Flex Success® Archives - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Spotlight on Flex – Indira Sharma

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Indira Sharma, Counsel and Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP (Baltimore, MD).

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your schedule?

Indira Sharma: I started working at Saul Ewing right after I graduated from law school in 2006 and was on a full time schedule from 2006-2010. After I had my first child at the end of 2009, I returned to work reduced hours at 65 percent for about a year before transitioning to 70 percent reduced hours. I don’t have a set schedule; as it is with the practice of law, it just depends on the day. Instead of focusing on what days I’m in the office or not, I focus on making myself available. When there’s extra time, I spend it taking care of more things at home for my family and the community.

It’s been trial and error to get to this point. At first I thought I would take a certain weekday off, but I realized it wasn’t realistic as a litigator. So when there are family commitments, I work around them just as I would work around a deposition schedule. There are times where I’ve had to bend for work and times when I’ve had to bend for my personal life – it just depends what’s more important at the moment.

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Spotlight on Flex – Wendy Sugg

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Wendy Sugg, Counsel, Troutman Sanders (Orange County, CA).

Wendy SuggDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your schedule?

Wendy Sugg: I started working for a firm in New York, followed by a two-year clerkship for the Southern District of NY. There wasn’t a lot of flexibility in my schedule while in New York, but it was great training. I always knew I would come back to California – the idea of having to rent a car to get out of town was insane to me! I moved back here in 2003 and was a litigator at my first California firm for eight years. While there, I started doing a lot of employment litigation, and as I became more senior, I started thinking about specializing. It was a natural fit to stick with employment matters. I started looking for a full-service firm where I could continue to specialize, build a book of business, and have other departments to help with that too.

I found another firm that checked these boxes, and a year and a half later, I had my son. At the time, he had weekly medical appointments, and I wanted one day a week off in order to accommodate his needs and focus on his care. It was a great arrangement with my previous firm, and I started to build a good network and book of business. I was formally on a 75 percent, reduced hours schedule and came into the office four days a week.

I came to Troutman Sanders three years ago; they had no employment litigators or employment practice on the West Coast. It was another great opportunity to build my expertise and practice here. I was clear during the interview process that I wanted to continue working at a reduced hours schedule (now at 80 percent) because my son had just turned two, and we were still taking care of his medical needs. I felt comfortable asking for flexibility right from the start because it was what I needed. The firm had no issues with this, matched my salary, and brought me on as a direct lateral hire. In other words, instead of focusing on my schedule, we focused on developing a business and marketing plan. There wasn’t an employment attorney on board yet, and the firm had immediate business needs such as counseling clients and their employees during transition periods (such as post-merger or acquisitions).

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Happy National Flex Day!
Does your Organization Have a Unique Business Case for Flexibility?

Today is The Fifth Annual National Flex Day and organizations like Working Mother and One Million For Work Flexibility (1MFWF) are celebrating by sharing stories about individuals who have successfully implemented flexible work schedules and reaped countless benefits. (Tune in to their webinar on the State of National Flex from 2-3 pm ET today). Additionally, we feature a Spotlight on Flex each month which highlights a professional who is successfully working a flexible schedule.

There’s no doubt that people with flexible schedules are generally happier and more content with their careers, and they’re also often higher performing, more productive, and more engaged. From an organizational standpoint, you gain improved productivity, commitment, recruitment, retention and, in many cases, cost savings.

Bottom line: When implemented correctly, flexibility is a win-win for all.

A flexible work policy is no longer a perk, it’s now a business imperative. If your company or firm does not have a formal flexible work policy, or if you have one that’s rarely used, it’s time to reboot. The first and most important step in creating or revising your flex policy is to develop your organization’s unique business case for flexibility. This is the foundation for all aspects of your flexibility initiative –from communication to implementation, management, usage and tracking. It is also an essential element of your organization’s evolution towards a culture that truly values and embraces flexibility.

