ThirdPath

Roger and Doug’s Stories

Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community . . .

This month we are putting a spotlight on two Shared Care couples who explore why sharing in the joys and challenges of earning an income and caring for their families has positively impacted their lives as individuals and as a couple. Read on to learn about these pioneering couples, or click the SoundCloud icon at the end to listen to them share their inspiring stories.

Roger’s Story
Roger and his wife are both engineers.  When their son was born, they both decided to work reduced hours so they could share in the care of their new baby.  To begin with – even though they both worked for the same employer and had the same benefits – Roger’s wife assumed she would be the one who worked reduced hours.  It was actually Roger who suggested they both could work part time.  Now both parents have regular “alone” time with their child.  Roger can see how this has helped the couple build a high level of trust.  Both parents feel comfortable in the other’s ability to take on any responsibility in their absence. This feeling of trust has also helped the couple feel closer in their relationship.

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Doug and Maggie’s Story
Doug and Maggie have shared in the care of their son since he was born – now he’s in high school! They also both run their own businesses and work from home offices. For Doug and Maggie, time spent together as a family has always been a top priority. They have also always been very intentional to create this time together.  Although the reasons may have changed over the years, like the recent celebration with their son when he got his drivers permit, the priority of creating family time hasn’t changed. The couple says the key to their success has been their ability to work together as a team and to set boundaries around the time they spend working.

Working as a “team at home” has also left the couple with a sense of balance that no one person is doing more than the other, and as a result, the couple feels “friendlier towards each other”. These feelings of friendliness have allowed the couple to easily adjust to changing circumstances. When their son started high school, the family’s day suddenly began two hours earlier. Without missing a beat, the couple made the commitment to get up together and have breakfast, and then see their son off to school. They also discovered the new arrangement allowed time for a workout in the morning.

Shared Care Helps Couples Develop Multi-Dimensional Lives

Through team work and setting boundaries around work time, these families have created lives that are supportive, trusting and enriching not only for their family as a whole, but also for their own lives and their relationships as a couple.  Here are a few more unexpected benefits we learned about from our conversation with these Shared Care parents:

  • Shared care means both parents can continue to create time for “guilt free recreation” – since they’ve had time for work and for family, both feel free to create time for their own personal interests
  • Both parents become an additional resource around work problems.  One dad shared a story of how his partner’s area of expertise at work helped him “think outside the box” to solve a recent work problem
  • Shared Care becomes a powerful way to role model how both men and women can do things differently – at work and at home!

In each story, the couples found a unique solution that met their family, work and individual needs. Through communication and teamwork, these families created work/family solutions that were able to continue to evolve with their changing lives. They also discovered, by sharing their involvement with both work and family, they were able to further solidify the levels of trust, support and love in their relationships.

To learn more about Roger, Doug and Maggie, listen to the recording of our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar by clicking the SoundCloud link at the end of this post. The recording also includes the stories of a few additional couples, including the authors of two Shared Care books, Lisa Levy (The Libra Solution) and Marc Vachon (Equally Shared Parenting).

Jennifer and Ken’s Story

Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community . . .

This month we are putting a spotlight on Jennifer Johnson, co-founder of Current Designs, and Ken Stern, founding partner of Stern & Curray.

Jennifer and Ken’s Story

Progressive employers have learned a commitment to a flexible workplace is key to finding and keeping excellent workers. They’ve also learned when employees have time and energy to live full lives, it improves the work they do. Jennifer Johnson, co-founder of Current Designs, and Ken Stern, founding partner of Stern & Curray, are both leaders who have put these ideas into practice.

Not surprisingly, both of these leaders started off by wanting balance in their own lives. Today they have created unique organizations that support everyone to flex work in ways that are good for the business and good for employees. Read on to learn about these pioneering, or click the SoundCloud icon at the end to listen to them share their inspiring stories.

Ken Stern, founding partner Stern & Curray

Ken started off his career in litigation in a firm that offered very little time for life outside of work. When Ken had children, he wanted to create a more balanced life that would include time for family and other life interests. To do this, Ken decided to launch his own firm built around his work/life balance philosophies. But to do this well, Ken was also quick to learn that different jobs required different types of flexibility. For example, although his administrative staff couldn’t work remotely, he was happy to have them flex in other ways. In contrast, the paralegals have a lot of flexibility around when and where they work, so long as they get their expected hours completed within the 2 week pay period. He also encourages everyone to turn off work while on vacation, which came as a big surprise to a lawyer who had spent her career working in a less supportive workplace.

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Ken could see how all of this fostered a team approach where people where happy to cover for each other as needed. They even learned the value of creating quiet focused work time for people working in the office, and they implemented a red/green flag system to signal when it was OK, or not OK, to be interrupted.

