Tag Archives: work-life

Marissa Mayer and the Yahoo! Culture Change

27 Feb

I can’t stand Marissa Mayer’s smug little face, which fueled my immediate outrage at her unexpected kibosh on working remotely at Yahoo! (read more about my disdain for her in my earlier post about her squandered opportunity to set a good example for maternity leave policies for working women)

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After a few hours of, you know, working and minding my own business, my disgust at this news somewhat subsided.  I learned that there was a bit more to the situation than the earliest reactionary headlines suggested.  In particular, Yahoo!’s policy change is designed to target employees who have been working solely from home, as opposed to working most of the time in an office environment, but with the flexibility to work from home when needed for family or personal reasons.

As much as I love to hate on Marissa, I can get behind spending the bulk of work time in an office environment when your job duties involve creativity and collaboration.  So it appears that the policy change is not so much about eliminating flexibility options for working families, as to change the work culture of the company.  I only hope that Yahoo! doesn’t eliminate the potential for occasional telecommuting when the need arises.  Because that would be a true jerk move.

Andlthough I haven’t seen nearly as much confirmation on this, I did hear whispers that she has also eliminated flex schedules.  That, my friends, I see as an unnecessary thumb-of-the-nose to working parents.  If true, elimination of flex time is inexcusable.  That deserves true scorn.

Working parents and their supporters so frequently demand, and praise, “flexibility” in the workplace.  But “flexibility” is so ill defined as to practically be meaningless. Similarly with “support” for working families.  We want the work environment to change to “support” working families, but what does that mean?

To me, a “supportive” work environment for working families means:

-The flexibility to work remotely when the need arises.

-Paid parental leave for a reasonable duration at the birth/adoption of a child.

-A workplace culture that trusts you to be a professional and accomplish your work (whether it’s at 3pm or 2am), without hovering over you and tying you to outdated notions of face time.

-Most importantly, a culture of flexibility. That means coworkers and superiors accepting that maybe you’ll be out for an afternoon here or there or sometimes you have to unexpectedly deal with illness or whatever, but not penalizing you for that.

-In an ideal world, employers would offer stopgap “Get Well” childcare.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to be paid for by the employer. I’d be happy to pay for it out of pocket. Just if the employer could have a service in place to provide emergency childcare when your kid’s got the flu but you’ve got a deposition that took four reschedulings to find a date where eight attorneys could all show up.

-A change in perspective that these flexible measures are not just for parents/kids.  Everyone can benefit from this kind of supportive work environment.  Everyone needs a little flexibility, whether it’s to care for a child, a parent, your beloved Fido, or a mental health break for yourself.  Flexibility is not a women’s issue, it’s an everybody issue, and it can benefit everybody.

What do workplace “flexibility” and “support” mean for you?

Snowy Pittsburgh

27 Dec

When the snow starts falling in Pittsburgh, this California girl prefers to stay indoors until Springtime breaks. The snow started yesterday, and I was thrilled that I had already arranged to have the day off. The roads were still snow covered today, and as I lazily awoke and stumbled about the house, I considered staying home today as well. After all, it would be a slow day and everything I needed to do, I could do from home.

Then Baby Beez woke up. In rare form.

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Yet another blurry picture, because this kid never sits still. Here she is breaking in her new cowgirl boots with a little boogie. She was bolting around the house. Suddenly, grown up time in the office sounded perfect.

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Coffee and privilege logs and pleadings. And I got to pick the music.

Anna Quindlen, Jodi Kantor and the 92 St Y

17 Dec

Tonight I participated in an intergenerational panel discussion prior to my Temple’s showing of the 92nd St Y broadcast of Anna Quindlen and Jodi Kantor’s discussion of “21st Century Womanhood.”  My favorite part of our panel discussion was getting to learn things about the histories and careers of fellow congregants.  I know these women from sitting on the Temple board, and from sharing cookies after Temple, and from them fussing over my little one, but I didn’t know about their backgrounds and the things they have overcome in their careers.  My co-panelists have such interesting backgrounds, and have done so much, and I relished this opportunity to get to know them better.