Five Factors to Consider When Creating Your Organization’s Unique Business Case for Flexibility

1. Employee Satisfaction and Tenure

Non-Stigmatized flexible work policies can increase satisfaction and tenure among all employees. Whether it’s to take care of a child or an ailing parent, to avoid tedious traffic, or to pursue a new interest, everyone needs flexibility at some point in their career. Meeting the needs of a diverse workforce will allow your organization to retain its valuable employees and thrive and prosper into the future.

2. Less Employee Turnover – Lower Attrition Expenses

Improving retention improves quality of service. The longer an employee stays and gains experience and knowledge, the higher the quality of their work. Additionally, the longer employees stay, the less your organization has to spend on recruitment and training. If available, collect your organization’s data regarding replacement hiring and training costs, as well as statistics on who is leaving and when.

3. Improved Quality of Recruits

A successful flexibility initiative helps to improve recruitment efforts and bring in the top recruits who know that your firm or company has a growing reputation as a great place to work and have a life. You are able to cherry pick the best of the best talent.

4. Client Satisfaction

If your organization is a professional services or law firm with clients, have your clients complained about high turnover? Maintaining a consistent team of professionals who know your clients’ issues and needs is essential to client relations.

5. Gender Diversity

As we mentioned, flexibility policies benefit everyone and should be de-gendered, de-parented and de-stigmatized. This, however, does not diminish from the fact that flexibility can have an impact on an organization’s ability to attract, retain and advance women. A recent study on diversity by the Boston Consulting Group found that the number one most effective factor in a woman’s career success is a formal flexible work policy. Therefore, an important part of your business case for flexibility should include its role in the gender diversity of your organization – particularly in its leadership roles.

So on this Fifth Anniversary of National Flex Day, why not take a few minutes to review your flex policy and make sure that your unique business case for flex is strong, compelling and understood throughout your organization. Your goal is to demonstrate a true connection between flexibility and your organization’s performance and bottom-line.

Once you have your unique business case for flexibility you’ll be able to develop a plan to thoughtfully implement the policy. Let us know how we can help! Our Flex Success® Framework is a five-step proprietary process for developing a successful flexible work policy and we can help guide you through the process.

 

 

Enhance Your Work Life Control: Be Happy, Choose Your Responsibilities & Make Time for Yourself

This is the last in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. Review the first six steps to remind yourself how you get to Step 7 and to help ensure your success while working flexibly:

  1. Define Your Success;
  2. Own Your Value;
  3. Activate Your Mindset;
  4. Create a Strong Personal Brand;
  5. Build Your Networks;
  6. Expand Your Business Development;
  7. Enhance your work-life control.

The first six strategies in our Seven Strategies for Flex Success® focus on getting your day to day flexible schedule in order to set yourself up for success in your career. It’s essential to acknowledge that this is not possible unless you can also find success and happiness outside of your career.

When launching a project at the office there are certain steps you take to ensure all responsibilities are assigned and all goals will be met. You negotiate and decide to which responsibilities you can add high impact and high value and which responsibilities you can delegate to others. You clearly articulate what is expected of your team and you make sure that your commitments are met. Ultimately you know that you can’t and shouldn’t do it all alone.

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Spotlight on Flex – Sarah Kuehnel

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Sarah Kuehnel, Associate, Ogletree Deakins, St. Louis, MO

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your schedule?

Sarah Kuehnel: Flexibility has always been important to me because my husband has been in the military my entire career. As a second year associate at Ogletree, I first switched to a flex schedule in late 2010 because he was being deployed in January 2011. The firm was incredibly generous and let me adjust my schedule to a 50 percent reduced-hours target for the last two months of that year.

