Listen Up! When it Comes to Happy Working-Parent Employees, Communication Must Be a Two-Way Street.

Let's set the record straight. We often hear debate about working parents "having it all," but I don't think we can have it all, or that we necessarily want to. I think we have to determine what we want and then try to figure out a way to adjust our lives, schedules, and/or careers accordingly.

I might look like I have it all from the outside. I have a career that I love and I have two young sons, but there are many days when I feel like I need clones in order to be everywhere and to be everything I want to be. I don't have it all, but I do have something not all working parents have -- and that's flexibility in my work schedule. And it's really flexibility that is key. More and more companies are open to flexible scheduling and telecommuting now, so I encourage working mothers who also feel pulled in too many directions to spend time figuring out what their ideal schedule is and to then craft a plan and approach their employers with a proposal that demonstrates what they want and how they're going to make it work.

POPSUGAR has been supportive of working parents from day one. And that may be because my cofounders, Lisa and Brian Sugar, had their first baby on our first day of business nearly 10 years ago. For the first three years of her life, their daughter Katie came to the office with them. We ran with it! We turned one of our conference rooms into Katie's Room, and we all still think back on those days fondly. We are now too large to make this happen for all working parents, but the culture of nontraditional solutions and flexibility for parents still exists today at our company. From the top down, POPSUGAR has always demonstrated that family is a priority that can be woven into our work in some capacity. Since we as founders have always sought to prioritize both work and family, we do everything we can to work with parents on solutions that will help them achieve their ideal mix as well.

This is really personal to me. In my role as EVP of Culture and Corporate Citizenship, I seek to maintain the culture of the organization we started a decade ago, which includes policies like paid maternity, paternity, and partner leave. But we also offer an ease-in policy for parents returning from leave and work with individual employees to structure the best post-leave schedule for each person, so they have time to get back up to speed and adjust to their new lives as working parents.

And I think that's an important point to highlight -- even beyond leave, we don't have a one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to scheduling and telecommuting. Our employees have different wants and needs. Some want to leave at 3 p.m. each day to pick up their kids. Others want to take a day off to chaperone a field trip or drive a carpool. When we work with these employees to help them realize their goals, they're happier and able to better focus and be present both at the office and at home.

I've altered my schedule multiple times in the 10 years I've been with POPSUGAR. I started full-time and then shifted to two days a week after my second son was born and eventually went back to full-time again. And I'm one of many POPSUGAR employees who have done this based on life stage and needs. And I'm proud to say if an employee comes to us with a proposal about the schedule they want, we are for the most part able to work with them to figure out an arrangement.

But, like any relationship, none of this would be possible without communication. That means the onus is on both employees to speak up when their needs change and on management to thoughtfully listen. Cookie-cutter policies aren't going to work for all employees. And I think it makes employers much more responsive when they have a base from which to start. I encourage other companies to listen to working parents and to be open to flexible scheduling in order to accommodate them.

In our experience, an open-door policy and two-way conversation is the only way this works. And it is in both parties' best interests: happy and fulfilled people are an invaluable resource and are integral to a company's success. This has certainly been the case at POPSUGAR. Much has changed in the workplace in the last 10 years, and we look forward to more changes as we look ahead. Some changes we cannot predict -- much will come from what we hear. And we're happily listening.

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