How to Campaign for Flexible Working Conditions (Or, How to Change the Company Policy That Requires You Lug a Heavy Laptop Around)

How to Campaign for A More Flexible Workplace (Or: How to Ditch Your Company Laptop)How do you campaign for accessibility and flexibility in your workplace when the policies are less than ideal?  Yesterday’s post on how to lighten your tote bag got me thinking — I was so intrigued by the commenters who noted that they have to carry a huge, bulky laptop to and from the office because that is the the only approved way to get access to the office system.  When I was working in BigLaw, my firm used Citrix to give everyone access to the Docs Open system and other office programs — there were even times you could access document review programs from home.  (Ah, glory days.)  The only thing we needed to access the system was a small, flat device (a 2″ by 1″ fob) that displayed a long number that changed every thirty seconds. When you needed to log into the system, you entered the current security number.  That was five years ago, so it honestly didn’t occur to me that companies with information security issues would not be using something similar to Citrix in 2013.  (Even the Department of Defense has a better remote access option, according to a 2011 Lifehacker article.)  Maybe there are good reasons Reader R’s company isn’t using a secure remote system — but maybe it’s just an old policy that hasn’t been reevaluated in a while or from the right perspective. 

So readers, let’s talk about this — how do you change an office policy to make the conditions better for you (and those who come after you)?  Sheryl Sandberg talked a bit about this in Lean In — regarding how she insisted that the Google parking lot have spaces reserved for expectant mothers — and this was kind of mentioned in a recent NYT article about workplace flexibility  — but I can’t seem to find much else about this topic on the Internet.  For my $.02, here are some ideas… [Read more...]

How to Lighten Your Load

how to lighten your loadIf you’re carrying a million bags, how do you look professional?  How can you lighten your load and reduce the number of bags you’re carrying? Reader R wonders…

I work in a large corporate environment and recently had a daughter. I’m back at work, but I feel like a bag lady. I’m only 5’3″ and have to carry in my laptop, purse, pump, lunch, and coffee. (Not brave enough to add my gym bag to the mix, although I’d like to.) I feel like the bags overwhelm my frame and generally make me look smaller, younger, and unprofessional. How do others juggle all this STUFF?

Congratulations on your daughter, R!  Great question — I can see how this is a problem for new mothers, but also for other people carrying too much stuff.  We’ve talked about what your tote bag says about you, as well as how to save your back while commuting, but we haven’t really talked about a) how to lighten your load, and b) how to balance your load (particularly if you’re petite) so it looks more managed.

From my perspective, most of reader R needs to do is to reduce the amount of stuff she carries.  Some tips: [Read more...]

How to Be Supportive To a Stay At Home Spouse

stay at home dad(1)How can you be supportive of a stay-at-home dad or mom? We’ve talked about how to prepare to be a SAHM, but not about how to support your stay at home spouse, so let’s discuss.  Here’s Reader L’s question:

I want to find ways to encourage and be supportive of my husband, who is a stay at home dad to our six-month-old son for two months now. I’m a second year associate at a mid-sized firm.

Our game plan has always been for him to stay at home with our kids and he was very enthusiastic about it. I know he loves our son, but he is having a tough time being “on” all day with the baby.

I’ve suggested that we find a sitter or a day care we can use a few times a week, but he gets very defensive about that. I’m doing everything I can to help him with the baby and keeping the house clean.

I want to believe that it will get better with time, but I just don’t know. I’d love to hear what others’ experiences have been.

Great question, and I’ll be fascinated to hear what the readers say.  Although I’m more of a WAHM (work at home mom) than a SAHM (since I’m only without childcare/daddy for about 12 hours a week), here are a few thoughts of my own for any stay-at-home parent: [Read more...]

Pumping in a Different Office

How do you find time to pump if your job involves traveling to lots of different offices?  Do you just ask the HR people outright? Blogger / reader Road Warriorette wonders…

I am back at work finally, and will be taking my first trip this week. I have a game plan for pumping on the road. But the one thing I can’t figure out — how do you ask a client or customer if there is a place in their office where you can pump? Luckily, on this trip my meeting is only three hours so I can avoid the question. But next time I will be on location the whole day, and will certainly need a space. Do I reach out to my contact? An admin? Just suck it up and plan to pump in the bathroom? Am I over-thinking this?

This is a great question.  We’ve talked about what to wear for pumping at the office, but this is a different question — where do you go to pump when you’re not in your regular office?  It involves your breasts, so it certainly feels personal — you can’t very well just say to your male colleague, “Oh, by the way, Jim, while I’m working in the office, is there a comfortable spot for me to take my top off, attach foghorns to my breasts, and make a loud mechanical whirring noise for 10-15 minutes, a few times a day?” (Pictured.) [Read more...]

