Sunday, February 28, 2016

Making a Case for Flex Time for All

It annoys me that many companies offer flex time for mommies but when a childless person asks for it they resist. The assumption being that if you don't have kids you are out partying or in your basement hosting swinger parties. Let me share with you what the childfree people I interviewed for Two is Enough were doing when they are not at work covering for all the parents that can't work a 12 hour day.

1) Elder care. It's no surprise the childless siblings bear the bulk of the elder care responsibilities in the U.S.A. The exception is when parents invite Mom to move in so she can babysit and do the laundry.

2) Volunteering. The majority of the folks I interviewed had volunteered for at least one non-profit, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, animal shelters, equine therapy programs, youth advocacy, volunteer coaching and mentoring, and other charities they were passionate about.

3) Second jobs. Contrary to popular belief some childfree folks need to work a second job to pay school debt or just plain pay the rent. Others are entrepreneurs with start ups or artists or writers and their creative or entrepreneurial pursuits can't pay all the bills.

4) Childcare. Yes, some childfree persons actually help care for other people's kids. I interviewed folks that were temporary guardians for kids whose parents couldn't handle them or care for them. Some took nieces and nephews on vacations and college search trips because the parents couldn't afford to travel or take off work.

5) Recuperating from illness or injury, or caring for pets. Many childfree people complain that when parents ask for time off for a school recital or a snow day they are quickly granted the time off but when a childfree person asks for time off to go to physical therapy or a vet appointment they are denied. This is wrong!

Jenny Noyes, a writer from Australia, make a strong case for equal opportunity for Flex Time in her article titled "The childfree deserve workplace flexibility too" with the astute observation that "having it all" means different things to different people.

I know from my interviews with childfree folks that they have many interests, pursuits, obligations,and responsibilities outside of work and a flexible schedule would be a welcome benefit for every working person. Flex time is a benefit that everyone appreciates and it should be offered to all. Ideally, everyone should be expected to work the number of hours they are paid for, on a schedule that allows for a life outside of work. What you do outside of your work is your own business, unless the cops or social services are knocking on your door.

1 comment:

archdiva said...

I've experienced this in subtle and not so subtle ways for my entire career, which is in Student Affairs in higher education. Many departments regularly have night and weekend events in order to connect with students when they're available. That is an accepted aspect of our work. Yet when it seems to predominantly be the single people staffing and attending those events? Or those with partner and children are more readily excused for their early departure? Not cool.

True organizationally-sanctioned and structured flex time is only vaguely supported because it's not like anyone has really made an effort to change the way meetings are scheduled or to create "core hours" with flexibility around those. It's essentially allowed to be departmentally managed but that doesn't change the fact we're not all in alignment.

What makes me most furious is when some higher-up states we all need to support the work of other departments by making appearances at their evening and weekend events and, if we don't, we get knocked down a notch in performance reviews or, at least, in how we're treated by those higher-ups. That's REALLY not cool.

Yet I need to go home for self-care reasons even though I don't have the same culturally sanctioned reason of partner and children.

I have a doctoral degree I'm working on at home.
I have a furkid to take care of at home.
I have ME to take care of at home.
I have plenty of (what should be culturally sanctioned) reasons to go home, too.

At least now I can constantly say "I have a paper to write" or "I have readings to do" and everyone oohs and ahhs and says "go! go!" I used to joke that my PhD will be my child in this life, but apparently I was closer to the truth than I ever realized.