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Work/Life Flexibility For Single Workers

Work/Life Flexibility For Single Workers

Matt Krumrie
Star Tribune Sales and Marketing - November 2008

If you're envious that your co-workers are getting out of work to deal with child-related issues, don't hold a grudge - come up with a plan to show your boss how flexibility in your schedule won't prevent you from producing the results the company expects.

Dear Matt: I'm a single person with no kids. At work it seems like my co-workers are always leaving for parenting reasons that I don't have. I feel like I should be able to cut out of the office early once in a while - like to get to my softball game without having to rush. How can I handle this with my supervisor and co-workers? I don't want them to think less of me, but they get a break, why can't I?

Matt: I was at a downtown Minneapolis restaurant recently and heard the manager talking about an employee who called in and said she would be late because she had a sick child. The manager said "I wish I had kids so I always had a built-in excuse to get out of work."

This shows that these situations do cause animosity among co-workers and managers in the workplace.

As for our reader: "You're not the only worker who has ever felt a little envious of the flexibility often extended to those who have dependent care issues," says Rachel Hastings, vice president of WFC Resources (, a Minnetonka-based company that helps employers create supportive and effective workplaces.

However, Hastings makes a good point when she says that the fact is many companies who are sympathetic about those issues are also willing to support other work/life conflicts such as chronic illness, domestic emergencies (moving or appliances breaking down) or life goals, such as having time for volunteer, educational or sporting activities. So, before getting all riled up about a situation being unfair, think about what you would do if you were in a parental situation, or think about what you can do about your situation, such as:

Speaking to your immediate supervisor about policies and practices around flexibility to see if there are opportunities to occasionally leave or come in early, and to make up the time during the rest of the week.

Discussing permanently altering your start and finish times if possible to help your schedule and personal goals.

Susan Bjork, principal of Twin Cities-based HR Ingenuity (, says details such as organization policies and procedures, employee classification, PTO use, and performance status/history all play a role in this type of situation. Studies do show that employees who have more flexibility in their workday are actually more productive.

"Managers are looking for results and you can show them how this can still be done, while respecting your wish to be treated on a level playing field with the parents in the office," says Hastings.

Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. This column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to