Category Archives: Farzanna Haffizulla

Negotiating a Flexible Work Arrangement with Your Employer

By Dr. Farzanna HaffizullaDr Farzanna Haffizulla

Every working professional should have the right to take time off, free from the pressures of work, but doing so requires some savvy planning with your supervisors and colleagues when you are gone. Check with your employer about your maternity, paternity and family leave options. The stress that many feel often relates to leaving work unfinished or falling behind on projects. Don’t leave your job with uncertainty and offer a clear timeline so that your work colleagues know what to expect.

While the art of balancing family life and career is fraught with intense emotions at times, make sure you check your emotional highs and lows at the door. Always maintain a professional attitude when in front of your colleagues. You want to show that you are committed and just as reliable, and that you take your work commitments seriously.

Here’s what to go over with your supervisor if you are considering time off:

  • Determine the changes in schedule or job functions.

  • Specify a specific leave period (start date and end date).

  • Figure out coverage. Who will cover for you while you are gone? Will your work be divided up among colleagues and are they aware?

  • Create hand-off notes. Prepare your notes and work procedures for your replacement.

  • Establish boundaries and access. Will you be available for consultation? How much contact are you willing to have during your leave?

  • Plan your re-integration and return. Design a plan for your return, such as changes in job function, reduced hours, etc.

  • Consider telecommuting and working from home or at a location closer to home. Present a clear plan of action to your supervisor about how you see this arrangement benefiting you and your company. Will you be able to make regular conference calls to check-in with your colleagues and with your supervisor? Will you be able to drop-in on occasion if the project calls for it, or if you need to see clients?

There are four important steps to take when negotiating flexible work arrangements.

Step 1: Assess your job and employer: Will they allow you to try the above flex options? Some jobs are strict about a physical presence in the office during regular business/office hours. For example, a surgeon or school teacher may find flex options provide no respite from their work demands. For those with more flexibility from their employers, consider if working in an alternate location would be beneficial. Can you handle the independence and distractions, if it saves you commuting time and costs?

Step 2: Find out where you work best: Many thrive in home offices, which allow them to save on childcare costs, while others find home offices distracting and unproductive. On face value, working from home may seem to be the most convenient option, but before seizing the opportunity, remember that working at home doesn’t necessarily make it convenient. If constant interruptions will make working difficult, theadvantages of working at home may be overshadowed by the downsides,such as battling cranky outbursts from your kids or other interruptions of daily living.

Step 3: If you are a parent or caregiver, drop the guilt-factor: Recognize that you shouldn’t feel like a bad parent if you come to the realization that you can’t work and care for a child in a synchronous manner, and that you are more productive when you keep the two worlds largely separate. Perhaps you’re the type that needs a designated working space. Other parents might not mind writing or preparing reports, making phone calls and dealing with clients while toys are scattered by the desk and your child squeals and plays in the playpen set in the corner of the room. Seek out the best work arrangement and reassure your employer that you’re not seeking a favor, but asking for an alternative way to produce the same level of work expected.

Step 4: Champion your work: Once you’ve started your new work arrangement, remember that you may not be physically in the office as often as usual. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind can have detrimental effects on your employer’s impression of you. Make sure you take these measures to ensure that you get the credit you deserve:

  • Document your performance and work results. Check-in daily if needed with your boss.

  • Be clear about the expectations. You may not be able to work fulltime, but can you still produce full-time work.

  • Set up periodic meetings with your supervisor to go over expectations. Have you made significant contributions? In what ways? Work with your employer to adjust your work schedule as needed to fine-tune an optimal arrangement.

  • If something urgent comes up at work, what is your family contingency plan? And vice versa— if something at home interrupts your work schedule, will your employer be able to grant you more flexibility?

While there is no “one size fits all” approach, variations in theme and creative strategizing and planning will allow you to achieve the best of both your family and career spheres of life. Maintain clarity, definition and be resolute in your personal choices.  An injection of optimism and approaching your colleagues and supervisors with amiable professionalism will dramatically increase your chances of getting the schedule that works best for you.

Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is a speaker and expert in work/life balance. Her book, Harmony of the Spheres, offers methods to streamline workloads, solve interpersonal workplace issues and offers practical advice on integrating work and home life. In addition, she runs the website busymomMD.com, an informative site for modern, educated women juggling career and family.