In the 92nd St Y Broadcast, Quindlen and Kantor covered a broad array of topics.  They spent a lot of time talking about Michelle Obama, and focused on one issue that has particularly intrigued me about Mrs. Obama– the role of First Lady comes with certain expectations of nurturing, and motherliness, and mild personality.  Mrs. Obama is a highly educated and highly opinionated woman.  I am interested in learning about how it felt to her to make a transition into an identity of femininity that the public is more comfortable with?  I don’t doubt for a minute that her motivations between the Military Families and Lets Move campaigns are genuine, but what I’d give to sit down with her over a cup of coffee and discuss the process of selecting and cultivating a public persona in these circumstances.

Quindlen and Kantor also discussed Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article, and brought a new angle to it that I hadn’t much considered.  Quindlen pointed out that Slaughter switched from a career in academia to a high stress position in government hundreds of miles away from home, and hundreds of miles away from her relatively young children.  Regardless of how dedicated a worker or a mother any woman is, in that mix of factors, there is no formula for total satisfaction.

Quindlen poigniantly stated, and I’m paraphrasing: When I signed up to be a feminist, I signed up for more opportunities. I didn’t think I was signing up to get to do everything.  Everything we do is a choice.  A man who puts in long hours at the office for career success gives up on time with his children, just like a woman who puts in long hours at the office for career success gives up on time with her children.  We all make choices.

Maybe I should focus more on making those choices that bring the most happiness to me and my family, instead of expecting satisfaction to come from doing all the things all the time all at once.

NaBloPoMo Day 9: Administrative Assistant

9 Dec

I work most weekends, but hardly ever spend my weekends in the office. Usually, I can get my work done from home. On the weekends that really do require my presence in the workplace, Mr. Beez and I can usually sort things out so that he’s at home with Baby Beez when I’m at work, and vice versa. Some weekends don’t work out that way, and the final result is a field trip for Baby Beez.

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I’m involved in a big filing for tomorrow, and the degree of coordination required meant I needed to be in the office.  (And yes, I really DID have to use the Bluebook today.)  Mr. Beez also had obligations, so Baby Beez visited work with me. She watched Finding Nemo 1 and a half times, she wrote all over some scratch paper (pens are fascinating to her right now), she looked out the window, she ate some pretzels, and she threw some papers around. There was no screaming and no flailing, and I DID get my work done, so all in all it was a success.

When I was young, my mom worked at my school, so going to work with her was not a novelty.  My dad is an operating room nurse, and he once took me on a little tour of the OR, and I even got to watch a heart surgery (and by watch, I meant spent the time in a corner, holding onto a wall, trying not to pass out or be sick).  It was about the coolest thing my little self go to do.  I love it that our county has a big “Take Your Kids to Work” program at the courts, and can’t wait until Baby Beez is big enough to participate.  I am not pushing her to be a lawyer, but I do think it’s important to understand what Mommy is doing during those long hours away.

NaBloPoMo Day 7: Chillin out Maxin’ Relaxin all Cool

7 Dec

What is the best way to relax after a hard day?

lolcatbaddayI’m easy to please.  All I ask for relaxing is to just do something (or nothing) that is not work.  Usually this takes the form of ordering a pizza for dinner and hanging out on the couch with my family and the TV on.  Or maybe it means coffee and magazines.  But it usually is just some form of me sitting around.  On really bad days, I’m sitting around with a glass of wine.

In an ideal world, I’d say that after a hard day, I relax by going for a run or some other athletic activity, but in all honesty after most days I’m too beat to do much else than just sit there.  Since getting a Kindle, I have been reading every single night before bed.  This means both that I have read nearly 40 “fun” books this year alone, but also that I manage to slow my mind down enough that I can sleep through the night.

Hanging out with my family does make me feel a million percent better when I’ve had a bad day.  I spend my days doing work that is hard.  Law is complex and uncertain and confusing.  Sometimes (often) the practice of law feels like I’m picking my way through landmines.  And the stress is even more exacerbated because you are responsible for solving someone else’s problems.  So if you set off one of those landmines, you’ve blown it for both you and them.  (If it’s not already painfully obvious, this hasn’t been a great week.)

You know what’s not hard? Parenting.  People say parenting is hard, but it’s not.  It is very frustrating and very exhausting and full of unwinnable battles, but it is not hard.  And hanging out with my kid after a hard day makes me feel a little better, because it’s pretty darn hard to truly screw up this parenting thing.

