Thursday, December 27, 2007

When and How to Announce Your Pregnancy at Work


I was recently at a staff meeting when one of my co-workers was called into the center of the room to receive a gift. As she slowly unwrapped a very large package, I realized just how few of my coworkers were in on the fun. Beneath layers of paper and boxes, she revealed a large jar of pickles and a tub of vanilla ice cream announcing her pregnancy. With her boss among those surprised by the news, the brazenness of the charade shocked me. Were the pickles a sign of a changing time and a corporate culture that accepts working motherhood? Unfortunately no. The pickles were in poor taste. When announcing a pregnancy at work, an ounce of tact is necessary to prevent discrimination and preserve professional standing with your boss.

When to announce your pregnancy

Traditionally, a woman would have waited until after a successful first trimester to begin making announcements about her pregnancy to anyone. It is after the first trimester that miscarriage rates drop dramatically. It may be necessary to make an announcement sooner if you begin to show early or your condition has physical bearings on your ability to complete your job responsibilities. Regardless of the timing, it may be prudent to time your announcement to coincide with successes on the job. After completing an important project or successfully delivering a presentation, your announcement will be accompanied by proof that you can still perform on the job and meet great successes with a pregnant belly.

How to announce your pregnancy

In my coworkers case, it was not when she announced her pregnancy, but how she went about doing it. It is very important to approach your boss in a professional manner and with a positive attitude to avoid discirimination and resentment of you or your condition.
  1. Make an appointment with your boss to share your news and to discuss your ability to work during pregnancy, your plans for maternity leave, and your plans to return to work.

  2. After your meeting, put your plans in writing and email the summary to your boss. This step confirms any plans you discussed with your boss on paper that can be tracked and saved via email.

  3. Be flexible throughout your pregnancy. If your pregnancy prevents you from completing certain responsibilities, offer to take on a new, temporary role. As your due date approaches, train others to carry on the tasks you are currently working on. And as you prepare to return to work, keep in close communication with your boss and coworkers to time your return appropriately.
As with motherhood, pregnancy does not need to impede your ability to work or your ability to relate to your boss and coworkers. Your initial announcement should be handled positively and professionally so that you can continue to work safely throughout your pregnancy and share the excitement of impending parenthood.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What Happened to Working Mother's Day?


On August 31, 1980, then President Jimmy Carter proclaimed a day of recognition for American mothers taking on important responsibilities outside the home. This was the first official Working Mother's Day.

His successor, President Ronald Reagan, again recognized the Working Mothers of America by proclaiming September 5, 1982 Working Mother's Day. Both Sundays, as the nation prepared to enjoy a Monday off of work for Labor Day, these two presidents asked us to remember the uniquely challenging and important work of mothers working outside the home.

However, subsequent presidents failed to follow suit. Despite the growing number of women reentering the workforce after having children, Working Mother's Day has not been celebrated nationally since 1982. Why are working mothers no longer within the purview of our federal administration? What happened to Working Mother's Day?

In Jimmy Carter's words:
"On the job and in the home, working mothers are making a vital contribution to the national economy and to the strength of the American family. Working mothers do not shed homemaking and parental responsibilities; they merely add the demands of a job to those of wife and mother. As we recognize the hard work and dedication of these women, we also acknowledge the many special problems they confront in meeting their dual responsibilities. We have an obligation to reinforce and support them in their endeavors."

August 31, 2008: Don't forget to recognize the working mothers who make a difference in your life.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

12 Commonly Asked Interview Questions, and Why Employers Ask Them

Most interviews contain a core set of questions that you as a job seeker can anticipate and prepare for. Understanding why an employer is asking a certain question, may help you to provide a palatable response. Regardless of the questioning you face, remember to answer each question thoughtfully and completely. If you are nervous, try to keep your responses brief and give your interviewer time to tell you about the company and the position for which you are interviewing.


12 commonly asked interview questions:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
    This is the classic open-ended question that will set the tone for an interview and give you a chance to provide basic information about yourself. It is important to answer this question confidently, but not come off as arrogant. Take approximately 30 seconds to sell your most impressive skills and relevant qualifications.

  2. What are your long term goals?
    This is a compatibility question that will help the employer determine if you are a suitable candidate for employment. With the impending labor shortage, employers are looking for employees who will be with the company for a long duration. If your long-term goals are not compatible with the vision of the company, your employment is likely to be short-lived.

  3. Why do you want to work for us?
    This question will shed light on your motivation for applying to a specific position and with a specific corporation. Prior to your interview, research the background of the company you are visiting by perusing their website and previous annual reports. Discover the mission of the company and decide if it is appealing to you on a values level. Consider what makes this company different than others in the area. Answer the question, "Why are you here and not somewhere else?"

  4. Why are you qualified for this position?
    Many applicants appear to be over or under qualified for a given position on paper. This question provides you an opportunity to rationalize your experience as compared to the position requirements.

  5. Why did you leave your previous position?
    Be very positive when answering questions about your old job. In this question, the interviewer is looking for basic information - did you quit, get fired, etc. - as well as more in depth information about what you are looking for in a potential position. Be honest, be positive, and use this as another opportunity to show your prospective employer that you are excited about the opportunities offered to you at a new position.

  6. What did you like best/least about your previous position?
    This is not an opportunity for you to complain about your former position. Instead, this question will shed light on those things you value in a job and your work environment.

  7. What did you think of your old boss?
    This question should give some indication of your relationship with authority and can also indicate what qualities you value in leadership. A perfectly qualified candidate can fail at a position if they are incompatible with their supervisors.

  8. What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
    It is more important to answer this question confidently and completely than to provide the perfect answer. Avoid canned responses and provide more than a list of adjectives. For strengths, provide concrete characteristics with examples that will lead you to success in the prospective position. For weaknesses, be honest and able to identify opportunity areas and examples of growth.

  9. What is most important to you in a job?
    Are your values compatible with the corporate culture you are about to enter? While it is fine to mention scheduling flexibility and work/life balance here, do so cautiously. Employers will be turned off to a candidate who seems to be already calculating the hours necessary to work to the weekend.

  10. Why should we hire you?
    This question gives you one last creative chance to plead your case for employment. Corporations often interview multiple candidates for a single position. Answer the question confidently, "Why are you better than each of the other candidates interviewed?"

  11. Are you available to work overtime?
    The answer to this question should be yes , however, your should indicate exactly what your stipulations for working overtime will be. You should try to appear willing to work the hours necessary to complete a given assignment but there is nothing wrong with requesting, for example, that notice of two days be given, or only working overtime up to 45 hours per week. Be flexible for your employer but make sure the arrangement works for you.

  12. What kind of salary are you looking for?
    This question is intended to numerically rule out any candidate that is expecting a salary much higher than will be offered. Similarly, if you name a salary in the low end of the salary range offered to candidates, you may have just named your salary. Do not be evasive about this question, especially if you will require a certain salary to accept an offer. Do note that salary will be negotiable if an offer is made.

Also, employers will often ask situational types of questions, usually representing situations that may arise while on the job. These questions are intended to determine the way you react to a variety of situations and conflicts. Answer these questions thoughtfully and completely. Avoid a canned answer. And try to reflect the organizational values in your response.


