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NINE TO FIVE

I’m stuck at work while the parents on my team get to leave Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I work in the creative department of an ad agency. The work is exhilarating but exhausting, requiring us to work nights and weekends and respond to clients – even on vacation. My problem has less to do with the 24/7 schedule than with the flexible work ethic of a couple of my colleagues, who think that having children excuses them from the expectations made of everyone else. After taking lengthy parental leaves, they run out the door on the stroke of 5 p.m., “work from home” on a regular basis and leave the rest of us to pick up where they left off. At first, I was understanding, but now I’m growing to resent the double standard. Any advice?

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THE FIRST ANSWER

Zuleika Sgro

Human resources partner, talent manager, Questrade.com, Toronto

Work locations and access to work is becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives. Having a smartphone and access to e-mails 24/7 is becoming the norm in most environments, and because of this, we are always connected to work somehow. When it comes to what is being accomplished by your colleagues, I encourage you to ask yourself whether you are basing your views on perceptions of people physically being “in the office” versus not?

Essentially, work can be done from any location – but if there is an issue with the quality or quantity of work being produced by your team, which in turn is having an impact on you, I certainly encourage you to bring this up with your manager or your colleagues directly. I would not preface these discussions with the fact that your colleagues are new parents, as this isn’t necessarily relevant to their work output.

Readjusting to work after taking leaves of any kind – parental, sick, caregiver – can also be a challenge. Time passes and those who are on leave can become a bit disconnected from work and may need time to readapt to work and their new life at home. In the same way that virtual teams and people from diverse cultures can work together by addressing concerns about expectations early and often, you and your employer can restore a good team dynamic by helping these employees to reintegrate by keeping the lines of communication open.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Colleen Clarke

Corporate trainer and career specialist, Toronto

My first thought is, do you all work for the same person? Why is there such a distinction between your workaholic commitment and that of the parental employees? Have you ever just run out the door at 5 p.m., informing your colleagues that you will be working from home?

It could be that the parental group struck a deal with management to leave “early.” Or, they just leave. So, by right, you are entitled to those privileges as well. Have you tried either tactic, asking or simply leaving?

One hopes the manager isn’t playing favourites. I do see one group being more assertive than the other. Sit down with your boss and ask what the policy is on the issue you want clarified – hours of work, working from home, or others.

You don’t have to point any fingers or make any comparisons. Tell your boss what a great employee you are, that you’re totally dedicated and committed – and that work-life balance is important to your well-being. That said, you would like the opportunity to work from home more, have flex time, take time off in lieu of overtime, and basically do what the other group is doing.

If you are told there is no flexibility for you, then this could be a case of discrimination or, at least, favouritism. It definitely would smack of unfairness. Consider what else might be of importance to you to negotiate in lieu of flex time, and ask for that. If there is no give on your company’s part, then you have to decide how important this injustice is to your values. Learn to live with it or leave.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers. Check out past columns here.

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