Saturday, February 28, 2009

Is now the time to ask for flexibility?

It's hard to contemplate flexible work when so many people are losing their jobs. Many people I talk to feel good to be working at all, let alone working a flexible schedule. But now may be just the time to find some flexibility, especially if you are considering reducing your hours.

I received a call yesterday from Anita Bruzzese, a syndicated columnist and author who was working on a story related to the impact of the economy on jobs. She had recently spoken with a few people who were getting some additional time off from their employers who were trying to reduce costs. Many companies are looking to reduce work hours in order to avoid laying people off. Companies have found that by cutting hours, and thus reducing payroll costs, they can avoid the need to reduce staff levels. For example, a company could cut employees back to 4 days a week, or just ask each employee to work one day less each week.

In a time when companies are looking to cut costs from every angle, requesting a reduced work schedule could be a cost saving for your employer that is worth taking. If you can identify a way to work more efficiently or eliminate some unnecessary tasks, you could cut back a few hours each week to give you more time to manage your family. Obviously the cost saving for your employer translates to less money for you, but if you have more time to manage your life, you will likely find lots of opportunties to cut costs. It is worth considering.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Good Friends

Tonight I met up with my "playgroup." It is a group of moms and kids that have been getting together every few weeks for dinner for the last three and a half years. Our kids now range from one year to seven years old (and we are up to 16 kids!). We usually meet at someone's house and order pizza. The kids play and the moms talk.

These friends, along with some other mom friends of mine, have been invaluable. In addition to the stress relief that getting together with good friends to relax provides, these ladies have been a tremendous support resource as I try to navigate parenthood along with my career.

First, they are always there if I need childcare in a pinch. There is always someone available to take the kids for an hour or two here and there. We also keep each other informed about different activities and events that are happening. Each time we get together someone brings a flyer about soccer sign-ups or an event at the school. Without them, I'm not sure if I would ever know what was going on in my community.

But even more important is the role that my good friends play in making my job as a mom stay realistic. I've talked to many other moms over the years who constantly feel guilty that they aren't the 'perfect mom.' Much of their angst is a result friends who are in constant competition for who is the best parent. They share stories of how brilliant their kids are, and make other moms feel badly because they may not be in the 'right' school or activity.

My friends, in contrast, often work to compete for being the 'worst' mom. It is all in fun, but we share stories of our worst moments, the junk food dinners that we've succumbed to, and the times we've watched TV instead of playing with our kids. Don't get me wrong, this is a group of extraordinary moms. They just don't take themselves too seriously. We laugh, and at the end of the night, we all realize we aren't doing that bad of a job. My job as a working mom is much easier because of my good friends.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Gig Economy

While I have enjoyed having 'a real job' these last few months, I do miss the flexibility of my past work arrangement. For about 10 years I worked independently, really doing my own thing(s). I taught college courses part-time, did all kinds of HR consulting work and wrote/promoted a book. I was always busy, but also always in complete control of my schedule.

I knew my situation was not unique, but I didn't realize I was part of a movement, what Tina Brown has referred to as "The Gig Economy." I heard Ms. Brown discuss this new phenomena on NPR this week, and checked out her article about the topic on The Daily Beast.

She points out that musicians and many lower income workers have worked 'gigs' for decades. Many have supported their families through working multiple jobs, temporary and otherwise, and jumping around from one thing to the next. But recently, higher paid professionals have been working in this less stable arrangement. In fact, a survey by The Daily Beast found that nearly 25% of those surveyed were working some type of alternate work arrangment involving temporary and parti-time jobs or 'gigs."

Some work gigs out of necessity. The difficult economy has led many to do what they need to to get by. But many, like me, select a career of gigs in order to have the control to manage work and family.

The downside of this work arrangement is of course the lack of certainty of where your next paycheck is gonig to come from. I was always concerned that I would run out of work opportuniteis. I spent quite a bit of time thinking creatively of where to find my next work opportunity. But I was lucky that there always seemed to be something to do. Further, when you are working gigs, you also don't have the luxury of some traditional work benefits such as healthcare insurance and retirement benefits.

So is The Gig Economy a temporary trend, or an indicator of our future? Is it a positive trend? For me, working gigs gave me the control over my schedule I needed to spend the time I wanted with my kids. But, if I didn't have a spouse to give me the security of a steady paycheck and health insurance, I'm not sure if it would have worked.