As always, good luck in your job search!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Working Women in the News

Working Women Key to Reducing World's Poverty

Here's one to make you feel good - working women experiencing gender equality in the workplace are cited as being key to economic growth and the fight against poverty. Working women also have an effect on literacy rates, family health, and mortality.

The IT Sector is Still Failing Women

Women pursuing work in the IT sector continue to report existence of gender discrimination and experience a glass ceiling.

Increasing Interest in Recruitment of At-Home Moms

Faced with the impending labor shortage, large corporations are beginning to seek out women who have previously left the workforce, usually to raise children.

Breastfeeding at Work Toughest for Younger Moms and Retail Workers

A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics notes the existence of barriers for new moms who continue to breastfeed after their return to work. In fact, 32% of working moms quit breastfeeding within 7 weeks of their return to work.

Study Links Lack of Sleep to Weight Gain for New Moms

Bad news for busy moms trying to loose the baby weight. A new study shows that moms who get five hours of sleep or less at night will face major difficulties loosing their baby weight.

Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2007

Stats for 2007 reveal the continued crippling cost of childcare for working parents.

Worst Working Mom Moments

Need a little release? Share your worst working mom moments on the new Mommy Track'd forum.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Return to Work Project Gift Packs


Wow, I have been having so much fun networking with other businesswomen and busy working moms in support of the Return to Work Project. I have received numerous contributions from businesses whose products directly support working moms or whose mission is to balance work and family.

I was very excited to meet last week with the owner of the Golden Orchid Spa and Shop in downtown Frederick. Yvette is a busy working mom herself and a very successful entrepreneur with a gorgeous spa. This meeting was so exciting because Yvette is truly passionate about providing services to women guilt-free. Why should a mom feel guilty taking time for herself on the weekend to relax and get a facial? Don't we always leave the spa feeling renewed and truly beautiful? A place like the Golden Orchid is a wonderful retreat whether you have an hour or a whole day without work or kids.

I am trying hard to reach out to all types of businesses that support working moms living in Frederick. Whether a mother returns to work after a short maternity leave or a long leave of absence spent raising her children, these gift packs will have something for everyone. Whether a mother returns to work because she wants to or because she needs to, she will find resources and support through the project.

As we move forward with the project, I am always looking for more contributions. I am also anxious to hear from working moms about the businesses and resources that were essential during the transition back to work. For more information about the project, please visit the project blog site: http://ReturntoWorkGifts.blogspot.com. To find out how you can participate in this wonderful project, please contact me at flexibleworkforce@gmail.com.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Book Review: The ParentPreneur Edge


When local author and entrepreneur Julie Lenzer Kirk asked me to review her new book, The ParentPreneur Edge, I was thrilled by the opportunity. Kirk posits that the skills we hone through parenting can be invaluable in running a business. This supports my championed belief that being a parent is not our greatest detriment in the work world. However, I am forced to use the excuse that as a busy working parent myself, I fell victim to obligation overload. Kirk's book migrated from my "Work - To Do" pile to my "Summer Reading" pile, you know the pile that gets lugged along on every summer vacation yet is never touched. Finally, I share with you a review of Julie Lenzer Kirk's enlightening book, The ParentPreneur Edge: What Parenting Teaches About Building a Successful Business.

Kirk's book was written for parents and entrepreneurs; however, the lessons she conveys make good business sense for any manager. The ParentPreneur Edge is filled with stories of parenting and entrepreneurship that serve as a step-by-step guide to entrepreneurship or a source of motivation for any parent experiencing developmental growing pains whether that "child" is a small business or biological offspring. With personal anecdotes from her family and her business, Kirk walks readers through the stages of development including:

Preparing for Entrepreneurship - Getting Pregnant
Launching - Labor and Delivering
The Early Days - Baby to Toddler
Ramping up: A Time to Learn - Elementary School
Growing Pains - The Preteen Years
Emerging Independence - The Teen Years
Exercising Your Exit - Letting Go

Each chapter is full of good advice for the seasoned manager or budding entrepreneur. Throughout the book, Julie stresses the importance of fiscal responsibility to the tiniest detail and a need to view a business plan as a living document. Kirk also takes a moment to discuss the challenges of managing employees who desire flexible scheduling. As an entrepreneur, Julie started her IT business out of a home office practicing maximum flexibility of her own schedule. Flexibility with a new baby and a new business was essential. However, Kirk quickly discovered that managing a small staff provided a large challenging in approving flexible scheduling. For the employee who wished to alter his schedule just one night a week to pursue graduate education, Kirk went to bat. However, for the office manager who wanted to telecommute two days a week, Julie found the request impossible to grant. Her policy of "balance at all costs" went out the window as a procedure for granting flexible scheduling evolved.

If you are thinking of starting a small business, The ParentPreneur Edge offers step-by-step guidance through the stages of entrepreneurial development. If you are a business owner or a manager, The ParentPreneur Edge offers a variety of resources from websites to support groups to other books to read. If you are a working parent, the book offers uplifting and motivational anecdotes from another parent who has juggled so much and found so much success.

The ParentPreneur Edge is published by John Wiley & Sons.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Walking to School for a Future Flexible Workforce


October is National Walk to School Month with local schools participating in Walk to School Day earlier this week. Similar to events held earlier this summer, including Bike to Work Day on May 17 and National Dump the Pump Day on June 21, October is a full month to celebrate our children's ability to walk safely to school. Events such as these indicate our society's loathing of a culture that revolves around the commute marked by long lines of cars that clog our highways and pollute our air.



The intended purpose of National Walk to School Month is:
  • to enhance the health of kids
  • to improve our air quality and the environment
  • to create safer routes for walking and bicycling
Whether the final destination is work or school, by promoting events such as these, we are teaching our children to value the health of our environment as well as their own health and safety. The increasingly younger workforce values flexibility over monetary rewards. We may be raising a generation who live closer to work than ever and find innovative ways to make telecommuting work.

What do you think: Is National Walk to School Month another failed attempt to curb childhood obesity or have we successfully planted the seeds for a more flexible workforce?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Local: Fall Job Fair

The Herald-Mail Company, the One-Stop Job Center, and Hagerstown Community College will hold a job fair tomorrow at the community college. Participating employers include Canam Steel, Waynesboro Hospital, Chase CArd SErvices, Cedar Ridge Ministries, AFLAC, and the Board of Child Care, among others.

Fall Job Fair
Hagerstown Community College ARCC
Friday, October 5, 2007
10:00 am - 2:00 pm

Monday, October 1, 2007

Try On a New Job: Temporary Staffing Agencies

Temporary placement agencies offer employment options not just for those seeking temporary work but also for those reentering the workforce, changing careers, or enduring an extended job search. In additional to flexible assignments, many temporary agencies provide health care benefits, accural of paid time off, and other benfits.

Historically intended to provide temporary administrative staffing, temp agencies are now used to cover extended absences and new positions for many positions in nearly every field. Increasingly, companies are using temporary agencies as recruiting firms to "try out" potential employees for a new position. Given a built in six month probationary window, companies can hire a temp employee to determine fit for a permanent position with no legal obligation.

Similary, for job seekers, assignments through a temp agency can provide financial security during a job search while giving you time to try out a particular position, company, or career path. By taking on increasingly difficult temporary assignments, you can build your resume and gain valuable experience to bolster your job search. While working with a company, pay attention to internal job postings or talk with your supervisor about making a temporary assignment a permanent one.

