Working Mother - - 100 Best Companies - SUBHA BARRY Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent and Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, Work­ing Mother Me­dia

Work­ing Mother Me­dia’s Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent and Man­ag­ing Direc­tor on how work­ing flex­i­bly has been the key to her suc­cess.

“Be­ing able to work flex­i­bly has be­come core to my suc­cess.”

It was May 1988. I was a com­modi­ties trader and had just given birth to my first child, a daugh­ter. My com­pany didn’t of­fer ma­ter­nity leave, so I had to take sick time just to have the baby. I had flat­tened all my client ac­counts to pro­tect them from mar­ket ex­po­sure while I was out. My mom had come from In­dia to help, and we had a full-time live-in nanny. My hus­band, Jim, took off a month from his con­sult­ing project at Merck. But me? I went back to work two-and-a-half weeks after giv­ing birth be­cause my clients needed to be back in the mar­ket. Of course, there were many col­leagues who thought I should stay home with my baby girl. After all, my hus­band made good money and I didn’t need to work.

Look­ing back, I cringe at the thought of how in­flex­i­ble com­pa­nies were and how dif­fi­dent I was in not chal­leng­ing the sta­tus quo. I’m not sure I would have been able to get my com­pany to change its poli­cies, but I didn’t even try.

Fast-for­ward seven years. I had be­come a suc­cess­ful wealth ad­viser at Mer­rill Lynch, and when my son was born in 1995, my com­pany had a gen­er­ous ( by Amer­i­can stan­dards) ma­ter­nity leave pol­icy: three months off, fully paid, with a fully funded home of­fice—com­puter, phone and fax ma­chine. My man­ager even as­signed a new re­cruit to help cover my book of clients and one of the best as­sis­tants to support me in the of­fice. He did ev­ery­thing in his power to make work­ing moth­er­hood a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence for my fam­ily and me. I stayed with Mer­rill un­til 2010, for al­most 21 re­ward­ing years. Ever since then, be­ing able to work flex­i­bly has be­come core to my suc­cess as a pro­fes­sional, wife and mom. You can­not un­der­es­ti­mate the loy­alty such poli­cies and pro­grams build.

Over time, work­ing flex­i­bly has be­come an amenity de­manded by women and men alike, par­ents and non-par­ent em­ploy­ees. Grate­fully, this next gen­er­a­tion and tech­nol­ogy have shown us how em­ploy­ees can be ef­fi­cient, pro­duc­tive, ef­fec­tive and im­pact­ful, no mat­ter how or where they work. There are, how­ever, a few ground rules to es­tab­lish around flex­i­ble work.

1. Make sure your or­ga­ni­za­tion mea­sures out­put and not just in­put. With­out that, top brass will al­ways count the hours and heads in the of­fice in­stead of what’s im­por­tant: good work.

2. Have clear guide­lines for the em­ploy­ees as they em­bark on their “flex­ing” jour­ney—support them on be­ing dis­ci­plined about fin­ish­ing their work, set­ting up a home of­fice, and self-polic­ing around child­care ( yes, they need an­other care­giver when they’re work­ing) and friends and fam­ily drop­ping in (no, they can’t come by for ex­tended lunches or cof­fee breaks). And they must find a quiet place to work at home, not the fam­ily room or din­ing-room ta­ble.

3. Un­der­stand what is non­nego­tiable on both sides. Are there cer­tain du­ties that must be com­pleted dur­ing work hours? Which days will you need to be in the of­fice? Make sure you un­der­stand those clearly from the get-go.

4. Have reg­u­lar check-ins with your re­ports and man­agers to see if ex­pec­ta­tions are be­ing met on both sides.

5. Make sure you come to the of­fice rou­tinely to meet col­leagues, col­lab­o­rate in per­son, and so­cial­ize. All of these are crit­i­cal in cre­at­ing high-func­tion­ing teams.

6. Re­mem­ber that flex­i­bil­ity is not just about where you are work­ing, but also when and how.

At Work­ing Mother Me­dia, we of­fer a flex­i­ble work en­vi­ron­ment, but we are de­mand­ing of our­selves and our col­leagues; we strive to do our very best work while sup­port­ing our team, de­liv­er­ing strong busi­ness re­sults and tak­ing care of our fam­i­lies—our chil­dren, our el­derly rel­a­tives and our­selves. Our 100 Best Com­pa­nies set a high bar in this re­gard. We honor and rec­og­nize them for cre­at­ing work en­vi­ron­ments where their em­ploy­ees can work re­motely, flex­i­bly or tra­di­tion­ally. Not only will this en­gen­der loy­alty like Mer­rill Lynch did in me when I had my son, but it will also cre­ate happy, en­gaged and pro­duc­tive em­ploy­ees.

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