Thomas said she has made a clear case for face time and doesn’t want lawyers to habitually work from home. “Work product is enriched by collaboration. You have to noodle it and discuss it face to face.” While the firm does offer flexibility for certain circumstances, Thomas says, “I would not expect the lawyer who wants to advance successfully to routinely choose to work from home or the local Starbucks.”
Richard Fleites, an information technology professional, believes the generational conflict over face time remains a trust issue. There remains a belief that if you’re not in the office, you’re napping or downing martinis during business hours, he says. His department at a healthcare organization has just revised its flexibility policy — allowing remote working one day a week rather than three. “It was disappointing because I think they got scared that employees were going to slack off. But at least I still have that one day and that’s a big perk.”
Sorraya M. Solages, a 34-year-old attorney with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith in Fort Lauderdale, says some new to the legal profession believe the insistence on face time is all about older lawyers who don’t want to give younger lawyers a break. She’s discovered getting the flexibility is possible — but it has to be earned. She’s worked from libraries, hotel rooms, court rooms rather than return to her office. But she’s proved her value. “You’re not going to start day one and work from home one morning a week. If you become trusted, you get more flexibility.”
By understanding Gen Y-ers’ need for workplace flexibility, companies are better able to recruit and grow young talent for the future, workplace experts say. Adam Shapiro, a Miami attorney, says he’s much happier as a lawyer at United Auto Insurance Company where he can work from the courthouse or home at times rather than at a big law firm where the emphasis on face time at the office during and after hours was much greater.
Meanwhile, Bortzfield, the software marketing manager, looks forward to the day when he’s the boss: “If it’s the nicest day of all time, I’m going to say, ‘Everyone work from home or wherever today. Let me know if you need anything.’”
Workplace columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.worklife balancingact.com.