Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Chat with Karen Morris, Creative Director, Underground Communications

Karen Morris

“Don’t beat yourself up…learn from the experience and work out a way to deal with it next time, even if it’s to be more realistic…”

Karen Morris is the force behind Underground Communications. She is a talented writer and communicator providing multi-channel communication services to clients through her business Underground Communications. Oh and she is also a Mum of three.

I always enjoy reading about amazing women who manage to juggle the demands of family and work life. Every single time without fail I learn something new that I too can apply to my complicated family and work life. I hope you too pick up a tip or two from Karen or at the very least understand there are other women out there who juggle the demands of family and work because they love what they do.
Q: Can you tell me about your business?
Karen: I run a boutique communications agency on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We specialise in developing and implementing holistic communication strategies for conscious businesses who are driven by passion and commitment.
Q: Can you tell me about your family?
Karen: I have three gorgeous, energetic and not-so-small-anymore boys! The eldest is now 14, taller than me and with an attitude to match. Two of the boys are in High School which doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook, you just don’t have to visit too often any more. The youngest still has two more years of primary school, at which point my baby will officially no longer be a baby (except to me!).
Q: What are your strategies for juggling your family and business commitments?

Karen: I’ve found that my strategies have varied considerably over time and the age of the boys. When I first started out my baby was, quite literally, a baby and I used to work much less than I do now. I had two full days without the older boys and juggled delivery deadlines around sleeps, often working at night and on weekends to catch up.

Since the youngest started school I have worked virtually full-time, with the exception of two days a week where a finish at 3pm and then spend the next 2 – 3 hours driving around to various after school activities and balancing the laptop on my knee in the front seat of the car.
School holidays present a different challenge altogether, especially the long school holidays. My most recent strategy with that, since the youngest now refuses to attend vacation care without his brothers, is to hit the keyboard at 6am, work through until 11am and then devote the rest of the day to the boys, periodically checking in on emails just in case there’s anything important that can’t wait until the following morning. This seems to work reasonably well, much better than the ad hoc approach I had last summer holidays!
Q: What are the advantages to having your own business?
Karen: The flexibility to be able to be there for my kids so that I can cheer on the sideline, applaud their musical prowess and boogie on down with them at dance concerts (the boy’s dance group is always the best spectacle of the day!). And, it allows me great satisfaction in creating something that I can be proud of at the same time as showing my boys that dedication and hard work can count for something and that if you strive for something important you will achieve.
Q: What do you find challenging about running your own business?
Karen: Sticking to the program!  I have to force myself to stick to an agenda and I have lists coming out of my lists to make sure I deliver on time. When you work for someone else there is usually a set procedure that you have to follow. I’ve had to develop my own but I’m pretty happy with how we’ve done so far. I’m lucky that I’ve had great staff to help me get to where we are now. I find that I’m much better at being disciplined now that I have an office outside of home. Although the flexibility and convenience of just walking downstairs was wonderful in the early stages of working for myself, eventually I found the isolation crippling.
Q: Do you have any tips for other Mums thinking of starting a business or going back to work?
Karen: Try and set specific work times rather than just ‘working around the kids’. Although it seems like a great idea, even if you’ve set them up with something to keep them occupied, you will always find that there is an interruption of some kind no matter what age they are.
Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a deadline – learn from the experience and work out a way to deal with it next time, even if it’s to be more realistic about what time you have available.
Don’t jump on the bandwagon of guilt. Even if you work for yourself, you can’t be everything to everyone. If you are happy doing what you do and you give your kids quality time in addition to your work then everyone takes away a wonderful memory of the growing up experience. Comparing yourself to anyone else does not serve you or your kids. Just be happy with your choices and, if you’re not, change them (I have emphasised that word on purpose!).

Parents@Work 19 Dec 2013
By: Celeste Kirby-Brown,
Director of Sales, Marketing and Relationships, Ezypay, mums@work Contributor

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New study redefines workplace diversity. It no longer means what you think.


Top performing companies have long recognized that diversity is good for business. But a just released report from The Economist Intelligence Unit finds that a new definition of workforce diversity is emerging. It’s no longer just about avoiding race, ethnicity, and gender discrimination, or even compliance with legal regulations. Diversity now encompasses values, meaning what motivates someone to join a company, embody organizational passions, and be productive for a long time.

The EIU report, “Value-based diversity: The challenges and strengths of many,”was sponsored by SuccessFactors, an SAP company. You can read my complete summary of its findings on, but here are three of the most intriguing data points from this global survey of 200+ human resources (HR) executives worldwide:

When asked about workforce characteristics that will require the greatest change in HR strategies over the next three years:

  • Almost 60 percent of HR executives cite employees’ lack of interest in assimilating organizational values
  • Over 50 percent point to conflicting values across a multigenerational workforce
  • Forty-seven percent mention unrealistic expectations of millennial employees

These challenges are fundamentally changing the employer/employee relationship. Feedback from in-depth interviews with executives surveyed for the EIU report shows how some companies are rethinking the workplace to conform more to employees v. the other way around. Johnna Torsone, Chief HR Officer at Pitney Bowes, says the question facing HR executives today is “whether you can create an environment that lets very different people be who they truly are while maximizing their talent in order to support high performance.”