Numerous temporary placement agencies work with job seekers and companies to fill a variety of open positions. Look for a temp agency that operate specifically within your field of expertise. Employers generally pay a placement fee to the agency. If you, as a job seeker, are asked to pay for placement services, seek temporary employment with another agency.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Working Mother Magazine List




The October 2007 edition of Working Mother Magazine features the landmark list of "100 Best Companies" for working mothers. Companies were recognized for the availability of mother-friendly benefits such as access to five flexible scheduling options, availability of leave for new biological and adoptive parents, access to child care options, and three work/life programs.





The Top Ten companies included:
  1. Baptist Health South Florida
  2. Booz Allen Hamilton
  3. Ernst & Young
  4. General Mills
  5. IBM
  6. KPMG
  7. The McGraw-Hill Companies
  8. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  9. UBS
  10. Wachovia
What struck me about these ten was their longevity of this particular list. These companies have spent an average of eleven years on Working Mother Magazine's Top Companies lists; only two have spent five years of less on the list. These are companies with a strong track record of working mother friendly policies.

Of the 100 companies recognized, only one local company was included. Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, MD was lauded for their various flexible scheduling options, on-site childcare consultants, nine weeks paid maternity leave, on-site wellness center, and multiple women's support groups.

Arnold & Porter, Covington & Burling, Fannie Mae, and Marriott all in Washington, DC have each been recognized on Working Mother Magazine's lists in past years. Please visit Working Mother Magazine online for a complete list or purchase a copy of October's edition from your local newsstand.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Business Appreciation Week

The Frederick County Office of Economic Development will be spending the week visiting local businesses just to say thanks for doing business in Frederick County. Specifically, the Office of Economic Development is celebrating businesses that contribute to the growth and stability of Frederick County's economy by providing good career opportunities to local residents.

This week and every week, why not celebrate Family Friendly Businesses in Frederick County. When you visit a business that provides stable and flexible jobs to local parents, why not take a moment to say thank you for being an example to other businesses and a support to working parents in Frederick County.

The following are local businesses who at some point recently have been commended for family friendly practices:
  • Advocate's for Homeless Families
  • Boscov's
  • Buckeyestown Veterinary Hospital
  • Cambrex Bio Science
  • Celebree Learning Centers
  • Dandelion Christian Child Care
  • Frederick Country Day Montessori School
  • Frederick County YMCA
  • Frederick Memorial Hospital
  • Hildebrand, Limparis, and Associates
  • Love and Company
  • Music and Arts Center
  • Mental Health Association of Frederick County
  • Offutt and Associates
  • Opossum Pike Veterinary Clinic
  • SAIC - Frederick
  • Sandy Spring Bank
  • Structural Systems
  • Sunrise of Frederick
  • Toys R Us
  • Uncle Ralph's Cookies

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Flex Back: Easing Employers Fears about Flexibility

I recently received the following email highlighting what may be many employer's concerns about offering flexible scheduling benefits to employees:

"Where I work people may ‘work ahead’ putting in, for example 4 extra hours Mon-Thurs. so they can take off for a commitment on Friday afternoon. This is getting out of hand with some employees who propose working 8 extra hours so they can have 3-day weekends. Or, combining the latter plus a day of PTO useage so they can have a 4-day weekend.

Any ideas on how we can draw an easy line to prevent overuse?"

This employer's concerns may be well founded. Every heard the saying, "Give them an inch and they'll take a mile?" However, in an age where flexible scheduling is increasingly used as a recruitment and retention tool, companies and employees alike need to be invested in making any flexible schedule work. An employees expectations of flexible scheduling must then be matched with flexibility of personal time; employees need to be willing to "Flex Back."

Compressed Work Week

The compressed work week attempts to fit the same number of hours into fewer days each week. For example, a 40-hour per week job can worked in four 10 hour days leaving one extra day each week free for personal obligations. Employees who work this type of schedule often designate one day each week to be a flex day - these employees take the same day off every week. So, what happens when a meeting is scheduled on your flex day? Here is a great opportunity for you to show your own flexibility by temporarily changing your flex day. Can you take Thursday instead of Friday off this week? Can you come in for a few hours to be present at the meeting? If not, it needs to be your own responsibility to contribute to the meeting and engage in follow up as required. Ask a coworker to share their notes from the meeting. Double check any action items with your supervisor. And remember, you may be assigned action items during the meeting that you would not have normally volunteered for. Try to make your ability to complete follow up tasks known before the meeting and be ready to take full responsibility for action items, whether by delegating tasks or adjusting your priorities.

Job Sharing

Job sharing involves splitting the responsibilities of one position between two employees. Establishing a work schedule that accommodates two people and various work related projects and deadlines requires great flexibility. The advantage for the employee is of course less time devoted to work obligations leaving more time for personal obligations. If your job includes job sharing responsibilities, be clear about your scheduled availability. Give your boss plenty of notice of your schedule ensuring that coverage for job responsibilities is always available. You can gain flexibility by maintaining great communication with your coworker. As the deadline for a project nears that you have been exclusively working on, offer to pick up more hours to cover any last minute questions are concerns. In return, request a few days off after the conclusion of the project.

Non-Traditional Hours

Non-traditional scheduling provides employees various options - daily flextime includes variable start and end times each day, permanent flex time involves a set non-traditional schedule - anything that varies from the traditional Monday through Friday 8:00 to 5:00 workday. Again communication is key. If your schedule changes week to week, make sure your supervisor and coworkers know when to expect you in the office. Make sure your schedule accommodates deadlines, projects, and meetings. Always ensure coverage of your responsibilities when you are not physically in the office during business hours by assigning a buddy.

Preventing Abuse

Many employers have in place policies to prevent the abuse of flexible scheduling benefits. For example, a company may require that all absences from the office during core business hours, 10:00 am through 3:00 pm be documented up to a month in advance with a plan for coverage of responsibilities. Employers may require attendance of staff meetings or board meetings regardless of employees' schedules. However, the best prevention of abuse can be a corporate culture of flexibility that allows employees the opportunity to flex work and personal schedules to meet the demands of the job. Opportunities to Flex Back are endless - consider sitting in on evening meetings to allow for a day off later in the week, reevaluate your schedule weekly for conflicts, and always keep in close communication with your supervisor.

Businesses that allow flexible scheduling benefits to employees are like gold in the current job market. Remaining flexible with your personal schedule can allow for increased flexibility of your work schedule and a more positive relationship with your employer.

**Opportunities to flex back may be limited by child care situations, personal obligations, etc.**

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Do you have the skills that employers want?

The first step many job seekers take in their job search is a career mapping define their ideal job and create criteria to assess potential opportunities. However, during this process job seekers often fail to identify the skills an employer seeks in potential candidates .

Luckily, many employers are seeking a common core of skills. Prior to an interview, consider this list of skills and consider which best fit your strengths and meet the needs of potential employers.

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Basic computer and technical literacy
  • Adaptability to changing conditions and assignments
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Leadership abilities
  • Planning and organization
  • Ability to engage in creative problem solving
  • Teamwork and customer service

Before you begin your search for the perfect job among the millions posted in cyberspace, research potential employers. Consider what skills and values a company may be seeking and determine if your own strengths meet an employer's needs. This simple exercise can help you better prepare to be the ideal candidate through the hiring process. Additionally, you will have a better idea how you will fit into a company's culture.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Concierge Services Give Employees More Hours in the Day


It has been said that life happens while we are at work. The bank does not open until 8:00 am. The doctor only takes appointments until 5:00 pm. The cable repair man could show up anytime between 11:00 and 3:00...