Jennifer Johnson, co-founder Current Designs

When Jennifer and her husband were raising their children, not only did they share in the care of their twin boys, they also launched a new business developing highly detailed optical research instruments. Fast-forward a few years, the couple decided to expand the business, move it outside their home and hire more people. While doing this they learned they still needed flexibility themselves, but they also learned their employees and business benefited from flexibility as well.

For instance, Jennifer was quick to realize hiring very creative people (artist and musicians), meant she also would be able to count on having employees who excelled at the extremely detailed work that was required. And by offering these artists a 4-day schedule with full benefits, the employees could then use the other 3 days to work on their own creative pursuits. This is a critical way Jennifer has been able to create an enjoyable work environment that fosters openness, flexibility and high quality work. Jennifer notes the low-stress workplace also translates to improved customer service.

Over the years both leaders have experienced some challenges – especially for Ken who works in an industry that too often holds very different values. Nevertheless, Ken and Jennifer have a long list of benefits and lessons learned.  These include:

  • Having the right mindset is key to creating and maintaining a flexible workplace
  • Not every solution is good for every job; creating flexibility for different jobs requires creativity and a willingness to listen
  • Flexible solutions are not stagnant; they evolve with the people, the work required, and outside influences
  • By being a flexible workplace, they have reduced turnover and created a friendly, mutually supportive workplace

In short, Ken and Jennifer both talked about enjoying a full life with diverse interests. Ken summarized it this way, “work is important, it needs to be done well and in service to the client, it also needs to be profitable, but it doesn’t need to be done at the expense of everything else in life.” Today, Jennifer and Ken are understandably proud to be able to offer the opportunities they wanted for themselves to their employees.

Take Back Your Time

Every few months we feature the pioneers who are part of the ThirdPath community.

John de Graaf – Founder, Take Back Your Time

John believes …
Using our time, not just for both productive work, but also for enjoyment in life, is pivotal if we want to improve our overall quality of life.

He joined one of our Thursday webinars to talk about the work he does and the organization he founded – Take Back Your Time. John’s organization is dedicated to redefining the cultural perceptions of how we utilize our time. Although this type of work can be done on the personal and organizational level, John has a long and impressive history of fighting for public policy change.

It’s about improving our health and the communities we live in …

John started the call by describing his work fighting for paid parental leave, sick leave, and vacation time. As he pointed out, without the opportunity for vacations, the likelihood of heart attacks and depression increases for both men and women. And when workers can’t afford to take time off, including to care for their own health, research shows they come to work sick, stay sick longer, and spread illness to coworkers.

John went on to describe some of the important work he’s done around mandatory paid vacation time. John even drafted and proposed a paid vacation act, which would offer 1 to 2 weeks of guaranteed paid vacation time depending on the size of the organization. Though the US is one of only five countries not offering paid vacation time, many were still rigorously against this proposed bill.

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What can we learn from success stories?

During our conversation, John provided a perfect example of people embodying the “whole life” mentality John believes in. In Bhutan, a small country settled into the hills of the Himalayas, instead of just prioritizing the importance of gross national product, this small progressive county has been focusing on increasing gross national happiness.

In service of this goal, Bhutan has created an index for looking at 9 dimensions of life that lead to sustainable happiness, one of which is time balance. John then provided a number of inspiring details of how he ended up working with the people of Bhutan as they drafted a proposal on a happiness index for the UN.

And what did we fail to learn …

John also shared a powerful story about the Kellogg corporation. In 1930, Kellogg allowed one location of its workers to change to 6-hours shifts, 5 days a week. Within two years of this shift, the company discovered it produced the same amount of cereal in the 6 hour shifts, as it had during the 8 hour shifts.

However, in 1985, because of the high cost of benefits, these workers were forced to return to an 8-hour workday. Around this time, John interviewed a number of the men and women who had been working the shorter schedules to better understand how it had impacted their lives. No surprise, he discovered the shorter work day brought many benefits, including extra time for divvying up housework, enjoying hobbies, and volunteering.

Clearly our conversation with John underscores how supporting people to have time and energy for their lives outside of work leads to happier and healthier individuals and communities.

Keep up the great work John! And thank you, for being such a long-term advocate for this important cause!

Creating A Whole Life

Every few months we feature the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community.
This month we are putting a spotlight on the authors of the book, Equally Shared Parenting. Read on to learn how the Vachons created a life that supported equal investment in every aspect of their lives – work, family, and personal interest.

Marc and Amy Vachon

Marc had always pushed against societal norms that demanded long work hours and the expectation that men should be the primary breadwinner for their families. Amy – a strong advocate for gender equity – knew she wanted a partner who would share family responsibilities. Together, they knew an important ingredient for crafting this “whole life” was sharing in the work – and the joys – of caring for their family.

