • Balance keeps you focused on the problem, not the solution.
  • Balance assumes we’re all the same.
  • Balance infers that there is a “right” answer.
  • Balance leads us to judge others (and ourselves), often unfairly.
  • Balance results in unproductive guilt.
  • Balance suggests that the goal is an impossible 50-50 split between work and the other parts of your life.
  • Balance leaves no room for periods where there’s more work and less life, and vice versa.
  • Balance ignores the fact that work and life are constantly changing, and
  • Balance will never be taken seriously by corporate leaders, who only hear “work less” when you say “balance.

And embrace new possibilities because with “work+life fit” we:

  • Focus what we could have.
  • See solutions.
  • Know we’re all different.
  • Realize there’s no right answer.
  • Stop judging yourself and others, harshly.
  • Lose the guilt.
  • Embrace and plan for the ebb and flow of work and life, and
  • Increase the likelihood that corporate leaders will support the need to flexibly manage work and life better and smarter.

This is particularly important when addressing the flexibility needs of low wage workers.  Their work+life fit realities, and therefore, the solutions that will work for them and their employers are different from salaried or exempt employees.  The report that outlines those specific solutions, “Flexible Workplace Solutions for Low-Wage Hourly Workers” by Workplace Flexibility 2010 and the Institute for Workplace Innovation, will be released in March, 2011.

So welcome to the “work+life fit” club, Secretary Solis!  It’s nice to have you onboard.  After I finish this post, I’ll put a copy of my book, “Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You (Riverhead/Penguin Group)” in the mail so you can see that indeed the tools do exist and have existed for years.  The book, which was published in 2004, outlines the steps that individuals need follow in order to meet their employers halfway and use flexibility to find a fit that’s a win-win for everyone.

Now, if we could just get the President and First Lady Michelle Obama to join in…Imagine!

Related post of highlights from Pasadena DOL conference: “Gaining a Competitive Edge in the Global Economy–Using Flexibility with Hourly Workers in Healthcare” from Corporate Voices.

For more on work+life “fit” and strategic flexibility, I invite you to also visit my FastCompany, as well as join me on Twitter @caliyost.

Sometimes Your Work+Life Fit Just Stinks

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(This post originally appeared in my FastCompany blog)

Since the start of 2011:

  • My intrepid nanny, who’s missed five days of work in the ten years she’s been with us, was in bed with a cold for a week;
  • On average each week, my children have had at least one half or full day off from school due to the seemingly endless snow, and
  • Finally, I contracted an inner ear infection that morphed into vertigo just as I was getting ready to speak at a conference in New Orleans.

In other words, during the first six weeks of the year, my work+life fit stank (I’d use a bit more colorful term but I want this post to be SFW).

I pulled out all of my “expert” tricks to deal with the unexpected body blows (I do try to walk my talk): I called in my back up care; I traded off with my husband for coverage depending upon who had the more urgent deliverable at work; I got up earlier and went to bed later; and I cut out all non-essentials from my schedule (bye, bye blogging).

I muddled through without any major disasters, either at work or at home. Regardless, it all still stank. It wasn’t fun. It’s been stressful and hard. But I’d figured out a while ago that if I made daily perfection the bar against which I measured my work+life fit success, I’d be doomed. So, I’ve learned to roll with it the best I can whenever the turbulence strike.

Sitters get well, snow stops, and ear infections heal. And I already see my fit improving. It always does, until the next time it just stinks. And if it stinks for too long, that’s my signal a bigger change might be required. But, most of the time it’s a matter of simply hanging in there.

Control what you can. Be good to yourself. Beam with pride for making it through the next 24 hours with as many of the basics completed as possible. Wait for the sun to shine again. It will. It is.

Has your work+life fit ever “stunk?” How did you muddle through to the other side?

(Update: While my most recent period of work+life fit stinkiness is, in part, related to child care issues, I don’t mean to infer that it’s just parents who have to muddle through now and then.  Anyone can have  a pipe burst unexpectedly, a dog eat a towel and need emergency surgery, the car not start, or the weather strand them in the airport during a business trip or on vacation. And those are just a few examples. Unfortunately, no one is immune from the periodic turbulence.)

For more, I invite you to visit my FastCompany blog and to follow me on twitter @caliyost.

Three Foolproof Tips for Flexible Work Success

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(These tips originally appeared in Keppie Career’s post “Are Flexible Work Environments Inevitable?“)

In honor of the first annual National Telework Week  (February 14-18), I thought I’d share some of my top tips for flexible work success and ask you to share some of yours:

Tip 1: Don’t expect your manager to come up with a solution. Start the conversation with him or her by presenting a clear flexibility plan that specifies the:

  • Type of flexibility you are proposing
  • How the work will get done (not “why” you want flexibility—it doesn’t matter)
  • How the business will benefit from your plan, and
  • When the plan will be reviewing (e.g. initially 90 days; annually thereafter)

(For a step-by-step guide to create a win-win flexibility plan guaranteed to get a fair hearing, check out my book: “Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You”)

Tip 2: Remember that it’s your job to (over) communicate with your boss, your team, and your clients.

When you are out-of-sight because either you work from home or work flexible, non-traditional hours, be mindful of consistent accessibility and reliability:

  • If you aren’t immediately reachable, make it a priority to check messages regularly and respond in a timely manner.
  • Initiated a “check in” by email, IM or phone once or twice during the day with your team or your manager to see if there is anything you need to be aware of.  Most likely there won’t be, but they will appreciate the extra effort.
  • Each week, put together one-page of highlights of accomplishments.  In today’s economy, we should all have a record of what we’ve done…not just flex workers!  It comes in handy when negotiating for a raise or promotion.

Tip 3:  Be flexible with your flexibility.

Nothing causes a manager or a coworker to lose patience with your flexibility faster than a consistent unwillingness to periodically “go the extra mile.”   If there’s an unexpected deadline and it’s your time to leave, offer to stay now and then.  If you’re scheduled to work from home, offer to come into the office if it’s the only day a client can meet.

Taking the initiative, being conscientious and going the extra mile, from time to time, are small actions that go a long way to making your flexibility work for everyone.  What else makes flexibility a success?

For more, I invite you to visit my Fast Company blog, and to join me on Twitter @caliyost.