Concierge services offered as a benefit by employers was born out of an increase in "extreme" jobs - those jobs that require greater than 40 hours a week. However, employers are increasingly offering these benefits to employees as a means of fostering better work-life balance and flexibility.

Benefits that fall into the concierge service category are greatly varied. Large employers with a corporate cafeteria may offer employees a credit toward hot dinners. On her way out the door at 5:00, mom can pick up a hot dinner for her family without making a stop. A company may staff a host of assistants whose job is to sit at your house and wait for the cable guy while you work at the office. Other concierge services include:
  • Dog walking
  • Vacation or event planning
  • Car maintenance/Roadside assistance
  • Personal chores and errands
  • Scouting contractors, babysitters, etc.
  • House cleaning
  • Drop off or pick up family members
  • Personal correspondence
  • A variety of other personal or virtual assistant tasks
Employees benefit by gaining more control of their to do list. Work becomes less of an impediment to mounting obligations at home. Companies enjoy the benefit of a happier, more productive workforce. Their employees take less time off at inconvenient intervals. A benefit as flexible and varied as a concierge service can work in virtually any sized company with any population of employees reaping great benefits in workplace satisfaction and productivity.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Importance of Scripting and Practicing Interview Questions

When entering an interview, one can be expect to encounter any of several variations to commonly asked interview questions. Practicing a scripted response to these types of questions will give you an edge over less rehearsed candidates. Unfortunately, Miss Teen South Carolina recently gave us an example of what could happen when one does not rehearse for anticipated questions.



In addition to other questions about your basic qualifications and preparedness for the job, expect to answer the four following questions in some form during your interview process:

"Tell me about yourself." This is a standard first question in interviews allowing you a chance to set the tone of the interview and make a fabulous first impression. Lead with your prepared 30-second self promotion and make brief reference to anything that uniquely qualifies you for the position.

"Why did you leave your last position?" This question is NOT an invitation to bash your previous boss or delve into everything you disliked about your previous position. Rather, provide the honest explanation for why you left (or were forced to leave) with a very positive spin. This is an excellent opportunity to explain your long term goals and how this position will play into those goals.

"What is your biggest weakness?" This question generally follows its counterpart, "What are your greatest strengths?" and provides an opportunity to show off your ability to answer a difficult question on the spot or represent yourself in the face of adversity. Unless you mention a weakness that makes you completely incompatible with the proposed position, your potential employer is not likely to hold these weaknesses against you. We all have our weaknesses after all.

"What questions do you have for me?" Other than allowing you time to clarify any questions you have about the company or the position itself, this question showcases your critical thinking skills and shows the interviewer that you have been paying attention throughout the interview. It is generally considered taboo to ask about compensation, benefits, or scheduling at this point in the interview process, however, if you have make or break issues concerning compensation or flexibility, you can tactfully pose those questions here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Return to Work Nursing

Returning to work after the birth of a new baby can be a trying time for new mothers attempting to do their best for their child. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization suggest that infants be exclusively breast fed (exclusively means without supplementation of formula or solid foods) for the first six months of life. A working mother who decides to abide by these recommendations, as I have done with each of my sons, is often left no choice but to express breast milk while working away from her child.

An increasing number of businesses are providing employees with designated lactation rooms, however, these numbers remain low. If fears of expressing breast milk in a bathroom stall or storing milk in a public refrigerator leave you feeling squeamish about pumping at work, take comfort in a few simple ways you can make breastfeeding at work more comfortable and sustainable.


Prepare yourself for success

Start by purchasing a good breast pump. This is one purchase where you definitely get what you pay for and a good pump may cost upwards of $300. However, this initial investment will allow you to pump longer and with more ease ensuring a savings over the cost of formula feeding your child.

While still at home with your baby, pump enough milk to cover your first week back to work. Pump first thing in the morning when your milk supply is greatest or pump through those few days of engorgement right after your milk comes in.

Gather all the supplies you will need when returning to work including extra bottles and breast pads in case of an emergency. Also, pictures of your baby and soothing music can make pumping at work easier.

Before returning to work, consider when and where you will pump throughout the day. Begin to adopt that schedule in your last week at home.

Prepare your boss

Easy, open communication with your boss will ensure you get what you need as a breastfeeding mom. Express the importance to you and your baby of continuing to breastfeed after returning to work. Further, stress that breastfeeding provides benefits to the company. Breastfed babies require fewer doctor's visits and breastfeeding moms have lower rates of postpartum depression. Both of which mean fewer absences from work.

Make sure your boss knows when you will be taking breaks to express milk and if necessary, who will be covering your responsibilities during those times. Pumping should take only as long as it takes for your infant to breastfeed, less time if you have a double pump.

Make it work

Create a calm environment where you can pump. Whether you are pumping in a locked office, a conference room, or a shower room (as I did), lower the lights, take a few deep breaths, and envision your baby.

Throughout the day, make sure you drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet. If your milk supply decreases, consider taking an herbal supplement for breastfeeding mothers such as fenugreek.

Cut yourself some slack. If it becomes necessary to supplement your baby's diet with formula, know that breastfeeding your infant at all is beneficial to you and your baby.


Your decision to continue breastfeeding once returning to work is an admirable commitment to your child and your health. Working and breastfeeding do not need to be incongruent roles for new moms. You can continue to care for your baby in the best way you know how despite the busy schedule of a working mom.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Month of Quick and Meaningful Family Activities

Working parents often find themselves strapped for time at the end of the day, neglecting essential elements of their life such as family dinners or exercise. Here are 31 fun and meaningful activities you can do with your family in approximately 15 minutes a day. Each activity is intended to promote values of family, education, and self care and is appropriate for variously aged children.

Mute your TV during the commercials or take a quick excursion together and enjoy!

  1. Send an email together to a friend or family member.
  2. Ask your child about his or her day at school.
  3. Mail artwork or school papers to family members who live far away.
  4. Record your child's height on a growth chart.
  5. Read a book together while waiting in line at the store.
  6. Teach your child a simple magic trick.
  7. Look through the Help Wanted ads in the newspaper and ask your child what they want to be when they grow up.
  8. Make instruments out of things you find in your kitchen. An upturned pot can be a drum. A closed box of rice can be a maraca.
  9. Create a grocery list and weekly meal plan together.
  10. Have a mock fire drill.
  11. Draw pictures of each other, then draw self-portraits.
  12. Take a donation to the local food bank.
  13. Play follow-the-leader through your house.
  14. Ask your child to share a favorite book for family story-time.
  15. Try to fill in the state names on a blank map of the USA.
  16. Go greeting card shopping for upcoming family birthdays.
  17. Look at the weather for the week and take turns playing the weather forecaster.
  18. Pick out a favorite comic from the newspaper. Cut out the individual frames and have your children put them back in sequence.
  19. Browse the online library catalog and create a list of books to read.
  20. Color on a white picture mat then use it to frame a recent family photograph.
  21. Create certificates for each member of your family highlighting special achievements or contributions to the family.
  22. Walk to a local park and take turns pushing each other on the swings.
  23. Sort laundry together while discussing dark and light colors and counting socks.
  24. Using different colors of finger paint, make hand prints on white paper. Use this paper to back photographs.
  25. Trace each other with side walk chalk on the driveway. Draw clothes and scenery for your chalk family.
  26. Play P-I-G in the house with a wastebasket and crumpled up paper.
  27. Write a good old-fashioned letter to family members. Let your child put on the stamp and decorate the envelope.
  28. Paint a square on your child's wall with blackboard paint. When it dries, write notes to each other in chalk.
  29. Make no-bake cookies together. Let your child measure or pour ingredients.
  30. Have a fashion show of last season's clothes. Donate what no longer fits
  31. Give hugs to everyone in your house.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Frederick Chamber Expo