Also, ice cream.

NaBloPoMo Day 6: Working hard or hardly working?

6 Dec

How hard do you think you work?

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Although I can rattle off the number of my billable hours completed this year with precision, I find it hard to judge whether I create an impression of diligence or laziness.  My work ethic is the most important career-related value to me.  The biggest compliment I could receive is to be thanked for working hard.  One of my biggest fears at work is that I am afraid of being perceived as lazy or not holding up my share of the work.
My attention (bordering at times of paranoia) on this quality has apparently kept me focused and working hard enough that in my annual review, my highest marks were in the “work ethic” category.  But high marks does not mean I can rest easy.  Only because I’ve been so determined to be, and to be known as, hardworking have I established that reputation for myself.

I probably work harder than lots of people, but there are also lots of people who work harder than me.  Sometimes I think that I can only consider myself hardworking if I work harder than everyone else, like that I can’t think of myself as hardworking at all when there are other people who have it tougher, and are piecing together back-to-back blue collar shifts, 7 days a week, and barely making ends meet.  Or that I can’t consider myself hardworking because I have managed to fit that hard work to my life, for example by leaving work at a reasonable hour but doing work once the baby is in bed, instead of staying in the office until late late at night.

But being “hardworking” isn’t a contest.  There is no limit on the number of people who can be “hardworking.”  And just because someone’s workload is comparatively harder than someone else’s, does not mean that the person with the lesser workload is not “hardworking.”  Comparing gets me nowhere.  I just have to keep at it, keep my hours up, get my work done, and hope that people recognize my efforts.

NaBloPoMo Day 2: Workin’ it from Home

2 Dec

working-from-homeI have a love/hate relationship with remote access to work. I love it on days like today:  I had a lot of work to do, but was also down to yoga pants as the only clean clothes in my house, and it being the weekend, I wanted to see my family.  If it were 10 years ago, I’d be stuck having to haul in to the office for the better part of the day (with laundry left undone, and a lonely kid).  Now, thanks to good VPN access, I can throw a load of laundry in the washer, open up my laptop, and get work done as the little one dances around to the Wiggles. And working on the weekend is much more pleasant if you can work in your jammies.

I don’t often work from home.  One main reason is because I have to be on the phone a lot, and we have 2 parrots at home. Try to explain parrot noises on a client call. It’s not pretty.  Also, I do love the structure and professionalism of an office environment.  In a pinch, though, the access is priceless.

Remote access is also perfect for when I need to think creatively and intensely.  Appellate briefs in particular require uninterrupted focus.  My office is not a place for uninterrupted focus.  There are always people calling and stopping by.  I love that with remote access I can park myself in a quiet, vacant corner of the library and get my thoughts together.

The downside of remote access is that it means you can work everywhere, anywhere, all the time.  Sick days become work from home days.  It’s virtually impossible to have a true day away. The answer is setting personal boundaries, but that is often not a practical answer in the legal field.  Courts and clients have deadlines and needs, regardless of whether you’ve got the flu.  It’s nice to not have to scramble for a Plan B, but it would also be nice to actually not have to worry about working when you’re feeling under the weather.

On the whole, remote access is a blessing for my family.  My husband and I both work hours-intense jobs, and our ability to get the household to run and also to spend time with our daughter (admittedly sometimes multitasking, but time while on the laptop is better than no time at all), is only possible because we are able to, when the need arises, work from the couch.

Does remote access give you freedom, or keep you tethered to your work?

Thrown for a loop.

14 Nov

What I expected to be just a sick day home from daycare ended up turning into a visit with the pediatrician, which then turned into a directive to head to the Children’s Hospital emergency room now. Thanks to a very nasty bout of croup, Baby Beez was having very labored breathing, which needed medical attention.

This threw us all for a loop. Sometimes I think things like this pop up during the most craziest and chaotic of work weeks because the universe just wants to see whether I truly am able to come up with and execute a Plan B. I was supposed to go out of town for business for Thursday and Friday, but with my child now in the hospital, the colleagues at my firm have found someone to cover for me.

