Why Compressed Work Weeks Can Be Great For Employees and Employers

A compressed work week is a useful flexible work arrangement that can help free up valuable time for family and life demands while minimizing workplace disruptions.

With a Compressed Work Week, this could be your schedule
With a Compressed Work Week, this could be your schedule

Employees Win!

I have a friend who is a public-sector lawyer with a wife and two young children. He opted for a compressed work week (CWW), in which he works nine 9-hour days over a two-week stretch and then has every other Friday off (another common type of CWWs consists of four 10-hour days with every Friday off). He still works the same number of hours, essentially banking one extra hour a day and cashing these in every two weeks.

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Workplace Flexibility: The Key to Work-Family Balance?

Workplace flexibility is a key for working parents trying to balance work and family. Here are some questions that can help us assess the flexibility we have at work, and some ideas about how to leverage them.

a screencap of my recent HBR article
A screencap of my recent HBR article aimed at supervisors. What are its implications for us working dads? Keep reading to find out!

Last week, I wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review blog in which I advised well-intentioned supervisors on how to be more “family-friendly” while upholding performance standards. My advice was:

  1. Focus on What, Not How or When

  2. Get Better at Measuring Performance

  3. Delegate, Coach, and Let Your People Earn Trust

  4. Serve as a Work-Family Balance Role Model

The common thread for the first three items is allowing employees more flexibility in how, where and when they perform their jobs, while still maintaining high standards for what. Overall, I think it is sound advice for managers, and the piece was very well-received.

However, I largely write this blog to help my fellow working dads navigate work and family issues. So, what are the implications of this article for the working father?

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One Million for Work Flexibility

Here’s something we can do to raise our voices together in support of work flexibility!

Welcome Harvard Business Review Readers! Please take a look around this website, including the category links to the right and my writing at HBR and other outlets above. if you like what you see, you can follow this blog via facebook, twitter or email (see links to the right). Thanks for visiting!

As I noted last week, October is National Work and Family Month– an effort to raise awareness of the importance of work-family balance for employees and employers. I am happy to also be a part of a second advocacy push- One Million for Work Flexibility.

1MFWF-website-badge

One Million for Work Flexibility seeks to get, well, one million individuals and companies to voice their support for workplace flexibility. By uniting our voice, we will be better able to successfully advocate for changes to corporate and public policy.

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Pioneering Fathers Needed: Dare to Be Visible in Using Work Flexibility

Many workplaces are not open to men prioritizing family while at work. To change this, we need visible role models- fathers who are both respected at work and take noticeable actions to balance family responsibilities. If you have the security and courage to do so, here’s some advice on how you can become that role model. (part 2 of a series)

I'm calling for dads to stand up for work-family balance, but not for Jerry MaGuire-level career suicide.
I’m calling for dads to stand up for work-family balance, but not for Jerry MaGuire-level career suicide.

Two weeks ago, I began a series of articles* about how we can “be the change we wish to see” and help make our workplaces more accepting of fathers’ work-family issues. We can do this by:

  • Talking about our families & asking other men about theirs (see part 1)

  • Making sure other men in our workplaces see us occasionally use work flexibility for family reasons

  • Taking paternity leave

  • Starting a Beer Fire! (a group of male coworkers to discuss life outside of work)

In the first installment, I wrote about how we can make coworkers feel more comfortable discussing their families while at work by taking the lead and starting these conversations. Today, I’d like to go one step further and discuss how we can use our actions to role-model work-family accommodations.

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4 Ways To Make It Safe For Dads To Talk About Family At Work (part 1 of a series)

Many workplaces are not open to men discussing family while at work. Here are a few things we all can do to help slowly change our workplace cultures so that fathers can feel more secure in discussing, addressing and even accommodating family demands at work.

You don't have to be in a mediocre sit-com to support your fellow male coworkers who also struggle with work-family challenges.
You don’t have to be in a mediocre sit-com to support your fellow male coworkers who also struggle with work-family challenges.

All Apologies

I apologize. Most of my advice so far has been to help dads navigate work-family issues as if our workplaces are intolerant of family concerns and that workplaces can never change. I’ve recommended that we keep relatively quiet about discussing family in the workplace, and to negotiate for telework justifying it solely with a business case.

To some degree, this was good advice. Many workplaces are not open to discussion of family, and work schedules and demands are still structured around an “all-in single-breadwinner with at-home spouse” approach that is a relic of another time.

But employers will never change if dads assume that employer hostility towards family demands are set in stone, and that dads must only resort to working through holes in the system, through informal arrangements or “invisible” accommodations.

Waiting on the World to Change

You know what? I’m tired of waiting (waiting) waiting on the (work)world to change. If my generation of busy involved dads don’t start making change happen, company cultures will remain unchallenged, and more and more dads will have to struggle seemingly alone. Change is possible, and there are some prominent examples of workplace cultures that are supportive of work-family.

So how can we start making changes? I’m glad you asked. I have a few ideas…

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Fathers’ Work-Family Issues Hit The Mainstream Media

Over the past few weeks, articles have appeared in major mainstream media outlets reporting and commenting on work-family issues for dads. For someone who has been a fathers, work and family advocate for a long time, I couldn’t be happier. Here’s a sampling of recent articles, and my commentary on this trend.

Dad's Work-Family Issues made the cover of Bloomberg BusinessWeek this week!!!!!
Dads’ Work-Family Issues made the cover of Bloomberg BusinessWeek!!!!!

While there is a danger that men, work and family will be reported on only as a short-term novelty, I am highly encouraged by all this media attention. I have always maintained that when more attention is paid to men’s work-family issues:

  • Men who struggle with these issues may realize they are not alone
  • Supervisors and business leaders may realize this is a serious business issue that requires some thought and attention
  • These issues become more normal and acceptable to talk about at home and in society- and most importantly- in workplaces across the country
  • The business case for considering men in work-family conversations and solutions becomes more evident

Here are links to some recent articles:

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In Praise of Flexible Workplace Cultures

Last week, I wrote about work-family culture, and the questions The Families and Work Institute uses to assess this part of organizational culture.  I hope you enjoyed it (and I can wait for you here if you want to refer back.  Ok, ready?).  Now, here are the Families and Work Institute’s measures for general autonomy and flexibility:

  1. I have the freedom to decide what I do on my job
  2. It is basically my own responsibility to decide how my job gets done
  3. I have a lot of say about what happens on my job
  4. How easy is it for you to take time off during your workday to take care of personal or family matters (I reworded this item to keep the response scale consistent)

Now, let’s think about these, in comparison to the work-family questions from the prior post

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