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Career Redesign Tools For Work-Life Balance


Partnering with the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Wharton School, Thirdpath Institute, a non-profit whose mission is "To assist individuals and families in finding new ways to redesign work to create time for family, community and other life priorities," held a 2-day conference in May, 2004 for lawyers, entitled "Having a Life: Creating Work-Life Balance in the Law." I was part of a small team of career and work-life professionals who facilitated small group breakout sessions that were held throughout the conference.

Thirdpath Institute, under the direction of Jessica DeGroot and Hanne Weedon, is a thought-leader and ground-breaker in the work-life field because it works at two levels concurrently. First, it developed concrete tools for thinking about and implementing work re-design: analytic, structural, etc. Second, into this highly structured and analytic approach, it also includes a second methodology which allows people to tap into the emotional and highly personal level of these kinds of changes. A mother of young children might apply Thirdpath's "Four Ways to Flex Your Work" and consider working a four-day week. And through paired listening, she might get in touch with how terrified she was of being "mommy-tracked" by the managing partners and her peers.

Tapping into and working with the emotional and personal ups and downs is a highly interactive process. In the small groups at the conference we made room and set the context for people to share some of their internal process. When I coach a client through a work re-design process of any magnitude, the coaching conversation becomes a place for the client to "check in" on the issues, and determine an action plan. For example, one lawyer who works from home on Fridays was on a 2-hour conference call with several people, including one of her managing partners. After the call, her managing partner called her and asked her if she was "in" today. She responded, "I am working today, if that's what you mean."

ThirdPath has come up with a beautifully structured approach to work re-design. They offer Six Steps for Integrating Work and Life, and Four Ways to Flex Your Work. Here are the Four Ways to Flex Your Work.

  • Schedule. This pertains to the degree to which your work actually needs to be done during a particular time of day. Many professionals find that large chunks of their work - research, writing, analysis, thinking, planning, etc - can be done during non-traditional work hours, such as very early mornings, 9pm to midnight, weekends, holidays.
  • Physical Presence. This pertains to whether your work requires you to be in a particular place. If you are an emergency room doctor, you need to be in the emergency room for your clinical hours. But your non-clinical hours, such as planning the monthly meeting, or writing up your research, may be put in from home.
  • Workflow. This is about how much control you have over the volume and the pace of your work. The lawyer who works 80% time in a firm where the full time annual standard is 2000 billable hours knows she needs 1600 billable hours. But who decides which cases she takes on - can she say no when her plate is full? One part time attorney at a commission told of one hellish year when she had put in her full 60% hours by the end of June. She took the rest of the year off.
  • Substitution. To what extent can someone else do your work? Are there peers who can take over for you, and/or are there subordinates who can pick up some of your lower-level tasks? Could you job-share with someone?
  • Are you stumped about how you could possibly re-design your job? Are you convinced it could never happen at your place of work? If you are going around and around, thinking about work re-design but never taking any action, you owe it to yourself to get some assistance. Most people cannot think their way through these challenges on their own. I have helped many high achievers get un-stuck and implement some real changes that result in more satisfying arrangements. Get off the hamster wheel - contact me for an initial consultation at no charge. Copyright 2004, Sharon Teitelbaum.

    Sharon Teitelbaum is a Work-Life and Career Coach who works with high achieving women with young children, people at mid-career, and professionals seeking greater career satisfaction or work-life balance. Her book, Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: Restoring Work-Life Balance, is available at her website, http://www.STcoach.com.

    Certified as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Sharon works by phone with clients around the world and in-person in Boston.

    She delivers keynotes and workshops on work-life balance issues, has been in national publications including The New York Times and Working Mother Magazine, and has appeared on cable and network television. She publishes Strategies for Change, a newsletter offering practical tips for work-life success.

    Sharon has been married for 30 years and is the mother of two amazing young women. You can contact her here.


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