The Frederick Chamber of Commerce is hosting a breakfast and 7-7-7 seminar. Seven local business leaders will speak for seven minutes on seven different topics all of which fall under the theme, "Do the Right Thing." Speakers will address legal issues, employee benefits, and environmental friendly methods of doing business. Additionally, Laurie Holden, director of Frederick County Workforce Services will give a seven minute presentation entitled, "Alternatives to Commuting." The breakfast and seminar is open to the public but requires preregistration and costs $10 for breakfast.

To follow will be an expose of over fifty local businesses. The expo is a free and public networking event. For more information about this and other events, visit the Frederick Chamber of Commerce.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tele Work is BIG News

I was thrilled to see this story featured not only on ABC primetime but also on the Drudge Report!

ABC's World News with Charles Gibson aired a story tonight featuring IBM's corporate flexibility policy as the workforce initiative of the future. Nearly 42% of IBM employees rarely enter a corporate office reducing IBM's real estate budget by $100 million dollars.

The ABC story and corresponding article explains the fairly obvious benefits of a remote workforce - reduced corporate costs, increased flexibility enjoyed by employees - in addition to a few methods to achieve flexibility - office space for "rent", virtual staff meetings. One major drawback to telework is also discussed. IBM combats feelings of isolation among employees and fosters sense of community among coworkers by scheduling periodic lunches at a common locale.

*Corporations can continue to focus efforts on connecting remote workers through establishing an online social forum or employee blog. These tools can also serve as a strong marketing tool for potential candidates to learn about the corporate values and culture.*

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fall Projects - Excuse my Absence

The Flexible Workforce blog may have been fairly quiet this week but I have been working hard on several projects that I am excited to share with you throughout the upcoming fall.

Site Makeover: Thanks to our good friend Alex at Whiterock Enterprises for the purchase of our new domain name, Flexibleworkforce.net (and .org and .us), I have been looking into ways to improve the aesthetics and functionality of the site. We are continuing to use the blogger platform and I will be adding more information about Flexible Workforce and cleaning up the sidebar. Thank you for all your recent comments and suggestions. Your ideas for improvement and development are always welcome.

Return to Work Gift Packs: Fifty gift packs are being assembled for distribution to local moms returning to work after a period of time at home with a new child. We are coordinating contributions from companies such as Glorious One Pot Meals and ListPlanIt.com among others. As this project continues through the fall, look for more information about our sponsors and profiles of some excellent local moms returning to work and managing their families with ease.

While these projects are keeping me very busy, I am continuing to research and prepare new articles for the blog. Look for upcoming articles about fathers returning to work after paternity leave and issues of faith at work as well as a review of Julie Lenzer Kirk's great book The ParentPreneur.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Seeking Contributions for Return to Work Gift Packs for New Moms

After the birth of a new baby, a mother's return to work can mark a dark and lonely period in her journey through motherhood. Whether she returns six, twelve, or fifty-two weeks later, whether she works full or part-time, it is never easy for a new mom to leave her baby for the workplace.

Flexible Workforce is committed to supporting mothers in their exploration of working motherhood. Return to Work Gift Packs are distributed to working mothers returning to the workplace after a period of time at home with a new child. Gift packs serve to uplift mom's mood, nurture the mother and child bond, and educate moms about resources and tools available.

Be a part of this effort to support new moms returning to work by contributing your business card, promotional material, coupons, or free samples highlighting products, resources, and services indispensable to working mothers. Past gift packs have included hotline and support group contact information, child care resources, coupons and calendars for mommy and me classes, nutritional bars and shakes, etc.

For more information about how to contribute to our Return to Work Gift Packs, please contact Amy at flexibleworkforce@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Flexible Position: Account Manager/Recruiter

ESG Consulting is looking for independent self-starters, Account Managers / Recruiters to assist in the growth of our staffing divisions in metropolitan areas such as Chicago, Boston, D.C., Phoenix, Dallas, New York, Detroit, Houston, Austin and more markets.

This is a full-time, telecommute only position.

View the full job description.

Monday, August 20, 2007

How can I make Flexible Workforce better for you?

It is time for a reader site survey and I am excited to hear all your feedback in order to improve Flexible Workforce for each of you.

I am looking to improve the layout of the site as well as update my content focus to best meet your needs as job seekers, flexibly scheduled employees, family friendly companies, and most importantly, readers of this blog.

Please feel free to suggest any areas of improvement including:

  • Content: Are the article topics specific enough? diverse enough? What future topics would you like to see addressed in blog posts?
  • Posting frequency: Are you happy with the frequency of new posts? Would you like to see new posts more often?
  • Website design: Do you like the current layout? Are articles and tools easily accessible? Are any features missing from the website design?
  • Any other ideas or feedback to improve the Flexible Workforce blog site?

Please feel free to leave a comment below with your suggestions or send an email to flexibleworkforce@gmail.com. While I can assure you that every comment and suggestion will be read and considered, I cannot promise to respond to every comment or implement every suggested change.

I expect improvements to the website to be completed by the end of September. Look for improvements to begin soon and always feel free to contact me with comments and suggestions.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Non-Traditional Work Schedule Nightmare for Moms

Spain is known for its easy going culture where coworkers linger at lunches that last hours, employees pause to nap in the middle of the workday, and bosses never balk at these behaviors. In the corporate world, this schedule is relished by upper management who often work into the early evening hours. However, as commute times rise, workdays lengthen, and more women join the workforce, families are finding that Spanish two-year olds will not wait patiently for a relaxed family dinner at 9:00 in the evening. Spanish women's efforts to secure a more family friendly workday were futile until a new conservative government mandated 9 to 5 core hours for government employees (who ever thought we would applaud 9 to 5 here at Flexible Workforce?). Other employers have begun to follow suit.

Women in the corporate world everywhere face longer workdays often with no sign of reprieve from what is considered traditional work hours. If your work hours seem to be increasing at the cost of your family and personal time, consider shortening your workday. Rationalize the change in schedule by applying Pareto's 80/20 principal. The premise of Tim Ferris's recent best seller, The 4-Hour Work Week, Pareto's principal posits that 80% of results come from just 20% of efforts. Applying the 80/20 principal to your workday means that you complete 80% of your to do list in 20% of your traditional day. The other 80% of your day is virtually unproductive, lost to email programs, chatty coworkers, and the internet for example.

To make your workday highly productive in fewer hours learn to work smarter:
  • Make an effort to keep phone calls short and on topic
  • Do not check personal email while at work
  • Check work email only at designated times of the day
  • Use folders to organize incoming emails
  • Saving reading and researching for times you know you will not be interrupted
  • Be selective about what files and papers you keep avoiding unnecessary clutter
  • Store all incoming mail and email in either an Action or Reference file
  • Buy in bulk supplies that you use often
  • Combine similar tasks
  • Focus your efforts on tasks that utilize your strong points. Delegate tasks that rely on your weaknesses.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is Sunny Weather Bad for Productivity?