It turns out that diversity means giving people the space to work differently. For example, Bloomberg LLP, a global media company, is redesigning workspaces to create movable areas conducive to brainstorming. “Employees today expect a virtual working environment. They are not comfortable sitting in one place or being told what hours to work. They want an environment that feels engaging and gives them the resources they need to make a contribution,” says Elena Weinstein, Head of Diversity and Community Engagement at Bloomberg.

Somewhat curiously, the EUI survey suggests that companies are underutilizing technologies and tools in managing a diverse workforce. Surveyed executives are using human resource information systems (35 percent) and e-learning systems (31 percent), but only 20 percent are using enterprise social networks and networks that support home-based employees. No doubt bigger changes are in store as cloud-based technologies go mainstream across the business world, and more millennials replace aging workforces.

Perhaps at no other time in history has company success and employee happiness been so intertwined. Johnna Torsone, Chief Human Resources officers at Pitney Bowes summed up the rationale for diversity this way:

“You simply do better as a company when you recognize that people bring unique and multi-dimensional perspectives to the table and can engage diverse employees in a way that they feel comfortable sharing their perspectives.”

In past generations, the standard formula for professional success was showing up and getting on board with the corporate program―or getting out. An increasingly mobile population, coupled with a rapidly changing technology environment, and the entrance of millennials is transforming workplace expectations for everyone.

Parents@Work 29 Jan 2014

Source: SAP Business Trends
Jan 23, 2014 3:22:47 PM

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Should part-time be the new full-time?

should part-time story image

Articles abound about the advantages of part-time work and it is high time we all embraced it. Certainly ‘part-time’ has attracted derogatory connotations. It connotes something less than whole, a diminished commitment, being assigned a role beneath your real capability and, perhaps worst of all, being paid part-time wages when the actual work load is closer to full-time. But we can overcome all this.

The problem is that the traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 (and more) working week is really becoming redundant especially in the corporate and professional worlds. In our globalised, high tech world, so many workplaces demand, and the technology has facilitated, extra work at any time and from anywhere including work in the evenings, on weekends (often from home) and even on so-called holidays. Rewards are usually based on time committed as opposed to actual results when what really matters is results.

It also matters that the results expected of you, as an employee, are reasonable given the personal resources you are able to commit to the job. This, in turn, should depend on where you are in your life as the whole person that you are. Do you have a child to care for? Is your partner undergoing chemotherapy for an extended period? Have you got an elderly parent or relative for whom you are caring? Are you an Olympic rower needing time to train? Are you a community volunteer, for example an office bearer for a school council, or other charity?

Not only has the entry of women into the post industrialised workforce stretched our childcare resources; it has also left many community organisations short of hands to assist with the very worthy work they do. Ask any school parents’ association (perhaps with the exception of a privileged few). And those that would otherwise do that work, if they had the time, miss out on the enormous benefits of connecting with and supporting their local communities.

The persistently high level of work/life stress and of women dropping out (or down) once they become mothers is a sign that many employers are not taking sufficient account of the very real whole life needs of their employees. We are spending too much time at work. And while many employees will be attracted to the rewards that come with long hours, the truth is it usually doesn’t bring greater satisfaction, just more material things. Of course there are some people who cannot afford to work any less. There are also some jobs that necessarily require long hours but I struggle to think of many examples where this is necessarily so when, given a different mindset, so much of what we do can be delegated or shared.

For most of us, part-time could and should become the new full-time, the new default position. Those who choose to work longer hours will be working the new ‘Over-time’, but they should not be rewarded any more than their results reflect. Employers should embrace this new regime as part of their responsibility for the health and well-being of their employees and the community. This will mean employing more to do less, and restructuring work roles, but there is evidence to suggest that the productivity gains will outweigh the extra cost.

This will be an effective way to retain women and pick up our aging population who we need to work in the interests of, productivity and well-being. And, of course, employees will need to accept rewards commensurate with what they deliver. If it is too hard to measure results, then the standard pro rata of the current ‘Equivalent Full-time’ or EFT will do as a start.

Gradually measures dependant only on time committed, such as EFT, will need to be replaced with or complemented by a more flexible measure keyed into the results reasonably expected of the role in question. If the hours committed remains a factor, and I suspect it will given the vagaries of measuring actual results in some cases, then I suggest we would be better served to make four days a week the new default position, the new EFT if you like, with scope for those wanting to work longer hours (and produce commensurate results) to add a day or two. But we should aim to reward on results as much as possible.

Freed up in this way, we will all have more time for thinking, sleeping, exercise, recreation and looking after others who need help. Importantly for mothers, who still tend to bear the burden of the ‘double shift’ and end up relatively impoverished, we will be able to share the breadwinning and the care-giving with our partners. Our partners will benefit too since they will no longer bear the burden of being the main or sole provider as well as enjoying the benefits of a more balanced life.

This proposal is intended to be controversial. I expect that Human Resources, Compensation and Productivity experts, which I am not, will likely pick holes in my argument. But let’s keep up the debate it. It is too important to ignore.

Parents@Work 20 Jan 2014

By Amanda Milledge
Source: Women’s Agenda, 14 Jan 2014.

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