In 2011, my husband was selected for the Army Special Forces. We consciously decided that his career would take precedence since it had a tangible time limit (both from a physical and career development aspect). I was passionate about my career too, but with a limited amount of time, my husband had to advance in his career first. My original thought was to quit the firm since his career would require us to move and live in several different states over the next few years. I went to the managing shareholder to discuss my options. Rather than let me quit, Ogletree once again, was incredibly supportive, and agreed to let me work 100 percent remotely out of the St. Louis office on an hourly basis. Because the arrangement was a success, in 2014, I went to a 75 percent reduced-hours schedule. I now work at an 85 percent reduced-hours schedule – all the while continuing to work remotely for the St. Louis and now Tampa offices.

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Spotlight on Flex – Alan Bryan

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Alan Bryan, Senior Associate General Counsel for Legal Operations & Outside Counsel Management, Walmart Stores (Bentonville, AR).

Alan BryanDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career? How has Walmart supported this?

Alan Bryan:  I started at what was then Arkansas’s largest law firm as a general litigator where I was eventually made partner. I got engaged about eight years into my career and explored transferring to my firm’s Fayetteville’s office since my fiancée (now wife) was originally from there. I eventually relocated, and that move also caused me to reflect on where I was going in my career.

Even when I made partner, I realized my next chance for leadership at the firm (chairing a committee or being a section leader) was a long way off. I knew what I really wanted was to lead and influence people, and I had to think about what my long term options were. The firm, among other things, did not offer leadership opportunities for junior partners. Even in law school, I had always been interested in working in-house, and Fayetteville is roughly 25 miles south of Bentonville (where Walmart is headquartered). An opportunity presented itself, and I started working at Walmart managing litigation in July 2011. In May 2013, I was asked to lead all of the company’s outside law firms. Since then, I’ve also taken on the role of managing several of the legal department’s initiatives for its Legal Operations group.

In terms of flexibility, many organizations have what’s stated, but that doesn’t always correlate to the reality of what’s expected – time is finite, and time is money. That was certainly the case at my law firm – what was said wasn’t always what happened. I knew Walmart fully supported flexibility and the idea that you can manage how and where you work at the same time.   You have to find a place where you can secure what you want and get to where you want to be on your own terms.

My wife is a neo-natal intensive care nurse and primarily works the night shift. We had our first child within the first year I started at Walmart and our second child a year and a half later. The company understands I’m the only available caregiver in the mornings, and sometimes I have to shift when I arrive into the office to accommodate my kids’ schedules.

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Spotlight on Flex – Anne Marie Pisano

 

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Anne Marie Pisano, Principal at Goldberg Kohn, in Chicago, IL

Anne Marie PisanoDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Anne Marie Pisano:  Goldberg Kohn is a one office firm based in Chicago, and I started here as a summer associate and then as a first year associate after graduation. My husband and I are very passionate about pursuing our careers while at the same time being completely committed to each other. When an amazing professional opportunity presented itself for him in DC, we knew we had to take it. I was a mid-level associate at the time, pregnant with our first child, and I really loved working at Goldberg – I didn’t know what my options were. I spoke with the chairperson of the commercial finance practice group, and he told me that even if I moved to DC, he and the firm didn’t want to lose me as an associate. It was incredible, and we worked together to create a telecommuting arrangement. I would work the same amount of hours, for the same compensation, and have the same expectations as any other full time, Chicago-based associate – I would just be based in the DC-metro area. It was a very organic arrangement; I would come to Chicago when deals closed and to meet with clients as I deemed necessary.

This arrangement started over 14 years ago. What I love about Goldberg Kohn is that over the years, my family and professional situation has evolved, and my flex arrangement has evolved to match my needs as well. When I started telecommuting, technology was not what it is today, and during my first maternity leave, there was a desire to push our tech options forward. This was not just for me but for other attorneys at GK who wanted to leave the office in the evening to spend time with their families and log back into the system later, if necessary. The firm made the investment to make this happen, and I had complete, remote access to the firm’s system. I was able to recreate my entire office desktop at home, and it’s been a win for all attorneys since then.