With the sun shining brilliantly and the weather still warm, I have recently found myself more motivated to get outside than to get any work done this summer. Judging by the RSS feeds of my favorite blogs, I am not the only blogger suffering from a lack of productivity this summer. Curious about whether this phenomena was real or a fabricated excuse to work less, I went in search of scientific evidence. Not only were my suspicions about warm weather productivity correct, but I was pleasantly surprised by the industry suggestion - combat summer laziness with flexible work schedules!

A few years ago, the Huntress Group of London conducted a survey of employees regarding their summer plans and workplace productivity revealing some interesting statistics:
  • 58% of employees planned to take time away from the office for a summer vacation
  • 68% of employees admitted to daydreaming about plans for summer travel while at work
  • 60% reported they would leave the office for a lunch break outside during the summer months
  • 63% reported they would leave the office earlier than normal in order to spend more time outside
  • 24% of employees felt that their productivity levels actually dropped during these sunny summer months
Julia Vassie, Commercial Director at Huntress, presented the results of the study along with the advice, employers should offer flexible scheduling options to employees allowing them to arrive late or leave early in order to spend more time outside in the summer sun.

In fact, many corporations do allow employees to take advantage of summer scheduling. Many accepted plans involve a condensed work week allowing employees to leave early on Fridays or take every other Friday off entirely. Ideally, employees with extra time to enjoy the summer weather will be more motivated to work while in the office boosting productivity in fewer or simply nontraditional hours. If your employer does not allow a flexible summer schedule be sure to get outside during lunch time or for a short walk in the afternoon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Headlines from the Work World

Living near work? Great idea, in theory
Developers describe the vision behind urban villages and why they are not working, yet. Three master planned communities in the Seattle area with theoretically self-sufficient economics are examples of communities where residents were intended to be able to work and live without the hassle of a commute.

Congress finding value in unpaid leave plans
The democratic-led congress explores legislation extending FMLA benefits ensuring leave to families of injured soldiers, new parents, and caregivers of sick family members.

Workforce housing key to healthier economy
With the high cost of housing, moving or commuting for a job can be impossible. Broward county, Fl businesses explore employee housing as a key to recruitment, retention, and growth. Could this be a successful workforce trend?

Growing sectors: Where the boom will be for Frederick County's jobs
Discussion about the state of jobs in Frederick County led to an analysis of six industries that face the challenge of a shrinking workforce and inexperienced job candidates.

Work and humor do mix
Does your boss have a good sense of humor? Does your employer value humor in the workplace? A survey by temporary staffing agency, Robert Half International claims that humor has a place in the workplace.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Weird" Benefits

The key to hiring, retaining, and motivating a modern workforce is in the culture and benefits offered by a corporation. In his book, Get Weird! 101 Innovative Ways to Make Your Company a Great Place to Work, John Putzier offers a multitude of weird techniques to inspire a creative and productive workforce. How about these ideas:
  • Provide a room for employees to temporarily escape their office, a place to meditate, play ping pong, or take a nap
  • Offer a regular prize drawing for those who refer new employees to the company for prizes such as trips, concert tickets, etc.
  • Take new hires out with existing employees after their interview for a chance to get to know their coworkers and experience the company culture
  • Training exercises through puzzles, quizzes, and games
  • A Wall of Fame to showcase individual successes, especially in the customer service realm
  • Take home gourmet dinners for employees and their families
What are the best and most innovative benefits you have encountered?


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Business Benefits of Flexible Scheduling

Lori Long, author of the blog Family Friendly Work and the book, The Parent's Guide to Family Friendly Work, recently reported some amazing statistics highlighting the business case for flexible work arrangements and raising the question why do more businesses not take advantage of flexible scheduling benefits. While many businesses still do not offer much variety of flexible scheduling options, the resulting increases in productivity experienced by those businesses that do are apparent. Lori's statistics speak for themselves:

  • 73% of flex employees reported a willingness to stay with their current employer.

  • 39% of flex employees reported high levels of loyalty and extra drive to help their employer succeed.

  • 33% of managers reported increased productivity from their employees due to flexible work arrangements.

  • Cisco's telework program netted a $195 million increase in productivity. Deloitte estimates they have saved $41.5 million in turnover costs since offering flexible scheduling benefits.
Thank you Lori for shedding light on these concrete examples of the positive impact flexible scheduling can have on a corporation's productivity and bottom line. Hopefully, continued research and publicity of the results will encourage a continued adoption of flexible scheduling options by companies everywhere.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Child Care Options for Flexible Schedules


You have secured your ideal schedule at work maximizing the amount of time you have available to spend at home with your children. However, you still need reliable child care for those hours spent at work. Unfortunately, flexible schedules can reek havoc on daycare arrangements which often require regular hours and full-time costs, regardless of mom and dad's schedule. Consider the following daycare options with regards to your own flexible schedule:

  • Babysitters, Relatives, and Friends: enlisting the periodic services of a local teenager or someone you know can buy you a few extra quiet work hours at a relatively low cost. Such babysitters are paid hourly and can be hired to work a few hours here and there to extend your work day.
  • Nanny or Au Pair: usually a young adult with or without a college degree, a nanny or au pair is generally hired to work full-time hours but can provide the flexibility of watching your kids in your own home. As full-time employees, some nannies may require you to also provide benefits including housing in a live-in arrangement.
  • Child Care Cooperative: coops involve a group of parents who swap childcare responsibilities. Often involving a network of several families, coops will provide several options for care at varying times. The only cost is an exchange of equal childcare hours at another time.
  • Family Child Care: in home care provided by a licensed provider can offer flexibility to working parents who work longer hours as in the case of a compressed work week. Since family child care providers work from their own home, a provider can watch your child as one of her own brood without interference into everyday activities.
  • Child Care Centers: some centers offer part-time rates but usually require regular hours. For example, your child can attend a child care center for preschool only, but the daily class times are rigid, for example 3 hours each morning.
  • After School Programs or Summer Camps: activities and camps can keep children occupied for a short few hours, again with a rigid schedule, providing extra hours to get work done.
Each of these daycare options may suit varying flexible schedules with mixed success. Finding your ideal daycare to match your ideal work schedule will be a constant exercise in balance and discernment.

To search local child care options visit the Maryland Committee for Children. For a nationwide search of childcare providers visit SitterCity (Don't forget Fido. SitterCity also has pet sitter resources).

Monday, August 6, 2007

Monthly Tip: Scheduling for Work Life Balance

A flexible schedule at work means that work and personal commitments can be more cohesive throughout the course of the day. However, if you find yourself constantly checking a work planner and a personal calendar to schedule to do items, separate calendars could be causing complications in your ability to maintain a cohesive schedule of all life's tasks.

Imagine this: You are working at home for the day when your boss calls at 11:00 to see if you will be able to finish a presentation before close of business today. The presentation will take only 2 hours to complete, so you agree and write the task in your work planner. At 12:30, your husband calls to remind you to pick up the children at daycare at 3:00. You set a reminder on your personal calendar. At 2:00, a quick check of your to do list reveals the presentation still to be completed. At 2:45 you get an automated reminder to pick up your children. The presentation is still incomplete and your home office is about to become a playroom.

