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My blood is boiling after reading a Washington Post article quoting employees -- mostly working parents -- worried that seeking flexible work schedules would hurt their careers or even cost them their jobs. As is often the case, the headline turns a decent piece into every working mother's nightmare, asking "will working from home lead to a layoff?"

My answer -- no. But you have to be smart about it. Don't take advantage of a generous telecommuting policy by skimping on child care or failing to keep up your network at the office. The woman quoted in the article who had to stop telecommuting to keep her job is a textbook example of the mistake many new working moms make in trying to watch a toddler while working from home. As far as I'm concerned, if she's being paid for five days of work each week, that's what she should give the company. Not many moms can put in a full day's work while caring for a toddler.

The article fails to present any evidence that companies are cutting back on family friendly policies. In fact, I've already written in this space about a survey that showed the opposite -- when forced to reduce pay and benefits, employers are actually expanding telecommuting and flex work programs to make up for it.

I guess I'm angry that anyone, whether unnamed middle managers or family unfriendly employers, would take advantage of the justified fear that people have of losing their jobs by cutting back programs that are shown to improve retention and productivity. And I want to encourage working moms to continue to put your families first and ask for what you truly need to balance work and life. If you're a solid producer with a proven track record, it won't hurt you to raise the question.

What's your take on it?

Comments
March 24, 2009 at 10:26 am
(1) Cali Williams Yost says:

Katherine,

Your advice is spot-on! The article presented one side of a story without showcasing many employees and employers who are working together to find mutually-beneficial flexible work+life fit solutions. It can be done, just be smart and make sure you present a plan that considers your needs as well as the needs of the business. Thanks for spreading the word and challenging the fear!

March 24, 2009 at 11:03 am
(2) Mike says:

That article really got to me as well. I referenced it in an upcoming blog post. You and your readers might be interested in my site The Telecommuter Manifesto where I try to realistically describe life as a full time telecommuter. The site is new, so content is still light, but should grow into a valuable resource over time.

March 24, 2009 at 11:50 am
(3) Catherine says:

As a former telecommuter, it drives me crazy when I hear parents talking about working from home “to save on child care.” If you are WORKING, you cannot also be taking care of very young children simultaneously, and naptime only lasts a few hours a day if you are lucky.

Working parents only do themselves and their peers a disservice if they try to take on an impossible workload, and that includes working for pay while also providing care for their children without any help.

March 24, 2009 at 2:48 pm
(4) Elise Jones says:

Thanks for commenting on an article that had spurred the same reaction in me. In today’s economy we need concrete examples, not unsubstantiated fuel for fear. See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123733195850463165.html for evidence of real-life companies going out of their way to create healthy workplaces to combat stressful times.

March 25, 2009 at 1:35 am
(5) Mama Bee says:

Great post! This is a good example of an article that foments anxiety among women for no good reason. I couldn’t agree more that the situation cited was a terrible example of flexible work. If this is the best the author can come up with, I’m not sure why this merits inclusion in The Washington Post.

March 25, 2009 at 2:55 pm
(6) Terry Neese says:

Iím upset that workplace flexibility is seen in the entirely wrong light in this article. It is no longer practical for us to live under workplace laws which support an Ozzie and Harriet lifestyle that most Americans no longer live. I sincerely hope that companies recognize the importance flexibility has in moving our workplace into the 21st century, recession or not.

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