As I read about Wei Leng’s article on “Balancing family emergencies with the demands of work”, I couldn’t help but reflect on my personal flexible work experience with Polycom and how video collaboration directly enables this.
As a parent to two young children of my own (Isaac is four years old, and Audrey is just six weeks old!), the act of balancing work and home commitments is something that I can relate to. It’s never easy to balance and integrate work and family commitments. However, with today’s video conferencing and unified communications technology, it is now possible to make work-life harmony a reality.
In the lead up to the birth of my second child, I decided to change my working schedule to work approximately 70-80 per cent of the time from home over the next few months, coming into the office generally for two afternoons a week. This was to allow me to be around my wife and our new born baby much more in the early days and while she’s on maternity leave.
It helped that Polycom has a very strong culture of work flexibility, coupled with the fact that everyone is equipped with a laptop installed with the necessary collaboration tools such as Polycom RealPresence Desktop allowing us to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Perhaps most importantly, my manager was very supportive of this arrangement and I started working regularly from home about two months ago now.
It has been a very successful way of working and my productivity and efficiency has certainly increased. Having the right tools and technology is vital, but the one thing I’ve learnt moving from a traditional “office work arrangement” to a “flexible working arrangement” is the importance of effective management of your daily schedule.
Here’s how I did it:
First, I cleaned up my Outlook calendar, and set up a basic weekly schedule template:
In this template, I entered my routine meetings, work schedule and personal time, thus blocking out the slots that I need to commit to work or family. Although the day runs from 7am to 12 midnight, I made sure that I set aside time for myself. For example:
- Morning 8am to 9:30am – Breakfast with my family. This is where I get to play and help with the feeding of my baby.
- Afternoon 11:30am to 12:30pm – Lunch (with family or friends). This was setup for 11:30am so I get to avoid the lunch crowd, and I’m usually hungry by this time! After lunch, I would be back at my work around 12:30pm.
- Evening 5pm to 9pm – I would leave my home at around 5pm to pick my son up from school. I’m very particular about my evenings, as this is the time where I like to spend quality time with my boy.
You would also notice that I’ve set up time at night (between 9pm to 11pm) to clear my mails and reports. I find that this is very useful as there is less disruption and I can get the most out of my time.
I normally end my day at 11pm, but would still accept meetings if it happens before 12 midnight. (Notice that I blocked out the slots after 5pm. This is so I get to decide if I want to take the meeting or not.) Unless it is absolutely urgent, Friday evenings are strictly a no meeting time for me, as are meetings with international colleagues after midnight
After blocking out the routine events on my calendar, the rest of the slots get filled up relatively quickly. Here’s what one of my week looks like:
You probably notice that not everything goes as planned. There are instances that I need to move my personal “commitments”, such as the off-site conference I had to attend on the Friday.
Having a well-planned routine and communicating this to my team and colleagues has helped me get the most out of my time. My calendar is available as a shared calendar allowing my colleagues visibility of my availability, which makes working together in a virtual environment possible.
As a dad and a working professional, I’ve benefited from a flexible work arrangement and am enjoying both work and the joy of kids and family.
I am also proud to be working with one of the best employers for parents in Singapore, as Polycom recently won the “Most Enabling Companies for Dads” award jointly organised by the Singapore National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Women’s Development Secretariat (WDS) and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP). Read more about that here.
If you'd like to know more about the best tools to help you enable flexibility in your workforce, check out this overview of the solutions that let people work from anywhere and actually engage more effectively and efficiently as a result.
Pictured left to right with Polycom's "Most Enabling Companies for Dads" award: Mrs Roslyn Ten, General Manager, Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices; Sue Day, Senior Director, Marketing, Polycom Asia Pacific; Isaac Wong (front); Eric Wong, Head of Talent Acquisition and Development, Polycom Asia Pacific; Ms Cham Hui Fong, Assistant Secretary General NTUC
Eric Wong left Polycom as of March 2015. This blog post is his personal view and reflective of his thoughts while at Polycom.