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.
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Flexible Workforce Solutions
State College, PA