To avoid conflicts like the one described above, consider keeping one all inclusive calendar. Write work events in one color and personal events in another. That way, when you work a flexible or changing schedule and juggle childcare or other personal responsibilities, one quick check of your calendar will let you know exactly what your schedule will permit.

Go Mom Inc. sells planners that help busy Moms keep track of their own work and personal obligations as well as the activities and important information for multiple children.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Free Wi-Fi in Frederick, MD

Workspace with free internet can be an indispensable resource for those seeking an office away from the corporate cube farm. For telecommuters and work-at-home employees who thrive in an environment free of personal distractions, free wi-fi spots scattered around the country and the world are growing in number each year. If you have not already experienced the freedom of free wi-fi, enjoy one of these local spots:

Barley and Hops Restaurant and Microbrewery
5473 Urbana Pike
301-668-5555

The Coffee Table
2401 Whittier DR, Unit A
301-631-1282

Daily Grind
2198 Old Farm Road
301-668-9880

Davidus Cigars
1015 West Patrick Street
301-662-6606

Fairfield Inn
5220 Westview Drive
301-631-2000

Loco Jonny's Coffee
177 Thomas Johnson Dr
301-502-2363

Panera Bread
5600 Urbana Pike
301-662-9700
or
1700 Kingfisher Dr
301-663-9406

If you know of other free wi-fi spots in Frederick, leave a comment below. Enjoy this free resource.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

World Breastfeeding Week: Corporate Lactation Programs

World Breastfeeding Week is August 1 - August 7

It is recommended by doctors that infants be breastfed shortly following birth and then exclusively for at least 6 months. Breastfed babies are healthier in infancy and throughout the rest of their lives with lower instances of allergies and obesity. For those women who choose to breastfeed exclusively, infants nurse every 2-3 hours for the first year of their life. So where does that leave working mothers?

In the past, we have discussed workplace lactation programs as a key ingredient to a working mother's success in continuing to breastfeed her infant once returning to work. A lactation program can be as simple as a place to express breast milk and acceptance by management of regular breaks. A mother working 8 hours a day, needs approximately three 15 minute breaks throughout the workday to express milk. Corporations can go further and provide working mothers with access to lactation consultants and subsidies for purchase of a hospital grade breast pump.

According to Medela, the benefits of a corporate lactation program to an employer include a 27% decrease in maternal days off to deal with infant or maternal illness. The benefits to mothers and her children include a myriad of health and psychological benefits. The maternal/child bond is enhanced. Breastfeeding mothers heal quicker from childbirth, are less likely to suffer postpartum depression. And the list goes on.

Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week by exploring the availability of corporate lactation programs at your company. Or let us know what experiences you have had as a breastfeeding, working mother.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Anti 9-to-5 Guide

Michelle Goodman was once a 9-to-5er working her way up the traditional career ladder until she fled the cube over a decade ago. Now a freelance writer, Michelle works various temp jobs when her savings account needs a boost. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide is Michelle's first book offering advice to other women who long to flee the cube. The Anti 9-to-5 blog features information about freelancing as a career, women in the workplace, work life balance, plus Michelle does periodic profiles of women who have successfully left cubicle culture behind.

Michelle recently profiled me and Flexible Workforce in an Anti 9-to-5 profile. Be sure to visit her blog to read the interview.


Friday, July 27, 2007

What the Labor Shortage Could Mean for Flexible Benefits

By the year 2012 there will be 3.3 million fewer workers than jobs according to the Society of Human Resources Management. The impending labor shortage left by baby boomers exiting the workforce will leave employers scrambling for top talent. What does this all mean for employees seeking greater flexibility – an opportunity to instill in the workplace increased value placed on flexibility.

Employers will experience:

  1. A Shortage of Qualified Candidates: Organizations will have increased difficulty finding qualified candidates for available positions, consequently, placing an increased focus on recruitment and retention of qualified employees.
  2. More Expensive Recruitment and Retention Campaigns: The rising costs of recruitment and retention of employees will leave employers looking for ways to cut costs. Costly benefits packages could fall victim to corporate cost-cutting plans.
  3. An Increased Need for Productivity: With fewer experienced employees, organizations will look for ways to increase productivity of current employees. Additional money will be spent on training and technology for the workforce.
  4. A Greater Acceptance of New Motivators: As corporations look to boost, recruitment, retention, and productivity, new motivators will become more acceptable. Flexible working options offer a great benefit to employees' work life balance while remaining low cost to employers.

If flexible work options are not offered to you as a new employee, ask about their availability to employees. With the entrance of the millennials into the workforce, a new set of values will also be ushered in. Make sure you are able to take advantage of all the benefits coming in the wake.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Flexible Position: Development and Marketing Manager

The Central Scholarship Bureau has been helping students pay for postsecondary education and training for almost 85 years. CSB is looking for a development and marketing professional to support its fundraising and communications strategies by increasing donations from individuals through an annual appeal; developing corporate and foundation funding sources; organizing special events; and planning publicity and marketing initiatives. The position is four eight hour days per week. Benefits include health insurance, retirement, and generous leave in a family friendly environment.

The preferred candidate will have four years of fundraising and marketing experience; grant writing ability or the willingness to learn; superior oral and written communications skills; and a passion for education.

Applications must be received by July 23, 2007. Candidates should send a letter of interest, a current resume, a writing sample, and a list of three references to Central Scholarship Bureau, 1700 Reisterstown Road, Suite 220, Baltimore, MD 21208 or by email to rringel @centralsb.org.

Posted 7/2/2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Proposed Model for Paid Maternity Leave

The Maine Women’s Fund blog, E-Quality Matters recently published a post, “Women in the Workplace” that explored a proposal to fund 12 weeks paid maternity leave for all employees.

California and Washington State are both experimenting with a new method for financing PAID maternity leave for EVERYONE (regardless of their company policy, company size, etc). …In the model introduced in the West, all regular employees contribute $.01 from each pay check towards an insurance fund. The fund is aggregated, invested, and used to cover the cost of 12 weeks paid maternity leave for all employed citizens. I like this model because somewhere deep down there is a recognition that society benefits from investing in moms and children.” (read more)

Currently, federal law protects employees taking time off for family and medical reasons under FMLA regulations that stipulate employees can take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave per year. Additionally, their employer may not retaliate against them for taking advantage of FMLA leave. However, in many other industrialized nations across Europe and throughout Asia, new parents are extended paid time off up to one year. Most American employees, with a lower tax burden, do not enjoy this benefit. The model discussed on the E-Quality Matters blog places the burden of funding paid maternity leave not on tax payers or employers but on fellow employees. These maternity leave benefits are then offered universally to new parents.

As the baby boomers exit the workplace, talent held by top female employees is coveted by companies nation-wide. Mothers who previously might elect to exit the workforce after childbirth are being encouraged to stay on staff with benefits packages that include paid maternity leave, flexible scheduling options, and childcare resources. Do you think the proposed model for paid maternity leave is fair? Is it feasible?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Why Part-Time Doesn't Always Work

When the results of a recent Pew Research study were released recently declaring that mothers prefer part-time work, I had initially decided not to jump on the band wagon of mommy bloggers who were less than surprised by the results. What mother juggling the majority of childrearing and housework responsibilities would not like to work a few less hours each week? Research like this only fans the flames of the so-called mommy wars by pitting at-home moms against working moms who might both be happier with a part time work schedule.

