Flexibility is Vital

I’m a millennial. And a working mom. I started my journey through parenthood early and completely unprepared. (Although, I’m not really sure what a truly prepared new parent looks like. If you know one, I’d be interested in meeting them.) Needless to say, the career-life integration that so prominently defines my generation has been a touch-and-go scenario for me. It’s been an interesting road to get here, but at HORNE, I thankfully find myself in an environment that honors my commitments outside of work.

Early in my career, I found myself working in a fairly new office of a large federal agency. Personnel policies were set by the parent agency with some option for customization by the bureau chief and office director. My office was considering flex schedules on a one-month trial basis. Flexible work options included eight nine-hour work days followed by a day off, or a work-from-home day during the pay period. To a young single parent with a two-hour roundtrip commute, such flexibility sounded life changing. I could slow down, make a real breakfast and walk my daughter to school at 7:40 a.m. with plenty of time to stroll back and log in by 8:00 a.m. I could walk to pick her up in the afternoon and gain an extra hour in the evening to whip up an equally elaborate dinner—something other than the quick serve options we had grown accustomed to. I saw this as a huge opportunity and a step in the right direction.

Our director, Carl, was one of the first to test out the new policy. We worked on a secure network with passcode access, so he took his keychain fob he needed to generate a unique passcode for remote login and headed out the door with a smile saying, “If you need me, I’ll be on email.”

The next day, I got a call from him assuming it was regarding the email I had sent earlier.

Instead, I was greeted with a frantic tone and request to follow up on an outstanding communication as he was having issues connecting to our secure system remotely.

I responded with some suggestions, but was met with more haste, “What!?! I mean these boys won’t sit still. Not even for a second! I’ve got Baby Einstein on in the living room, blocks trailing from the kitchen to the stairwell...How does anyone work like this?”

Carl returned to work the next day earlier than usual. His reenactment of the previous day was pure comedy, but I knew what was coming.

“This work from home thing is a dud,” he barked in a desperate tone while glaring down at the floor as he tugged on his belt loops to hike up the back of his mid-waist trousers. The arduous look of pain, disgust, and anguish that converged on his face was uncharacteristic of him. I had to bite my lip to avoid laughter. I genuinely felt bad for the guy—ten years in the military, a cumulative four years in combat, and almost ten years in foreign service hadn’t prepared this man for a day at home with his kids. Not to mention the use of new technology. Carl took some time to mull over his decision, but ultimately decided a flexible schedule was simply counterproductive. It was a sad battle lost to the generational divide.

However, since that time, workplace flexibility has been trending into the positive, a fact I experience day in and out at HORNE. Early adopters have been offering flexibility since technology could support it, but big business and government institutions have been slow to change.  In 2014, the White House issued a directive to federal agencies to “promote a culture in which managers and employees understand the workplace flexibilities and work-life programs available to them and how these measures can improve agency productivity and employee engagement.”  Such cultural change takes time and can be difficult, but it’s comforting knowing the cause is gaining new ground every day.

As a millennial and a HORNE team member, I couldn’t be more proud or appreciative of the unrivaled flexibility I’ve found here.  I originally joined HORNE to work on a travel basis commuting between Austin, Texas and Long Island, New York. As exciting an opportunity as it was, the circumstances provided a whole new set of rules for balancing work, family, and my personal life. Since joining the firm I have found ease in approaching management and my respective team members with a request for leave or flexed time to accommodate urgent family needs. I’ve been given independence over my workload—a benefit not to be taken for granted—and support from my fellow colleagues on the days I need to attend a school performance or make an orthodontist appointment. We’re a mobile workforce and it’s a workforce I’m proud to be a part of.  We don’t have it all figured out by any means, but we’re determined to get there—enjoying our lives and families, while serving our clients along the way.

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Topics: Culture

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