Tuesday, April 14, 2020

How to Make Flexible Work Schedules Work for You and Your Family

I recently received an email from a father who had been offered the chance to have a flexible work schedule from his employer.  He was able to work from home part of the week, and to do much of his creative work after normal hours.  The flexible work schedule had been helping a lot with him being able to spend quality time with the kids, but he also felt that he was sacrificing his professional reputation by being away from his work group so much.  “Is there a better way to balance this opportunity so that my family, my employer and me all are finding it a win?”

Great question.  Flexible work schedules and employers who are willing to offer them to their employees can be a real benefit to employees and families, if the employer can still get the value and the productivity needed to be successful.  But, truth be known, it is a balancing act that demands our very best effort to make it work for all concerned.

So, I asked around among my father friends who have flexible work schedules and who work at least part of their week from home to get some advice from the trenches as far as making flextime work well for them.

Schedule kid-free time for work from home.  While we may have this ideal image that we can shift on a moment’s notice from being a super-dad to being a super-employee, it is not always quite that easy.  Business meetings on the phone or via Zoom or Microsoft Teams cannot be interrupted by kids needing something.  And our best creative work isn’t done in an environment with new distractions every few minutes - or sometimes, multiple times a minute.  So dad who work from home tell me that setting up some time when they are always available for work and free from distractions is important.  It may be a time when the kids are at school or preschool or when their mom is home and taking over the child care duties.

Do the most creative work at the quietest time.  You can certainly respond to routine emails with a baby or your lap or when kids are eating a meal, but when you really need to think and be creative, it is best to do it when there are fewer distractions.  One dad I know told me that he would do his best creative work early in the morning before the kids were up, at nap time or after bedtime.  Try to program your work so that you can work best when you work best.

Find ways to connect with colleagues.  Several dads I spoke with talked about feelings of isolation from their peers at work.  After all, when you are working part of the time from home, you are not engaging in the casual conversations at the “water cooler” or in the hallways.  That lack of small talk can help you feel unconnected with the people you work with.  So still go out after work occasionally with the guys at the office, keep up on their lives on social media, or have them over to your place with their families for a barbeque or similar event.  Finding new ways to connect can help with the sense of being left out at work for being at home more often.

Coordinate calendars.  Scheduling for family and personal relationships can get really tricky with a flexible work schedule.  Several of the dads I talked with started using an online family calendar integrated with their work calendar to make sure that everyone in the family knew everyone else’s schedule.  This is a good idea for any family, but it becomes more important when the dad’s schedule is flexible.  Getting soccer practices, piano recitals and weekly dates on the online calendar will minimize scheduling conflicts which can result in human conflicts.

Flexible scheduling options for employees can be a major blessing in the life of a family, but only if the family is careful to make sure it works.  A few simple steps taken together can result in greater family time and more productivity at work.