Recent events in my home have led me to revisit the results of this study and the many reasons why I have decided not to reduce my own work hours to a part time schedule. In fact, for many families, part-time work simply does not work.
  1. Part-time work = Part-time pay: Beyond the obvious math here, part-time employees doing the same job within the same industry make around $3 less per hour than their full-time counterparts.
  2. Benefits are cost prohibitive: Health and retirement benefits available to full-time employees are often unavailable to part-time employees. When equal benefits are purchased, an individual misses out on the discounts made available to large employers.
  3. Part-time does not always mean less than 40 hours: Most employees working a nontraditional schedule have experienced the reality that time spent away from the office during standard business hours is not sacred to coworkers. Crises and questions arise whether you are on vacation or home with your kids. Part-time employees who pick up that emergent phone call or check their work email daily will find themselves working several unbilled hours each week. Part-time quickly becomes less pay without a greatly reduced workload.
The best remedy is to seek work at a family friendly company with an acceptance of corporate flexibility. The more employees working any type of flexible arrangement, the more likely a corporation is to pay all employees on a common payscale. Similarly, family friendly employers may be more likely to offer prorated benefits to part-time employees passing along their corporate discount to all employees. The last one is up to you. Coworkers with similar family priorities may be less likely to call you at home, but you will need to personally define and communicate how much work you are willing to do on your time off. Do not feel bad letting coworkers know that you only work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leaving you unavailable the remainder of the week. But then do not check your email until you are back in the office.

Would you prefer to work a part-time schedule at work? Let me know what you think it would take to make your part-time schedule a reality.

Flexible Position: Retail Sales and Lead Sales

For our Frederick Store, opening soon at Westview Promenade.
If you love to shop with us, why not come work at our store? Enjoy flexible hours, a fun and friendly work environment and a generous 40% employee discount. If you would like to be a part of the Coldwater Creek team, just cal (888) 477-6089. We're hiring for full-time lead sales management and part-time sales positions.

Please send correspondence to:

Human Resources,
Retail Recruiting
emp80392@thecreek.com

Mail campaign throughout July in the Frederick area.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Career Mapping Exercises That Can Help Organize Your Future

Would you start a home business without first writing a business plan? Would you enroll in a degree program without reviewing a degree audit? No, before making a huge investment of your time and money, you need to know what will be required and determine if the expectations are reasonable and feasible. Similarly, before entering the workforce, you should have a career map.

What is a Career Map?
A career map is a tool used to explore your future career development in the short and long term. It is a tool to help you consider your personal skills and values as they relate to your career goals and a specific job. The questioning involved is very open ended because individuals will vary greatly in the way they respond to questioning. Skills and values are left up to personal interpretation. Other exercises focus on brainstorming and reflection. The map is yours to create.

How to use a Career Map.
Career mapping exercises are designed to be thought provoking, so complete these exercises when you are not distracted. If you find the career mapping exercises intimidating, use as a part of a discussion group or coaching session. The career map I use with clients is linked below. Start your reflection now, but write in pencil, as goals and priorities change.

Career Mapping Exercises

Still have questions?
I have recently been selected as an expert at AllExperts.com, a division of About.com. Come on over and ask me a question about Career Planning or explore one of the many other topics.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Flexible Position: Receptionist

Receptionist position at Darcars Toyota in Frederick with non-traditional work hours

Full time Receptionist
Monday -Friday 7-4
Apply in person at 5293 Buckeystown Pike, Frederick, MD. 21701

Posted on Frederick News Post 7/19/2007.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Resume Makeover Contest Winner

Lauren's Resume Before:

Many of the changes made to Lauren's resume are simple formatting changes intended to make her resume more readable to electronic resume scanning software. Notice, in Lauren's after, her name is centered on the page followed by her contact information, which is contained in one line sections. Additionally, I removed the columned feel of her resume and added bullet points, making her resume easier to read by hiring managers. Other changes to Lauren's resume include descriptions more focused on accomplishments and quantifiable results. I also removed Lauren's high school job at Subway which added no relevant work history beyond her other sales position.




Lauren's Winning Resume:




(Click on the images to view the resumes larger)

Congratulations Lauren on winning the resume contest. A polished resume can be the single most important self-marketing tool during a job search. Happy searching!





*Please note that this resume has been made anonymous by changing names and places.*

Monday, July 16, 2007

How My Vacation Offered Reprieve from Normal Work

I said that I would not work on my vacation. The week-long retreat to the beach with my family was well-deserved and perhaps long overdue. I enjoyed plenty of time at the beach, afternoons reading, and days where my young sons’ schedules ruled. However, without touching a keyboard, I found myself continuing to “work” often focusing on activities I do not always find time for throughout the standard work week.
  1. I read Cali Williams Yost’s book, Work+Life Fit and was inspired by her ideas about each individual’s role in creating a fit (not balance) for all life’s responsibilities.
  2. Inspired by Cali’s book, I rethought the vernacular I use to describe work-life balance determining that what I dislike about the term is the segregation of work from life. It seems to me that work, family, and other responsibilities should all be enmeshed together making up a fulfilling life. Watch for future musings on this topic.
  3. I checked my website and email with some regularity removing a bum poll whose links I lost early in the week. I am still very interested in your ideal work environment, so leave a comment below. The initial responses I did get through the poll were dominated by those who prefer working from a home office.
  4. I also kept an eye on some of my favorite blogs throughout the week including: Job-Mom, Business Week's Working Parents blog, and Family Friendly Work.
  5. Thought over and made plans for a few site improvements. Hopefully you will not even notice most of the changes I am planning. However, do look for more polls (with better links) and other easy interactive features in the near future.
  6. I talked with quite a few people about their work arrangements and preferences for scheduling options once again being reminded of the vast number of solutions for employees juggling varied responsibilities.
  7. I picked a winner for our Flexible Resume Makeover contest. Today I am working on making the resume anonymous, but look for our prized resume soon and congratulations to Lauren from Pennsylvania!
Now that the sand is washed off my feet, it’s back to work as usual.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Why I Will Not Work on Vacation Next Week


Flexible work arrangements such as telework and work at home arrangements give employees the flexibility of working outside a corporate office setting while taking the emphasis off putting in mere face time. However, the success of flexible work schedules hinges on the individual employee; ones needs in a work environment vary greatly. I need peace and quiet. I need distance from the distractions of the television, the refrigerator, the laundry. A successful home office can be set up to diminish or eliminate these distractions. Employees can also work outside the home from a telework center or leased office space. Modern internet connectivity has made working remotely adaptable to each employee and completely feasible for most.

However, I cannot take my home office on vacation with me and I do not work well in the local WiFi hot spots. So next week, while my family and I are on vacation, I will not be working remotely.

I would love to know, what is your ideal work environment? Leave me a comment telling me what is your ideal work space, a corporate office? home office? or some other location?

Also, take a moment to read Ryan Healy’s post on the Brazen Careerist blog, When Working on Vacation isn’t Work. Ryan pitches the question, what does it say about your career when you need 15 vacation days a year to completely disconnect. What do you think about his conclusion that you either dislike your job or work way too hard when you need to get away just to maintain sanity?
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State College, PA