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This is the third in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. We’ve covered Defining Your Success and Owning Your Value, now it’s time to activate your mindset and grit to overcome any flex bias you may encounter. Register for our online Flex Success® Institute to learn more detailed steps to successfully navigate your flexible schedule and maximize your career potential.

We’re not going to lie to you. It’s not always going to be easy to transition from being in the office full-time to a flexible work schedule. While many industries have come a long way in understanding the value flexible work policies provide, biases still exist. No matter where you work, you may come across co-workers who think you’re less committed to the job because you work reduced hours. You may also be faced with supervisors who question your time at home and whether you are actually working when you’re not physically in the office.

It’s best to be prepared for these obstacles, and when they do arise, it’s important to maintain your confidence and harness your grit. You know you are meeting the needs and deadlines of your team and/or clients. You know you are following your company’s flexible work policy guidelines as well as your own personal flex plan. And, you know the quality of your work has not diminished at all (in fact it may have improved.)

Most of these hurdles and biases should be temporary bumps in the road. Activate your “big-picture,” growth mindset and remind yourself that working flexibly is actually better for you and your organization because it’s helping ensure a longer, more steadfast relationship. Read more

This is the second in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. To learn more, register today for our 2019 Flex Success® Institute, a five-part, virtual professional development program for mid-level professionals working a flexible schedule. Program begins April 2, 2019.

In the first of the seven steps, you developed your definition of success by mapping out your one, three and five-year professional and personal goals. The second step in our Seven Strategies for Flex Success® involves truly understanding what you bring to the table and then capitalizing on it. It’s all about self-reflection and self-esteem.

Over the years we’ve asked professionals about their roads to flex success. “Even if you don’t feel confident, you have to exude confidence,” said one executive. The best way to feel confident is by knowing your strengths and identifying what makes you unique. It’s important to find ways to incorporate these assets and skills into everything you do. This is the value-add that will make you a go-to resource for your colleagues, supervisors and clients, and it’s the lever that provides you with greater choice, including flexibility in your schedule.

As one professional working flex advised:

“Differentiating yourself is critical if you’re hoping to take advantage of a flexible schedule. Once you earn the reputation as a hard worker who produces high quality work, people will want you on their team no matter what your schedule is.” Read more

This is the first of a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success®. To learn more, register today for our 2019 Flex Success® Institute, a five-part, virtual professional development program for mid-level professionals working a holistic flex or reduced hours schedule. Program begins April 2, 2019.

The first step to ensuring that you will be successful while working a flexible schedule is to define what success means to you.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successOnce you’ve decided that a flexible schedule is right for you, you need to be able to envision your future plans. As you define your successful, flexible career path you should clearly map out your one, three, and five-year vision. That vision should include what you want personally and professionally and how the two can mesh to define success on your own terms.

Once you are clear on your own goals you can begin to envision your long and short-term plans for your career, your lifestyle, and your family. You’ll also need to think through potential opportunities and obstacles and clearly map out financial and professional development needs. Do you want to be home with your children for an extended leave? Can you afford to work part-time? Do you want to take a sabbatical? Do you have childcare options? Your flexible work plan can then be mapped out to support your aspirations. You’ll be much better able to negotiate the needs of your employer once you have a clear sense of your personal needs.

Over the years we’ve asked countless professionals working flexible schedules about their initial planning stages. Here are some of their words of wisdom… Read more

Our 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.

For January 2019, we are pleased to share insights from Molly Senger, Of Counsel, Gibson Dunn (Washington, DC).

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your career? How has the firm supported this?

Molly Senger: I came to Gibson Dunn in 2011 as a third year associate after I completed a clerkship with the Honorable John D. Bates at the US District Court for the District of Columbia. I started full time, but after I had my son in January 2016, I came back from maternity leave to a 70% reduced hours schedule. The only formalized aspect of my flex schedule is my reduced hours target; what I’ve learned is you have to be flexible with your time and each day is different. I’m generally in the office every day, but my hours vary depending on what’s happening in the matters I’m working on at the time. I’ve had months in which I’ve had an arbitration and far exceeded full-time hours. But I’ve also had months in which my matters have been relatively quiet, and I’ve been able to take advantage of my flex schedule.