The value of this is not lost on me in the slightest. Lawyers are often focused and unsympathetic, and many other firms would expect me to travel, since after all there are other family members who could take the baby home at discharge and care for her. I was happy that my firm treated me well, and without a moment’s hesitation told me to care for my family first, and they’d sort through everything else.

So now we have spent the day in the hospital. Baby Beez is relaxing, watching movies, and doing a lot better. Everything looks good for getting discharged tomorrow. After 2 breathing treatments, a steriod shot, and some rest, she was even able to have a meal and a smile.

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Now she is catching some much-needed zzzzz’s.  Rest up sweet baby, and feel better.

Pennsylvania Conference for Women

2 Oct

I just got back home from the Pennsylvania Conference for Women– what an AMAZING experience!  I’ll have more to say once I’ve had a few minutes to collect my thoughts, but for now suffice it to say that in comparison to the BlogHer conference when I felt like I didn’t quite “fit in,” the women at the Penn Women conference are exactly the kind of women I seek to surround myself with.  These women are intelligent, ambitious and driven.  They take their careers seriously, and strive to be leaders and mentors. What an inspiration!

The biggest treat of the day was Sonia Sanchez sharing her poetry.  Her poetry stars as a story, then the words surround you, and you see every word she speaks.  Her art is so beautiful.

These are the gems of wisdom I collected today:

  • You sell yourself first, your company second, and your product third.
  • Your failures may be precisely what you need in order for everything else to go right.
  • Failure is the stepping stone to success.
  • Make the best first impression, you do not have an opportunity to make a good second impression.
  • Carry yourself like you know where you’re going.
  • Guard your reputation, it is your life.
  • One of the gifts of a bad economy is that we are forced to be really creative.
  • What happens to our best work in the world really isn’t up to us.
  • You have that moment where you have a weight to lift that is unbearable. And in that moment, you have two decisions: You either lift it, or you don’t.
  • Learn to speak clearly, memorably, and persuasively.
  • Leadership is having the quality of persuading others to follow you.
  • You are not the same person at work as you are at home. Accept that and be liberated.

Finally Friday and Magical 2’s

14 Sep

Boy, what a week. I came down with something this week.  It wasn’t quite a flu, all I can say is that my whole body HURT and I was exhausted.  I had to go home from work early and sleep one day, I was feeling so awful.  It seems to have cleared up now, thank goodness…just in time for a weekend that I can use to make up the work I would have otherwise done, but for getting sick.  I also got my annual hours report this week, which is simultaneously a relief that I hit my targets, and also a scare/shock about how much time I devoted to work and work-related activities last year.  After seeing those numbers and not feeling the greatest, on Wednesday I decided that YES I really DID need to go home and lie down.

Yesterday was the BlogMob event at the Food Bank, and it was fantastic. I learned so much about the good work that the Food Bank does, and I’m eager to share about it.  I want to devote the proper care and attention that post deserves, so you can expect to see that post early next week.

Now on to musing about the small creature in our house. The Terrible 2’s certainly deserve their rep, but Baby Beez at 2 has also been SO much fun. Her language has developed so much in the last few weeks. She’s gone from 2 word phrases to now making up her own songs. Still excited about her recent birthday, yesterday she sang “Happy Day! Happy Day! Elmo! Juice! Cake!”

She started in the big kids room in daycare this week. In the 1 year old room, she was always a little whiny when I dropped her off. She wanted me to hand her off to a teacher for a few snuggles. Now, in the big kids room, she dashes in and starts playing IMMEDIATELY. She’s not even interested in saying goodbye, she just wants to PLAY.

I think the other kids are inspiring her. She’s been spouting out numbers and letters nonstop this week (she doesn’t necessarily identify the right letters, or yell out the numbers in order, but she’s having fun with them anyway). The kids start on potty training in the big kid room, and she is so excited to tell me about the potty.

She loves, loves, loves her music. At gymnastics last weekend, the teacher played the “Ants Go Marching” song, and Baby Beez marched her way around the room for the whole song. She was very confused by the other kids who continued to climb and play instead of marching to the “Ants Go Marching” song.  That song is for marching of course!

Ah, big girl. I’m proud of you kiddo.

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Yum! Blueberry muffins!