The Doctor is IN

Keen Observations on Life … Whether You Need Them or Not

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Family-Friendly Workplace Policies

I’ve recently tuned into the NC Justice Center and have been reading through some of the old media releases, and one of them from renowned economist and workforce expert Dr. Heather Boushey gave me pause this morning: Economist: North Carolina needs family-friendly policies to create 21st century workplaces. Right on, Dr. Boushey.

Before I was swept up in the dot-com┬ábust in the early part of the new millennium, I telecommuted for five years with Nortel Networks. I was five months pregnant when I started with them, and my son was a year out of kindergarten when I left. We had an availability clause requiring that we worked a certain percentage of the workday on East Coast through Pacific Coast time (for our many colleagues across North America), and then the rest of our day was augmented by conference calls and project work with colleagues across the globe. It took me years to get off of the crazy work schedule and readjust my productivity time to 8 – 5 pm. But I digress …

There were several bests about the telecommuting corporate life:

  • the unprecedented blessing of my husband (also a Nortel telecommuter) seeing all of our son’s “firsts” … first steps, first words, first bite of baby cereal;
  • we drastically reduced our carbon footprint by not driving everyday (there were some weeks when the car was parked for seven days);
  • we didn’t contribute to air or noise pollution with our cars parked;
  • my output was about 300% higher than when I’m in an office because concentration is focused, not skewed by chatting and complaining with coworkers (even on the rare occasion that I’m allowed to work from home in my current position, I can get about two days worth of work finished);
  • I could go for a walk at lunchtime and get a little exercise without having to scramble to the gym;
  • and most importantly: creativity doesn’t flow from 8 am – 5 pm … you just can’t force it.

My last position was as a writer and producer for a local Edward R. Murrow Award-winning news station’s Web site, and as savvy and forward-thinking as they would have┬áthe community perceive, they were actually quite antiquated in their workplace and management practices. My current job is the same way … it’s frustrating to have management that just can’t see the value of once or twice a week telecommuting. Yes, there are always loser slacker colleagues who screw around at home and waste their time–but there are those of us who thrive on the quiet serenity of a home office. The all-or-none attitude has to go.

That said, kudos to my current and former positions for allowing kids to come to work on teacher workdays, on the way to or from appointments, or days when track-out camps aren’t available. Though it’s no fun for my son to have to spend more than one day with me at work (he’s old enough now that he keeps himself busy with our activity bag from home), it’s a blessing to know that I don’t have to take a sick/vacation/unpaid day off to be at home. Telecommuting would work well on these days, if management paranoia wasn’t an issue. But, oh well.

Happy workers = productive workers. Does anybody have a job for a telecommuting writer with kick-ass creativity, a strong business acumen, and enough computing power to run a small country? I’m your gal.