One thing I try to keep in mind with my flex schedule is something one of my mentors told me; “it’s unlikely you’ll find a perfect balance every day, but if you strive for it, you can find the balance you want over the long-term.” Once I started working flex, I made it a priority to be more comfortable saying “no.” I enjoy my work and give 110% to all my matters, and I want to say “yes” to a lot of things. But having been in the position of saying “yes” to too many things, I’ve learned to get over the guilt of saying “no” and figure out the right balance of what I can handle at work while also having time for family, friends, and everything else in life.

Thankfully, Gibson Dunn provides a supportive and easy learning environment for flex. I can change my reduced hours percentage at any time, and the firm does an annual true-up when I exceed my agreed-upon hours. More importantly, my colleagues and the partners I work with have helped me become more comfortable finding the right balance for me. When a partner comes to me with a new matter that I’d love to help with but I’m stretched too thin, I’m upfront about my reasons for saying “no.” I remind them to ask me again when the next new matter arises, and they do! Learning that partners understand and trust the reasons behind your “no” – and that they will come to you again – has made the process of saying “no” much easier.

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Most months our 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.

Although we typically highlight an attorney from a member organization, this month we wanted to showcase Dr. Cindy Kelley, Vice President, Medical Education, Summa Health (Akron, OH) one of this year’s Flex Success® Award honorees as she was unable to attend our Annual Conference due to a last minute conflict.  Dr. Kelley, along with her co-honoree, Lori Mihalich Levin (Dentons), exemplifies how flexibility works across industries and across client/partner relationships.  We are thrilled to share her personal Flex Success® story with you.

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success with your schedule? How has your organization contributed to this?

Dr. Cindy Kelley: I have learned that with planning ahead and clear communication, a flexible schedule is possible.  With four daughters, I’ve realized that one-on-one time with each of them is a rarity but is so important.  So, I’ve started blocking the first hour on my Friday schedule so that each week, I can take one of them to breakfast before school and work.  Things do come up and we have to be flexible!  But I’ve learned that if you don’t at least make a plan, time will pass you by, and you’ll miss these opportunities.  My organization contributes to this flexibility by trusting us to get our work done and focusing on outcomes rather than the process.  In addition, my boss not only talks about the importance of work-life balance; he lives it.  This gives us permission to live it too.

DFA: How has working flexibly made your career more sustainable and contributed to business/professional development opportunities?
CK: My career would not have been possible without the support of my institution, and specifically, my partners as I shifted and changed my schedule early on.  Just one-and-a-half-years into my first job as a family medicine residency faculty member, I went to my boss in tears telling him that I didn’t think I could continue working full-time and taking obstetrics call.  I hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to manage my schedule with a toddler and a newborn while my husband worked ED shifts.  We talked about what I needed and discussed a potential plan.  He took this to my entire group and they supported the change in my schedule.  Since that time, I have worked all kinds of schedules.  I am forever grateful to my partners for their support.

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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’s Spotlight on Flex features our 2018 Flex Success® Award Honorees, Lori Mihalich-Levin and her client, Dr. Cindy Kelley. The Flex Success® Award recognizes partners at Alliance member organizations who have achieved a high level of success while working a reduced hours schedule as well as a client who has been integral to making workplace flexibility so successful. We wanted our members to have the chance to get to know this year’s Honorees a little earlier, and we are looking forward to formally presenting their awards at our rescheduled Annual Conference on September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Lori focuses her practice on Medicare reimbursement counseling, with a special focus on Medicare graduate medical education (GME) payments to teaching hospitals. She represents academic medical centers, teaching hospitals, community hospitals, and health systems, as well as a broad array of other health care organizations.

