Dear LiL – I feel like I am being judged by my bosses/co-workers when I must leave work early, or arrive late, in order to facilitate childcare / child activities. Signed ~ Judged
Dear Judged –
I get it. I have young kids at home who are involved in many afterschool activities. It can be a real struggle to balance professional obligations with these family obligations.
Before having kids, I took long lunches or worked out in the middle of the day and then returned to work and stayed until after 7 p.m. I didn’t feel the pressure to get home to start my “second shift”.
Now, I routinely come into the office late after dropping my kids off at school or rush out of the office to take one of my kids to an after-school activity. Over time, I have learned not to be apologetic for my schedule. I don’t hide the fact that I have kids at home. I have obligations to my family and to my clients and colleagues. I know my schedule and I know how to meet my obligations. I no longer take long lunches or workout in the middle of the day. I know leaving early means I am logging back in after the kids are in bed. My colleagues know that I can be reached even if I am not in the office. Technology has made working outside of the office so much easier. I no longer feel guilty about coming in late or leaving early because I know I am getting my work done.
Fortunately, times are changing. Law firms understand that people work differently and that is ok. The 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. model does not work for everyone and there is nothing wrong with that. We are in a profession that allows flexible work arrangements – even more so now with the COVID-19 pandemic. I think firms are moving away from the idea that the lawyer that spends more time in the office is the more dedicated lawyer. If your billable hours show that you are getting your work done, it should not matter if you are doing that work at 5 p.m. or 9 p.m. The current pandemic has forced firms that were resisting change to see that flexible work arrangements do work. If you can arrange to work from home on days where you have early afternoon childcare commitments, that can save you the commute time and the worry of who may be judging an early departure from the office. I routinely work from home a few days a week and I have found this has helped tremendously in facilitating our afterschool activities. You have to find a schedule that works best for you and then stick to it. Once you have a schedule that works, you will worry less about what others think because you will know that is the schedule that you need to meet your obligations. Good luck!