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April 28, 2021jdegrootBlog

Renegotiating Remote Work for a Post Pandemic World

When remote work is working for you but everyone else wants to head back to the office, how do you convince your boss to let you stay at home (at least some of the time)?

To learn more, read our guest post by Heather Cluley, Associate Director, Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Or click on the YouTube video to listen to the great advice from our April Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar.

Step 1: Get clear about what’s working and what you want

The first step is to objectively assess your remote work experience and think about adjustments that will improve your productivity and communication with your colleagues and clients. Before the pandemic threw us all spontaneously into remote work, these types of arrangements were proactive and well-planned affairs. And that was a good thing because that meant productivity could be optimized, teams could better coordinate their efforts, and managers expectations could be better managed.

An example of just how organized these arrangements can be can be found in the 40-page Guide to Telework in the Federal Government. It spells out exactly the conversations that would need to be had between employees and their managers when a telework arrangement is requested. While you may be well beyond this conversation now, this survey tool, developed by my friends at the ThirdPath Institute, can help you (re)assess and recalibrate your remote work plans. This will help you think through how your continued remote work arrangements can benefit you, your work, and your team, as well as how to improve the arrangement (now that we’re not in crisis mode).

Step 2: Frame your request from the managing up perspective

Now that you know what works best for you, you need to honestly reflect on what works best for your boss and your organization. Taking this bigger picture view will help you figure out how to frame your request for continued remote work in a way that will make it harder to say no to. BTW, this ‘managing up’ approach can also help you at work generally. When it comes to your manager, think about their goals and perspective. What are their plans and pressures? Also, what is your boss’s communication style and decision-making style? Does your boss prefer written or face-to-face communication? Do they want to know all the details and all the options, or do they just want your recommendation for moving projects forward? A boss who values face-to-face communication might be more open to an arrangement that is part-time remote work versus one that is full-time.




You will also want to frame your request with an understanding of your workplace’s culture. For example, a split schedule – where you’re working some hours during the day and some in the evening – might work well in a 24/7 work environment because it can allow you to be responsive to those evening requests. But a work arrangement that is more 9 to 5-ish might work better in a work culture set by more traditional business hours. Try to meet your own needs while also staying within the framework of the organizational culture and your boss’s work style.

Step 3: Make the request using the triple win

“Hey boss, I want to continue to work remotely after the pandemic (sometimes, all the time, on Wednesdays…). I have thought about how to make this work for me and my work, for you and the team, and how it can be really great for serving our clients. Let me tell you about this triple-win proposal…” Honestly, if I am your boss, I’m all ears in this conversation. If you can truly lay out a plan that is a win for all stakeholders, you’ll be well on the road to a yes. A few other tips to seal the deal: consider pitching this proposal as a trial or pilot test. Suggest it as a time-limited experiment. Then build in advance a timeframe for review – when you will discuss what’s going well and what adjustments are needed. Then spend the trial phase doing an awesome job, so there is no question when that review time comes around, that things are going well. Competent work (being predictably good) and great communication are two key ingredients to building trust.

I’m going to use this post-pandemic opportunity to rebuild my life into a life I want, not one that is shaped by outdated ideas and needless inefficiencies. (Ok, I’m probably also going to end up back where I started when it comes to running a child around to way too many activities.) For me, I’ve been in a pretty good situation for a while. Nearly ideal. The remote work arrangements and flexible schedule I’ve enjoyed used to be unheard of in many organizations. But now is the time to start making work more fun and less stressful by building on what we have learned about the possibilities that seemed so untenable until now.

Heather Cluley, Ph.D. is the Associate Director in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. She also happens to be one of ThirdPath’s AMAZING ILAs.

Redefining marriage motherhood and community

January 8, 2021jdegrootBlog

Black Career Women and Strategic Mothering

Once again we will have Riché Daniel Barnes join our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars this month. Her amazing book, Raising the Race: Black Career Women Redefine Marriage, Motherhood and Community taught me how much the Black professional mothers in her study have in common with our Shared Care families.

Her study reinforced how the dichotomy between work and family isn’t working for anybody.

To challenge this, these Black professional mothers had adopted a more flexible approach that provided a wider range of options to meet their responsibilities around work, family, community and marriage.

When I asked Riché what prompted her to begin this study, she explained, “I was in grad school, so I had time to take my daughter to the library a couple times each week and I kept on noticing the same Black mothers who were there as well. Every Black woman I knew had always worked. But this group of women were showing up week after week. Some of these mothers were taking time for family alongside their careers. Some were not planning to go back to work. Some were planning to go back, they just weren’t yet sure when.” And all of them, Riché pointed out, were doing this without any role models.