Lori has worked a 60% reduced hours schedule while representing hospitals, academic medical centers, medical schools and health systems as a Partner in Dentons Healthcare Practice since August 2015 in Washington, DC. In just two years, she was able to bring in 20 new clients to the firm and build a premier practice around legal issues related to graduate medical education. Her reduced hours schedule has allowed her to care for her two small children, while also building Mindful Return, LLC, a personal business that assists new parents in their transition back to work from parental leave, and writing a book Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave. She is also the Chair of the firm’s Flexibility and Parental Leave Task Force, part of its Women LEAD initiative, where she champions the success of diverse attorneys and has been instrumental in updating the firm’s parental leave policies.

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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.

For February 2018, we are pleased to share insights from Rebecca Springer, Partner, Crowell & Moring  (Washington, DC). 

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

Rebecca Springer: I started at Crowell & Moring as a first year associate after I graduated from law school. I knew I wanted to be in DC, and I knew I wanted to focus on labor and employment law. However, I also started at the firm thinking I would stay for a few years, make enough money to pay off my student loans, grow my legal experience, and then leave to figure out what I really wanted to do! No one was more surprised than I was when the firm turned out to be a great place for me to build a career. I’ve been fortunate to work at a great firm, with great people, do really interesting work, and have a fulfilling career, all the while being able to get married, have a family, and enjoy other outside interests like performing in a local singing group.

While I was mid-career, I thought about leaving because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay on the partner track. At the time, I thought the only alternative was to leave the firm and pursue something else. I talked with my practice group leaders, and they made it clear they wanted me to stay – my trajectory didn’t have to be a traditional path to partnership. They asked me what I wanted, and what I thought would be a realistic career path in order to stay; they let me know I was valued from the start. So for the past 10 years, I’ve worked reduced hours (ranging between 75% – 85%), and while working this flex schedule, I became a partner in January 2018.

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Alliance to Present 2018 Flex Success® Award at Annual Conference March 21

Washington, DC – March 2, 2018 – Today the Diversity and Flexibility Alliance announced that its 2018 Flex Success® Award Honorees will be Lori Mihalich-Levin, Partner at Dentons in Washington, DC, and her client Dr. Cindy Kelley, Vice President of Medical Education at Summa Health. The award recognizes partners at Diversity & Flexibility Alliance member law firms who have achieved success while working a reduced hours schedule as well as a client who has been integral to making workplace flexibility so successful. The Award will be presented on March 21, 2018 at the Alliance’s annual conference, Diversity + Flexibility = Embracing Change, in Washington, DC. Registration is available here.

“Not only has Lori managed to reach high levels of career success while working a reduced hours schedule, but she is also truly passionate about helping to grow the pipeline of women leaders and supporting other working parents,” said Manar Morales, President and CEO of the Alliance. “With the support of her colleagues at Dentons and her clients, including Summa Health, Lori has grown her personal business and cared for her children while providing top-notch client service,” she added.

Lori Mihalich-Levin

Ms. Mihalich-Levin has worked a 60% reduced hours schedule while representing hospitals, academic medical centers, medical schools and health systems as a Partner in Dentons Healthcare Practice since August 2015. In just two years, she was able to bring in 20 new clients to the firm and build a premier practice around legal issues related to graduate medical education. Her reduced hours schedule has allowed her to care for her two small children, while also building Mindful Return, LLC, a personal business that assists new parents in their transition back to work from parental leave, and writing a book Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave. She is also the Chair of the firm’s Flexibility and Parental Leave Task Force, part of its Women LEAD initiative, where she champions the success of diverse attorneys and has been instrumental in updating the firm’s parental leave policies.

“Ultimately the key to a successful flexible work arrangement is to be flexible and transparent,” explained Ms. Mihalich-Levin. “I am so thankful for the trust, support and encouragement that Cindy has offered me as well as her willingness to accommodate my schedule,” she added referring to her client, Dr. Cindy Kelley, Vice President of Medical Education, Summa Health.