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Mindset For Success

By Dr. Farzanna HaffizullaDr Farzanna Haffizulla

It’s 2am on a Saturday morning. You awake in a panic. Your body is pulsing with electric jolts and your mind is racing uncontrollably! It is at this quiet, undisturbed hour of the early morning that it hits you: am I where I want to be in life? Did I meet my professional and personal goals? You close your eyes and the image of who you imaged yourself to be is vivid again. This image is so powerful that you awaken the next morning energized, ready to make this dream a reality!  How do you continue to achieve our life goals? What is needed to create a mindset for success?

As working professionals, juggling your family life, careers and community activities, you are faced with the looming question: are you happy with your status? Have you been successful, and do you see more success ahead? It is important to realize that everyone has their own set of priorities in life with different permutations of family, work, scholarship and leadership. While there is no “one size fits all” solution, there are common ideals that allow professionals to maintain a mindset for success. This allows you to ultimately achieve all of your life’s dreams and goals.

There are six steps to ensure personal happiness and professional success. These steps are the basic foundation of success in any endeavor, especially as a busy professional. It is vital to stay energized and focused on your goals always adapting to new variables that may be thrown your way.

1) Stay Positive: The first ingredient to success is maintaining and emanating strong positive energy from within, and surrounding yourself with positive people. Drawing from your own inner strength and not depending on external sources of confidence building ensures a continuous supply of “success fuel”: positive energy. Meditation, reconnecting with your spirituality, self –reflection and engaging in activities such as exercise, sports and a hobby of your choice are ways to cultivate your inner sanctum of positive energy. Though it may seem difficult to smile or stay happy during times of social or financial difficulty, remember that everything happens for a good reason. Live without regrets and allow life to teach you; learn from these lessons. A well-known adage is “A fool is one who makes the same mistake twice.” Visualize and state your goals out loud. This strengthens your inner visualization, making it a more concrete, definitive goal.

2) Maintain Academic Discipline: Develop self-discipline with regards to education.  Treat your academic life with utmost respect and continue to pursue higher learning. This gives you an edge over others and allows you to find an unexplored, untapped niche in your profession that can allow for tremendous success. Tailor your education to suit your goals and align yourself with mentors who can nudge you in the right direction and give you valuable experience.

3) Make a Plan: Plan out your goals and put them into action.  Create a work/life balance plan that factors in other aspects of your life that are important to you: family life, hobbies and other interests. Think about how your eventual goal will affect these other “spheres” of your life and decide where you are able to compromise. It is important to involve your significant other in these talks to avoid surprises and conflict. You must be pro-active in pursuit of your goals. If you continue to be consistent, responsible and show an edge and insight unsurpassed by your peers, you will shine and succeed.

4) Be Prepared: Prepare yourself for surprise scenarios that may interrupt your journey toward your goal.  This could be a company upheaval or financial “hiccup.” Take these changes in stride, never losing sight of your goal, but be open to modifying your approach. If problems arise, regroup to decide if you still want the same goals or if they need to be altered to suit your current situation. Your life is in your hands!

5) Be Humble: Never violate the cardinal rule of stepping on others to get to the top; this will eventually circle back around to you and has a negative snowball effect. Remain humble throughout your journey and accept criticism in stride. Winston Churchill once said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

6) Self-reflection and Re-evaluation: Frequent re-evaluation of your “happiness” thermometer is a good way to recognize if you are where you want to be in life. More angry or sad days than happy ones indicate that a change may be needed. Self-reflection, re-visiting your goals list and talking with your significant other is your next step in strategizing your move. Take a comprehensive worldly approach toward achieving your goals. Talk and interact with others who have already lived your goal and learn from their mistakes. Be willing to adapt to the new “climate” in your business life. As when the economy took a tumble years ago, instead of licking your wounds, remain open to new approaches within your area of expertise. This could be your golden opportunity to re-energize your career and professional goals.

There are many different ways to be a successful professional, even with the demands of other aspects of living. Choosing the best path depends on instinct, which must be honed over the years, and buttressed by the support you get from those closest to you. Open your heart and draw strength from within and envelop your life with positive thinking. You make your own mindset. The power has always been yours to use! You will learn through experimentation and good old-fashioned trial by error. Throughout your journey, keep this lesson at the forefront: With humility and drive you can yoke and harness your own inner strength as an adult and as a working professional, achieving all your life goals.

Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is a speaker and expert in work/life balance. Her book, Harmony of the Spheres, offers methods to streamline workloads, solve interpersonal workplace issues and offers practical advice on integrating work and home life. In addition, she runs the website busymomMD.com, an informative site for modern, educated women juggling career and family.