Marc and Amy described how they began their equally shared lifestyle, and how they continue it today with school-aged children and increasing responsibilities at work. We then asked B. Hibbs, who also participated in the call, how she would describe Marc and Amy’s lives. We think she hit the nail on the head when she said they had a true spirit of generosity and a collaborative model where everyone feels satisfied, and each has honestly and openly communicated their wants. B. should know, she is a therapist and author of Try to See It My Way: Being Fair in Love and Marriage.

Listening to Amy and Mark you can quickly see how sharing home responsibilities helps create a better way for each parent to manage their overall workloads.

However, we also learned that people who want to create a “whole life” not only need a team at home, they also need a team at work. For example, Amy and another mom both work 32 hours a week. Together they have created a one-and-one-half job share arrangement and they co-direct their department together. As Amy says, “MaryAnn is my equally sharing partner at work, and Marc is my equally sharing partner at home.”

Vachons
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Marc, like Amy, had negotiated with his employer to cut back his work hours. He also described a point in time when a more collaborative approach at work made a difference. A while ago he was feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work he was managing. He knew there had to be a better way – one that included more planning and less fire-fighting. Talking with his boss, Marc made a number of suggestions, ideas that would help him and his other team members step back and think smarter about their collective approach. In hindsight, Marc can see he was motivated to have this conversation with his boss because he knew that the overwhelm was negatively impacting his ability to achieve his family’s equally shared parenting goals.

Marc and Amy’s story helps illustrate how healthy boundaries are good for employees and good for employers.

Through trial and error both Marc and Amy were able to determined what needed to be prioritized at work, and think ahead more as they planned for the long term – both at work and at home.

Marc and Amy show us how it’s possible to create a family life where both parents can be supported to live whole lives. One that creates space for equal investment in work, family and personal interests. They would also argue that clear communication, boundary setting, and out of the box thinking were the keys to their success.

The Tale of Two Julies – A Story of Successful Job Sharing

Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community . . .

This month we are putting a spotlight on Julie Levine. She and her colleague at work, Julie Rocco, have successfully job shared a management position at Ford Motor Company for more than 5 years. Read on to learn about these pioneering, or click the SoundCloud icon at the end to listen to them share their inspiring story.

Julie Levine’s Story

Job sharing a program manager position with Julie Rocco, Julie Levine soon discovered how “fully integrated” they had become – sometimes even asking the same questions at the exact same time.  In fact, the trust that has built up over the years leaves both parties with complete faith they will be well represented by the other during their absence. It has also provided the ease of mind the “two Julies” needed to be able to spend time with their families.

This collaborative partnership, Julie jokes, has almost been like a “marriage” at work. She also underscores how it did not come about by just placing two people in a job share arrangement. There were numerous factors that played into its success, the most critical being the selection of the right people to create the job share. Julie talks about how she and Rocco went on a “blind date” to figure out whether or not they would be compatible. During this “date” they both took time to assess whether they shared a similar sense of responsibility for getting the work done as well as attention to detail, energy levels and integrity.

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After finding each other, the next critical step was pitching the business case for moving ahead. They needed to show the company that “the sum of two Julies…” was really better than “…two Julies alone.” Julie describes how both of them having strong reputations within the organization helped make their case. But they also began to quickly see how their job sharing arrangement brought many advantages to their organization.

For example, having the network and experience of two people on any one task or problem offered a significant benefit to their employer; playing into the old cliché – two heads are better than one. Julie also talks about how refreshed she would be from her time away from work. Even vacations played out differently. When one of them took a vacation, the other was still available to work at half time, so projects were able to continue to move forward. At one point, they were even able to turn a maternity leave into an opportunity to have a junior employ gain exposure to a higher level position. The employee was even promoted after the leave was up!

While the benefits to the company were plentiful, the advantages to Julie and her family were immeasurable. Julie cites many tangible things such as being able to volunteer at her children’s school as well as have time for exercise and other activities. She also talks about some of the more intangible benefits such as having her children grow up in an environment where they see that Mommy’s career is just as important as Daddy’s; and that balancing work and family is possible.

Julie concluded with advice on what she learned through the years to be key attributes to her job sharing success:

· Being seamless: never having to ‘burden’ your fellow employees (i.e. by having them repeat information twice). It doesn’t matter which person you talk to, both would always be up-to-date on any and all matters.

· Being completely consistent: making sure that directions, and answers to questions, are handled in a similar manner.

· Being fully committed: committing to the necessary time and effort to ensure their success, such as the update process they use four times a week to be bring each other up to speed on what happened that day.

· Sharing the entire job – not just splitting tasks: This is critical for both being seamless and consistent, as both parties are then aware of everything relevant to their job.

Julie’s story is another great example of how we can “redesign leadership” in a way where everyone benefits – the leader, the leader’s family as well as the organization. To listen to more of Julie Levine’s story, click the SoundCloud link below.

Our Mission

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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Phone: 215.747.8790
Email: time4life (at) thirdpath.org