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Addressing Flexibility Frustrations with Colleagues

19 May 2021 11:30 AM | Anonymous


Dear Sophia,

I am currently working full time and during lockdowns am caring for my family also, which means I have to be flexible with work. Whilst overall work colleagues have been hugely supportive, I am working with some colleagues that cannot facilitate my need to connect out of normal office hours. There is no flexibility being offered for the fact I need to work evenings and weekends as I am caring for family during the day for the most part. Whilst I respect their need to have free time in evenings and weekends, I am also challenged with trying to carve out time during the day. I have been trying to meet them in the middle but it seems there is no room for flexibility here. We are working on group projects so communication and meeting halfway is key but no give.

Sincerely, 

Homeschooling Working Mother

Dear Homeschooling Working Mother,

Your situation highlights how WFH and motherhood during a pandemic with homeschooled kids mix like oil and water without interventions to help the ingredients to blend together. Ask a working mother and you may hear their company has continued business as normal throughout the pandemic without necessarily promoting flexible work policies and extending grace to millions of working parents, specifically women, which may not be surprising when men hold a majority of executive leadership and manager positions (62%). While many companies are working toward better policies, the current circumstances are unchartered territory and there just isn’t a well established road map. To find a middle ground with your colleagues, I first suggest coalition building with other WFH parents at your company. Leverage the power of numbers when you advocate for a call to action with your HR department or manager to promote existing or new flexible work policies. Most global companies already have a considerable amount of flexibility in the work day to meet the demands of working across time-zones. Compile a few examples of flexwork policies as this will provide management a starting point to expand on policies. Overwhelmingly, flexible work policies (job sharing, meeting-free blocks, compressed work weeks, flexible working hours, etc.) improve the workplace for ALL employees across all demographics because they give employees the power to manage their time. Meeting employees where they are and ensuring an inclusive workplace is not too much to demand. In the end, your efforts will impact both your employee experience and that of your colleagues. 

Keeping all this in mind, many people who work during the traditional 9-5 pm block may not want to work evenings and weekends because for them it’s part of their work-life balance. So asking someone who has established these boundaries for their own mental health to shift their hours may not be received as reasonable. If a meeting is scheduled well in advance and occurs just once or twice, then colleagues may be more likely to accommodate. But if it’s a regular request, then I can see why it would be met with resistance. In this case, while management is considering your request for more flexibility, be open with your colleagues about your situation and see if they are occasionally willing to make an exception to their work hours. They may not fully be aware of what you’re dealing with. In addition, if they are unable to accomodate alternate times and, quite frankly, even if they are, then explain that you may have the occasional screaming child you have to attend to during a meeting. This is your current reality and your colleagues should be understanding of that. It’s also important to evaluate if meetings are really essential and add value to the desired outcomes. Are there different or creative ways you and your colleagues can work together? Consider using tools like Slack, Google Docs, Sheets, and Presentations that allow multiple people to provide feedback and work on projects together at the same time. Everyone is so Zoomed out at this point, I’m betting if you suggest fewer meetings and more online collaboration, it’ll be a blessing in disguise for most including yourself! Think about it. Your colleagues may even have other solutions.

Confidentially Yours,

Sophia

P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Homeschooling Working Mother? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

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