Riché uses the concept of “Strategic Mothering” to describe what she observed.

This is an approach Black women have used for generations as a way to strengthen their communities through their work as caregivers, culture bearers and community builders. Whether flexing a full time job, working reduced hours, or temporarily stepping away from their careers, these Black professional women were searching for ways to break down the dichotomy between work and family.

In a previous interview, when asked how their more flexible approach to work and family was an example of “Strategic Mothering”, Riché answered, “In the time span that I interviewed these families, only 2 have ended in divorce. These women saw having an intact family as important to the community. Family life is devalued. Marriage is devalued. The majority of black children are being raised in single-parent households. These women saw what they were doing — by staying together — as ‘raising the race.’”


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However, as Riché clarified, these mothers hadn’t arrived at these answers just by choice.

Their strategy was based on a history that included slavery, Jim Crow and systemic racism. This historical context helped illustrate why, as Black women, it was assumed they would combine work and motherhood. It also underscores how the ongoing racism Black families face – including Black professional families – makes it extremely risky to rely on just one parent’s income.

Riché explained, “These families knew they were making a precarious decision. Even as professional families, most were just one generation away from not having had anything. And because their financial circumstances were often dependent on an employer – they knew they had to put other types of financial solutions in place for themselves.” For many, this meant having some other type of income producing activity on the side, whether it was real estate, something entrepreneurial, or something else.

Riché points to the need to create better public policy to address this problem.

Riché argued, “We are putting more responsibilities on families to take care of themselves, and we’ve eroded the safety net that so many of us have worked hard to create.” Going forward, we need to create good public policy and good workplace policies. Unfortunately, Riché concluded, our country does not seem to be going in this direction. “We need to pivot our conversation and recognize that families can’t do all of this work themselves.”

Check out the above YouTube video to listen to our first conversation with Riché. Then register to join us on 1/14/21 @ 1pm ET to learn more about this important topic.

Designing an Integrated Career

Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community … Read on to learn how our amazing board member, Elizabeth Hall, crafted her integrated career.

Elizabeth Hall – “Pivoting” to Accommodate Work and Life.

Recently, Elizabeth helped coordinate a company-wide pivot that allowed her 5,000-person health care company to become fully remote. Elizabeth joined this organization six years ago. Today, she is Vice President of Employee Experience.

Of course Elizabeth’s success in dealing with the unprecedented experience of Covid was based on years of adapting to changes both in work and life, and drawing from both sides of the equation as she searched for new answers. Her success also came from many brave conversations.

For example, when her son Spencer was born 17 years ago, the world was a different place. She also had a vision of trying to be both a working person and a parent, crafting a plan that felt pretty innovative considering the lack of successful examples in her circle of friends, family and coworkers. That’s a brave thing to do.

“I thought, well, I know my company doesn’t really have anyone who telecommutes, but maybe they will let me work from Portland. I also knew they weren’t going to fire me for asking. So, I went to my boss with a proposal: I could come down to Los Angeles every other week for four days, and the rest of the time I’d work from home in Portland.” Her boss said yes.

Elizabeth imagined only commuting every other week for a short while, but the arrangement lasted for two and a half years, with the company paying for Elizabeth’s travel.

Once again, it was time to pivot.

After Spencer was born, she decided she would resign, thinking she would be a full-time mom for a while. That was until her husband was laid off. “So there we were, with a baby and no jobs.”

Fortunately, Elizabeth’s former employer was happy to take her on as a part-time consultant, allowing her to work while still spending time with Spencer. This also taught Elizabeth how much, “It pays to really invest in those relationships, and to do good work.”

Time passed, and it became clear that Elizabeth was going to be the primary income earner in the family. Elizabeth found a new job that proved to be exciting, and full of opportunities for travel and success. But it also demanded a lot of time, and that took its toll.


Free for you! ThirdPath handout:
Launching an Integrated Career

“I felt like I didn’t have enough time for my child. I didn’t have enough time for my spouse. I didn’t have enough time for friends or family.” It was time to make another change.

Ultimately, she wanted to find a job that would be a better fit for her as a parent. She also wanted time to invest in her marriage to see if she and her ex-husband could turn things around, but they couldn’t.

Around this time her mother’s second husband also passed away. And once again, Elizabeth thoughtfully observed all of these new realities and rose to meet them, including the fact that if her mom wanted to spend time with Spencer, the time was now.

After considering a number of options, her mother said, ‘What if we just got a big ass house?’” This sounded appealing to Elizabeth, but life had also taught her it would be important to test-run the idea. So that is what they did, they found a big house she and her mom could rent, and the experience has been absolutely wonderful for everyone.