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Conquering a Sick Day

By Dr. Farzanna HaffizullaDr Farzanna Haffizulla

It’s a crisp Monday morning; your agenda is interwoven with meetings, projects and the usual “catch-up,” from the week past. You awake with shaking chills and muscle pains that feel like you’re being pulsed by a million tiny lasers. Every time you swallow, your saliva feels like gasoline fueling an already rip roaring fire in your throat. You have too much to complete at your office, staying home is just not an option – or is it?  How do you know whether to stay or go? Though many often feel that they should fight through and go to work, there are many signs that indicate that you could be contagious; definitely a sign to stay home.

It is imperative to avoid spreading your infection and be evaluated for treatment to accelerate your recovery.  Signs that you are contagious, which should simplify your decision to not only stay home but to seek medical care to accelerate your recovery process, are as follows:

  • Fever

  • Persistent productive cough with fever

  • Outbreak of rash with or without fever

  • Red eyes with mucus discharge that seal your eyes shut in the morning

  • Severe sore throat

  • Muscle pains and achy joints with any of the above symptoms

  • Vomiting with or without diarrhea

  • High fever, stiff neck and headache

The spread of either a viral or bacterial infection can cause a negative trickle-down effect on the entire workplace. Realize that not only are your co-workers at risk from contracting your infection, but so are their families and loved ones, some of whom might have fragile immune systems such as the elderly and newborns.  Plus, it is unlikely that your coworkers will thank you when they contract the same cold or flu!  When your coworkers develop your illness, resulting in many other sick days across a department or office, productivity inevitably declines – many sick days could have been prevented by one or two!  There are many ways you can manage your workload while sick, especially if your coworkers or boss are willing to lend a hand and be flexible.  Some strategies that will allow for productivity during this “down” time include:

  • Work via remote computer. There are many projects in day-to-day office life that could be completed from your home computer while you are in your pajamas in bed! If you can link your office computer to your home desktop or laptop, you can tackle any computer-based projects you have lined up.  Another option is to have work scanned and sent to you for your home viewing and completion, allowing you to stay on top of your workload and recover at the same time.
  • Convert physical meetings to telephone or Skype consultations. Utilize technology to your advantage.  Most cell phones have the ability to add in multiple callers, allowing you to set up conference calls.  If you are supposed to call in to a conference line, have one of your coworkers send you the number and instructions.  Ask a coworker to set up an automatic, outgoing message with your “number for the day” and your Skype information. Not only will you impress your colleagues and clients with your innovation and dedication, but you show your consideration for not spreading your infection.
  • Take work home with you. This scenario works well if your symptoms start before the next work day.  Bring home that proposal that must be finished before the end of the week, and work on it in between naps.  Always prepare for the worst!
  • Arrange for coverage with a trusted colleague for these unplanned emergencies.  Along with letting your boss and other coworkers know that you will be at home, sick, arrange for a specific coworker to cover what they can of your workload.  Let them know of any pressing work or engagements, potential problems, or expected calls. This will allow a “physical” presence if one is needed in your line of work.
  • Utilize the time to work on “back-up work.”  This can be anything that needs to be done, but often falls by the wayside: expense reports, industry research or other tasks that you have pre-assigned yourself and have readily available. If you run your own business, this is a good day to review your budget, employee productivity and profit trends.

We cannot predict when an illness will punctuate our lives but we can certainly try to prevent such annoyances! The old adage “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” rings true here. There are many ways to protect your immune system and body against such infections, such as: diets high in Vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants that boost your immune system, avoiding sleep deprivation, smoking and alcohol, washing your hands regularly and encouraging your workplace to have hand sanitizers strategically placed for staff use, and taking time to de-stress.

You should also have regular medical checkups to screen for any underlying diseases that can compromise your immune system.  If you do find yourself sick and your primary care physician is not available at a moment’s notice to evaluate you, you have other options. You can either walk in to an urgent care center or have a telemedicine consult with a physician via web or phone.  There are also many walk in clinics at various pharmacies that can evaluate and treat you efficiently.

Many of us have experienced how a sick day can set you back. As professionals, parents and productive citizens, it works in our best interests to not only plan for these unforeseen sick days but incorporate prevention and maintenance of our wellness into our daily lifestyle. A healthy attitude and a positive spirit are also a basic foundation to achieving this art of health balance.  We are the architects of how we choose to deal with obstacles, such as sick days, that sometimes unpredictably insert themselves into our busy lives. Conquer them; don’t let them conquer you!

Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is a speaker and expert in work/life balance. Her book, Harmony of the Spheres, offers methods to streamline workloads, solve interpersonal workplace issues and offers practical advice on integrating work and home life. In addition, she runs the website busymomMD.com, an informative site for modern, educated women juggling career and family.

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