When talking about work+life solutions, formal flexible work arrangements tend to get the most attention. It’s easy to forget that for most of us, most of the time, an official change in when, when and/or how we work isn’t the answer. All we need is a small adjustment in our work+life reality to make a big difference in our well-being. This is a story of how a parking space transformed one woman’s work+life fit.
I recently met Donna at a conference. She’s been with the same employer for over 20 years, but for the last five years, she’s worked full-time while caring for a husband who has Alzheimer’s disease. Even though a caregiver comes to her home everyday, it’s not unusual for Donna to have to leave the office, often unexpectedly, a couple of times a week during the day to coordinate her husband’s care. Whether it’s taking him to a doctor’s appointment or helping the caregiver deal with a challenge, she makes the 30 minute round-trip drive home.
Luckily her boss and team have been very supportive and understand her need for flexibility. She confessed that the problem was, “The lack of midday parking close to my office building.” Getting a parking space near the office wasn’t difficult in the morning, but if she needed to leave in the middle of the day, “I’d find myself driving around for an extra 30 minutes searching for an open space, or parking almost a mile away and then walking 20 minutes. Believe it or not, the worry of not being able to find a parking space if I needed to leave was taking a toll. I’d panic about whether or not I’d get back in time for a meeting and would rush out of the house or a doctor’s appointment earlier than I should have just in case.”
A few of months ago her boss asked if there was anything else he could do to support her. He encouraged her to consider reducing her schedule. She explained that working full-time wasn’t the problem, “The problem is the lack of parking if I need to leave in the middle of the day for an hour, and I’m not sure there’s much you can do about that.”
A couple of weeks later, her boss came back into her office and said, “Donna, Jim is retiring and his reserved spot in the lot next to the building is opening up. Even though there’s a waiting list, we’ve all agreed that you should take it. And we’re waiving the annual fee of $750 usually charged the person’s P&L for the parking space.”
She laughed, “You’d have thought I’d won the lottery. Knowing that parking space is there waiting for me whenever I need it makes all the difference in the world. I know I can go and get back without having to worry. My stress level is way down which is good for everyone, especially my husband. And all it took was a $750 a parking space…imagine.”
What are some of the small changes you’ve seen make a big difference in the way either you or someone you know manages their work+life fit?