Today, when describing how she’s helped her current employer manage the changes connected to the pandemic, it’s easy to see how she continues to draw from her strength in having brave conversations and pivoting as needed.

Of course, Elizabeth first gives a lot of credit to her organization. But the idea of doing a test run before going fully remote came from carefully observing both her work and life experiences.

It turns out Spencer’s school was very close to the first reported U.S. virus outbreak. When this happened, the school sent all of the kids home. Then after a few days, they were ready to test virtual learning for a full school-day. It went so well, they never returned to school. She decided there was a lot to gain from doing a test run in her organization as well.

We picked a specific day and communicated our plan. “We told everybody to take their laptop and go home for a day.” The test day went pretty well, and ten days later the state instituted a stay-at-home lockdown. They were ready.

Just as before, Elizabeth found a way to draw from both sides of her experiences—in life and work—and pivot.

“You know,” Elizabeth remarked, “We’re all the same people, no matter where we go, so the skills you hone at work help you be successful at home, and the skills you hone at home help you be successful at work.”

She also learned, “You might not be able to solve everything at the beginning, because you don’t know what is going to happen, but you can solve what is right in front of you. You can evolve. You can do it.”

Want to meet Elizabeth Hall? Join our Thursday webinar on 11/12/20 @ 1pm ET. Register here.

Living a Multidimensional Life

October 25, 2020jdegrootBlog

Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community … Read on to learn about Sergio’s journey as a non-traditional father and husband.

The Essence of Sergio Rosario Díaz

Meet Sergio Rosario Díaz, a thoughtful, loving father and proud military spouse.

Yet, despite his pride, Sergio hasn’t always opened with the military part of that description.

Why not? It seems that many folks have a very specific idea in mind when they hear the term “military spouse.”

As Sergio says, “I can be a good spouse without solely being defined as a ‘military spouse’ . . . your roles are defined by who you are, your essence, not by where you work or what you do.”

Sergio recently joined ThirdPath’s team as a Marketing and Social Media Associate. He is going to help grow ThirdPath’s social media presence. And like all of our employees, he has a multidimensional spirit that we benefit from.

In addition to working for ThirdPath, Sergio is the director of Proyecto Piquete, a band focused on folkloric rhythms from Puerto Rico and oral history through music. He manages Soy Super Papa, a community whose mission is empowering fathers to focus on highlighting their roles in society and within the family.

So “who” Sergio is can be many things. He is an educator and an entrepreneur. He is a community leader and a drum instructor. He is a doting dad, caring husband and supportive spouse. That is his essence.

Sergio met his wife, Lyn, in Washington, D.C. She was working as an attorney in the U.S. Army and he was employed by a large family services organization.

They had a daughter, Stella, who they started in full-time childcare. But childcare was expensive, and it made for a stressful start to their life as a family. So they talked about it. “I think,” adds Sergio. “The most important part of the story was the communication throughout the whole process.”


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“Communication is key,” he says. “I feel that is something anyone who reads this story needs to know.”

Then, two big changes were made. They moved to North Carolina, and Sergio left his job to become the primary caregiver for Stella. However, it turns out that the concept of being a stay-at-home dad is often met by the same antiquated notions as military spouse.

“It’s very hard. When people first meet you, the first thing they ask is what do you do for work? Instead of asking, how are you? Tell me your story. The first thing they want to talk about is work. And living in D.C. or other big cities, it’s even more that way.”

“If you are thinking about doing something less traditional, you need to have good communication. And when stressful situations come, criticism from the family, from friends, from relatives, the first thing that needs to be done is to communicate with your significant other, just let them know how you feel.”

It’s also about support, both personally and professionally.

Sergio was able to focus on his professional identity through drumming, entrepreneurship and educating, while Lyn pursued her goals within her military career. Depending on the circumstances, they would prioritize different roles.

“In my case, when it’s about the military community, I tend to shift to a supportive role. When we are in the musical and cultural community, I take the lead in the role, and my wife is a supporter. So we each feel important in our own communities, but we also both support each other.

Sergio and Lyn have an incredible partnership where they see each other as very capable of caregiving and very capable of having their respective professional identities.

They also understand each other’s responsibilities. “When we sit and watch TV, it’s because we both have time. So we respect each other’s chores, duties, exercise time, all these things. Musical time, when I’m recording, she respects my time and she goes and does her own thing. So it’s about balancing those chores, those responsibilities.