After I had my second child, I realized that in addition to telecommuting, I wanted to work reduced hours. Without question, the firm supported my request, and we agreed on a flex schedule where I would work 80 percent. In fact, I made principal (we are a single-tier partnership), while telecommuting and working reduced hours! We stayed in the DC area for 12 years, and two years ago, we moved to Pennsylvania (where my husband and I grew up) to be closer to family. Now that my third child is in school full time, I returned to working full time. I’ll go into the office in Chicago about once a month for two/three days at a time, but I still telecommute about 95 percent of the time.

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Spotlight on Flex – Nerissa Coyle McGinn

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Nerissa Coyle McGinn, Chief Diversity Partner, in the Chicago, IL Office of Loeb & Loeb.

Nerissa Coyle McGinnDiversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your career?

Nerissa Coyle McGinn:  When I was a sixth year associate, four partners left my law firm and started Loeb & Loeb’s Chicago office. They brought me with them as the only associate. At the time, I was in my early 30’s, married, and I knew I wanted to start a family very soon. The partners also knew this, and I asked for immediate vesting with my benefits to be eligible for Loeb’s maternity leave (now our parental leave policy).

Looking back, it’s amazing how supportive the firm has always been. Even from my first request regarding the vesting of my child care benefits, the partners who brought me to Loeb negotiated on my behalf, and the firm agreed to my vesting request. They worked with me to create a reduced hours schedule even before the firm had a reduced hours policy. I had my first child just after my one year anniversary with Loeb & Loeb in 2005. I returned from that leave at a 60 percent, reduced hours schedule, and I’ve been on this schedule ever since. Over the years, how my 60 percent looks has changed as my family’s needs and the firm’s expectations of me have changed. At first, I was in the office Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I wanted to have two back-to-back days in the office for more consistency rather than work every other day and feel like I was always playing “catch up.” As my kids got older, I started coming into the office every day but working shorter hours. I made partner five years ago, and because I work shorter days, I’m also able to telecommute part of the workday. This arrangement has worked for as long as it has because the firm is flexible with me, and I’m flexible with the firm.

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Are You Ready to Transform Your Approach To Working Flex? In Just Six Hours
You Could Completely Change Your Future

Do you have the right mindset to be successful working flex? Have you taken stock of your professional and personal successes? Do you know how to train your brain for positive results? These and many other questions were answered last Thursday in the first session of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s Flex Success® Institute We want to congratulate those flex professionals who have already set off down this life-changing road by committing to spending a total of six hours with the Institute this summer. The Institute is a five-session virtual professional development program, plus a one-hour individual coaching session, that is guaranteed to transform your approach to working flexibly.

Last week’s participants also learned how to harness the power of goal setting to achieve their vision. They uncovered their biggest confidence killers and discovered how to persevere in the face of failure. They identified their own unique key to empowerment and ways to increase their productivity. They learned about the importance of rituals and risk-taking and how self-care and authenticity are essential. In just one hour these participants already have a step up on building their self-esteem, their career success and finding true happiness in their personal and professional lives.

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Education is the Key to Your Organization’s Flex Success®

When implementing a flexible work initiative, it’s important to remember that everyone in the organization has a role in its success. Whether working a flexible schedule or not, everyone must understand the importance of the policy and fulfill his or her role in supporting it. Flex education tailored to the myriad professionals with differing perspectives throughout the organization is key to the success of the flex policy.

At the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, we advise organizations to offer three different types of flexibility education customized for three different audiences within your organization:

Flex Professionals must understand their role and responsibilities. Educational components for flex professionals must encompass the importance of understanding exactly what is expected of the individual in the flex agreement. The flex professionals should be trained in the following skills:

    1. Articulating exactly what they hope to achieve through the flex schedule and what they intend to accomplish in their career development;
    2. Demonstrating commitment to their schedules and careers;
    3. Exploring realistic approaches to communications and face-time expectations;
    4. Providing workable solutions to devoting time to important aspects of career development including business development and organizational citizenship;
    5. Maintaining visibility even when physically out of the office;
    6. Leveraging technology;
    7. Handling bias.
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