Open Thread: Best Pumping Attire for Working Moms

The Best Pumping Clothes for Work | Corporette What ARE the best clothes for pumping breastmilk at the office? This is a question I get asked so often, I thought we’d have a discussion about it.  (We have talked about it once before, from guest poster Jenny Hamilton, who had some great general advice, as well as advice on how to travel for business while pumping.) Here’s the latest question, from reader K:

Here’s my dilemma, I’m headed out for maternity leave in a month or so and am looking for professional clothes that are nursing / pumping friendly. I don’t want to break the bank, but most of what I’ve found so far is either cheap looking or totally inappropriate. I don’t need to “show off my new assets” at work. I just need to be able to look professional and pulled together, and pump without having to strip all the way down. Any guidance would be appreciated.

Congratulations on your baby! The current American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines suggest that mothers nurse their children for the first year of their life (recommending that babies exclusively eat breastmilk for the first 6 months). I’ll say up front that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with formula if that’s what you choose to do. (I’ll also note: it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. You can nurse her for 3 months, then just nurse morning and night with your child and give her formula in the middle of the day, skipping the pump entirely.) But: working moms who pump — you guys are rockstars in my book. I’m always inspired by commenters who talk about having pumped for long periods of time (I think one commenter was recently celebrating an end to four years of pumping!) Even in a perfect world, it takes dedication and drive to pump regularly — but I’ve also heard war stories from friends, about trekking to windowless closets with pumping equipment, about enduring funny looks and having to explain their various funnels and contraptions when they rinsed them off in the ladies’ room. It ain’t easy.

[Read more...]

How to Announce Your Pregnancy At Work

Model SEverine Pregnant Photo 3, originally uploaded to Flickr by MestreechCity.How (and when) do you tell your boss you’re pregnant?  What should you factor into consideration?  I’ve had three different readers write to me with a question along these lines, so now seems like a great time to discuss this.  Reader K is one of those readers:

Wondering what the readers think about the timing of telling your firm you are pregnant.  I have made it through the 1st trimester without anyone noticing my being drag-ass tired and have somehow kept up respectable billable hours in the meantime.  I planned on telling people next week, but confidentially shared the news over lunch with a female partner (I am beginning my fourth year as an associate on partner track) and her concern was my timing in terms of telling the guys/powers that be about the pregnancy. She doesn’t think I should tell them right away so that I have more time where they are continuing to give me good assignments.  Besides my desire to remain on good cases, other “concerns” discussed are: 1) the fact that bonuses happen at end of the year (and that I not draw the short stick in an otherwise profitable year); and 2) review/raise time in early spring (while I am on maternity leave).  Next year is the year I expected a big jump based on profitability, etc, and I hope this timing doesn’t derail all of that hard work.  Is it better for me to rip the band-aid off and express these concerns with the managing partner (who I think I can have an honest discussion with) or wait until I have to tell so that there is more time for me to continue to get assigned the good work (ie, before the guys subconsciously take me off the fast track).  I was planning on providing my fact-based plan of action (6 weeks short term disability, begin part time work during that time as I am able, child care taken care of, etc) at the same time.  Any suggestions on the timing of all of this and how the conversation should go down?

Congratulations!  (Pictured.) Here are some thoughts, both for K and other first-time moms:

- Wait as long as possible.  K is happily past her first trimester, which can be exhausting and always carries with it the risk of miscarriage.  But she’s still got six months to go before she’ll need maternity leave, so why would she tell the powers that be?  Here are my thoughts:  she won’t need special accommodations.  (She should be in the “sweet spot” for pregnancy — most women experience much less nausea, fatigue, and other pregnancy aches and pains in their second trimester.)  She may not start to show for another two months.  (Every woman is different, but many first-time mothers don’t start showing until week 20 or so (that was when I had to make the jump to proper maternity pants; a girlfriend who is very petite and tiny just told me she didn’t announce it until she was five months along as well).)  If she were quitting her job entirely a month would be generous notice.  So I don’t see any reason to start telling people until she starts to show — especially when a female supervisor is suggesting she wait.  I suppose there’s an argument that she could wait even longer — after all, there’s that old joke that you should never guess a woman is pregnant unless you actually see a baby coming out of her.  But I think, in general, that when you move to maternity pants is the right time to say something official to your boss. [Read more...]