Flexible Work Arrangements Go Outside the Box

Hi, I am Rebecca Boll, Operations Manager for External Affairs and Technology at GE Global Research. The most important thing about me is that I have 3 wonderful kids – Aidan (12), Isabel (10) and Quinn (7).

I have been with GE for 7 years and previously worked at GE Aviation as a program manager for the F404 engine line, and in systems engineering. Before I came to industry, I was an Air Force Officer.

GE has a special focus on the retention of women across the company and across the globe. To that end, data has been collected and sensing surveys have been conducted, to understand what factors make women choose to leave our workforce. There are a few big global themes, but one of the most prominent is flexibility in the workplace.

Flexibility is mysterious to employees and managers alike. We often hear that it makes people really uncomfortable to talk with their managers or HR teams about flexibility options. I personally collected the policies for flexibility for each GE business, so I could compare them. They weren’t too easy to track down, but when I did, I found that there are a large variety of flexible work options to consider and they are consistent across our large company.

Today, we are launching a series called “Flex Ability,” to open up the conversation about why flexibility works and why it is just as easy to talk about flexible work options as it is to talk about the status of a work project.

This topic is not just about being a parent. It is about pursuing another degree, training for a race, taking care of parents, or whatever it is that you want to accomplish. It is about integrating work and life in the most productive way, and taking the taboo away from discussing how to do it.

I may be a good person to start this dialogue. When I started with GE in 2005, I had an infant and two toddlers, and I was a single mother. It never occurred to me to ask for alternative working hours, even though a simple thing like starting the workday at 8:30 am rather than 7:30 am would have eased so much logistical stress at that time.

I put a complex and expensive support structure in place so I could be at the plant during “standard business hours,” even though I often worked at home in the evening anyway. I cannot explain completely why I didn’t discuss a schedule that made more sense with my manager. I liked my then-manager and in reflection, I think he would have been receptive.

In the short video below, I share that I work very differently now, and so does each member of my team. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

In the coming weeks, watch out for other video clips on Flex Ability, from women (and men) around the globe. We all approach it a little differently and you will too, but we want to start sharing our stories about why it makes sense and we hope you will share your story too!

Rebecca

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