Dr. Cindy Kelley

“Lori and her Dentons team were critical to our success in overcoming significant challenges at our organization last year. I am so thankful for people like Lori who have a passion for finding that balance in life that allows them to pursue their careers while raising a family,“ stated Dr. Cindy Kelley. “Summa Health certainly benefited from this passion, as do all organizations that support workplace diversity and flexibility.”

“Dentons is committed to supporting our lawyers and professionals who work on a reduced hours or flexible schedule and applaud the effort of forward-thinking lawyers like Lori Mihalich-Levin,” said Mike McNamara, CEO of Dentons. “We also applaud our client Summa Health for embracing Lori’s flexible work arrangement. We firmly believe that flexibility results in positive changes that benefit the firm, the client, and our lawyers’ careers.”

The Diversity and Flexibility Alliance is a think tank that collaborates with organizations to develop non-stigmatized flexible work policies that promote inclusive work cultures for all and help to advance more women into leadership positions. The Alliance provides practical research-based solutions, training workshops, and strategic advisory services that increase organizational effectiveness through diversity and flexibility.

For more information contact:

Manar Morales

manar@dfalliance.com

202-957-9650

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

One of the key, but most overlooked, steps in the Alliance’s Flex Success® Framework is to Reinforce Flex Success® by regularly monitoring and measuring flex programs. Through this process, organizations can more effectively assess, improve, publicize, and build upon flex programs. As a number of law firms and corporations have started to expand their flexible work offerings, we need to focus on what’s working, what we need to improve, how to share successes, and what additional flex programs we should consider. By doing this, we can gain true acceptance of flex programs in order to promote usage and reduce flex bias. Here are some specific ways to monitor and measure your flex programs:

Surveys: Surveys are a great way to collect information and metrics from a large workforce in an efficient manner. Organizations can conduct annual surveys to understand the importance employees place on flexibility, whether employees have the flexibility they need, the types of flexible work arrangements most appreciated, how often formal and informal flexible work options are utilized, and additional types of flexible work arrangements needed. These responses can help build a business case for the need to offer and expand flexible work arrangements. If you conduct a general employee opinion survey, see if these flex-related questions can be added and compared with responses from other questions related to employee satisfaction/commitment to demonstrate how flexibility impacts these areas.

Interviews: Interviews and focus groups with employees are a great way to gain more detailed information as to what’s working and what’s not. Think about adding questions relating to flexibility in exit interviews and check-in meetings with new employees. In order to understand the impact of flexibility on turnover, ask employees during exit interviews if they felt like they had the flexibility they needed, if they would have stayed if they had more flexibility, and what types of flexible work options they would have wanted. In order to understand the impact of flexibility on recruiting, ask new employees during check-in meetings the reasons why they chose to join your organization and how important flexibility is to them.

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The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

 

Recent news articles have highlighted a few companies that have revoked their flexible work policies citing a loss of teamwork and productivity. It’s likely these flex initiatives failed due to either a lack of planning, analysis, structure, communication, education, and/or tracking. When it comes to developing your organization’s flexible work initiative, there are key components that need to be addressed to ensure its success. Here are our top 10 takeaways to consider when developing your flex policy:

  1. Understand that Flex is a Real Business Benefit

The foundation of a flexibility initiative must be the business case. Why does flexibility matter to you, and how will it improve your numbers? (Think about recruitment, retention, and the bottom-line.) Even the most change-resistant organizations are realizing there’s a war for talent out there, and they must evolve to keep up. Research shows that non-stigmatized, flexible work strengthens organizations by increasing tenure among employees and leads to stronger client/customer relationships, better recruitment, and greater profitability. Flexibility is not about being nice to your employees or providing an accommodation – it’s a true business imperative.

  1. Count Your Regrettable Losses

The easiest way to formulate your business case for flexibility is to count your regrettable losses. How many valuable and talented employees have walked out the door because of a lack of flexibility? You can take the organization’s business case further by considering the opportunities the firm has gained because of its flexibility or lost because of its lack of flexibility…

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