We knew when we first met Sergio he was the right guy for the job. Not only does he bring great skills and a passion around involved fatherhood, he and his wife also have a great team at home – and we’ve certainly learned how all of these things help develop a more creative and committed employee for the long run.

All year long our Thursday webinars will explore new approaches to work and family to help you find a more sustainable solution during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. Here’s where you can find out what’s happening next.

Or, click the above YouTube link to watch this season’s opening webinar. Sergio joined us along with two exciting book authors as we explored how to rethink the mental load as an important step to creating more sustainable solutions (and greater gender equity too!)

Creating a Team at Home

September 24, 2020jdegrootBlog

10 Proven Ways to Balance Family and Work

Does it sometimes feel challenging to create a team approach at home?

Listen to our recent Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar to discover how you can strengthen your partnership at home as you navigate work and family through the pandemic. Our guests were Catherine Aponte and Rachel Allender, both long time ThirdPath community members who work with couples.

Or, read on for Catherine Aponte’s guest post for additional words of wisdom.

Researchers at Colorado State University studied 47 middle-class, dual-earner couples with children to identify key strategies for successfully managing family and work balance. Here are the 10 ways these couples found to balance family and work.

1. Valuing Family. Successful couples stress the importance of keeping family as their highest priority. They create family time such as “pizza night” on Friday, or bedtime stories every night. It is not uncommon for these couples to limit work hours… or make career changes… to keep family as the number one priority.

H (Husband): …Every night, one of us reads with our son for about 20 minutes.
W (Wife): …David was going to go to medical school…. creating eight-plus years of being an absentee father…. we said no…. we needed to pursue something else.

2. Striving for Partnership. Being partners means being equally valued.

H: …My job is both earning and caring, and so is hers.
H: …If I win and she loses, then we both lose.
W: …We continue to talk about career…where do we want to be?


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3. Deriving Meaning From Work. Successful couples experience enjoyment and purpose from their careers and jobs.

W: …We both really like our jobs…they’re stressful at times, but we…feel good about what we are doing.
H: …I get a great deal of satisfaction from my job.

4. Maintaining Work Boundaries. Successful couples make a commitment to maintaining control over work, not allowing careers to dictate the pace of their lives.

W: …We both like our jobs, but, when it’s quitting time, we’re out of there.
W: …When you’re at home, you’re at home; and when you’re at work, you’re at work.
H: …We’ve always said “no” to jobs that required long hours…weekends, lots of overtime.

5. Focusing and Producing at Work. Being productive at work is important to successful couples. Setting limits on their careers has not adversely affected their productivity.

H: …We both pull our weight at [our] jobs. [No one] has felt we’re slacking off or getting off easy because we’ve got kids.
W: …I don’t mess around. When I’m there, I’m working.

6. Prioritizing Family Fun. Successful couples use play and family fun to relax, enjoy life, stay emotionally connected, and create balance in their lives.

H: …I think a lot of our family bonding revolves around these excursions, going on lots of hikes or bike trips…sometimes fishing, concerts…the three of us.
W: …Once in a while, we’ll just try and do stuff off the cuff; one night we had a camp night in front of the fireplace.

7. Taking Pride in Dual Earning. These couples believe dual earning is positive for all members of their family and do not accept negative societal message about their family arrangement.

W: …Of course [children] fulfill you, but they can only fulfill a certain part of you.
H: …One of the nicest gifts that Patty has ever given me is to go to work and to bring home a good income.

8. Living Simply. These couples consciously simplifying their lives.

W: …We don’t go out to eat. We don’t need cable. We don’t need to sit in front of the TV anyway.
H: …We don’t use credit cards. We can’t have fancy cars where the payments just eat you up.

9. Making Decisions Proactively. Being proactive in decision making is most important. Successful couples are vigilant in not allowing the pace of their lives control them.

W: …If you define success as what you do at work, then that is all you will do…if you define success as having a happy family and a happy marriage and [being] happy at work, then you make all those things happen.
H: …We talk a lot during the day…[about] anything from getting the oil changed in the car to who is bringing plates over to mom’s house. There’s not much I don’t know about.

10. Valuing Time. Successful couples try to remain aware of the value of time.

W: …I think you are almost forced to make better use of the time that you have together by the nature of the fact that you work.
H: …We try to do a lot of our [house] work during the week, so that the weekends are free.

To learn more about this study, find the full post on Psychology Today.

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Assist individuals, families and organizations in finding new ways to redesign work to create time for family, community and other life priorities. Develop a growing community of individuals, leaders and organizations to influence wider change - both within organizations and at the public policy level. Support a new mind-set where everyone can follow a "third path" - an integrated approach to work and life.

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