Page 18 - Foreign Service Journal - October, 2012b

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ere are some statements that
many of us in the Foreign
Service hear all too often when
discussing work-life chal-
“I’ve been very lucky that my ofce
allows me to telework one day a week.”
“I was lucky to land in an ofce that
allowed me to take the maternity leave I
“I was lucky that I had an understand-
ing boss when I needed to take leave due
to elder care issues.”
Indeed, luck seems to be a key ingre-
dient when it comes to the implementa-
tion of work-life balance policies at the
Department of State. Many employees
are aware that State ranks seventh on the
list of “Best Places to Work in the Federal
Government.” But they may not know
that it ranks only 19th out of 30 on work-
life balance and 27th out of 30 for having
a family-friendly culture.
Te demographics of the Foreign
Service have changed tremendously
over the last several decades, with more
tandems, dual working and single par-
ents, and individuals living with a parent
than ever before. We should recognize
the changing needs of our employees by
implementing policies that ensure State
can compete with the federal agencies
and many private companies that long
ago recognized the benefts of investing
in such policies.
Work-life balance now ranks as one of
the most important workplace attributes,
second only to compensation, among
more than 50,000 global workers polled
in a 2009 research study conducted by
the Corporate Executive Board. And
employees who feel they have attained
work-life balance tend to work 21 percent
harder than those who don’t.
We owe it to ourselves, particularly the
new classes of Foreign Service employ-
ees, to evaluate how well we implement
our personnel regulations, advocate for
fexible application of workplace and
leave policies, and promote work-life
balance at State. Doing so will enable the
Foreign Service to recruit and retain a
21st-century work force without relying
on luck.
Speaking of Luck…
I have been fortunate to have under-
standing supervisors who valued me as
an employee and trusted that I could
successfully telework one day a week for
a short time when I returned to work after
the birth of my son. As one manager later
told me, “You changed my mind about
telework, and I realized it can work.”
Other colleagues have not been as
fortunate, however. Tere are still too
many managers who won’t approve
personal leave, or who refuse to allow
telework even for those in positions
that are eligible for it, simply because
they don’t trust their staf to perform.
Tis is in spite of the fact that State has
a policy of encouraging supervisors to
approve such arrangements, and the
Ofce of Personnel Management has
instructed every federal agency to look
into increasing telework arrangements
as a means of improving the productivity
and continuity of operations. We should
take a leaf from the book of our sister
agency, USAID, which has made telework
such a priority that it requires every new
employee to complete a short online
telework training course.
Now, I have no doubt many readers
at this point are thinking to themselves,
“Telework isn’t practical for most Foreign
Service employees because they need
access to classifed material.” While it is
true that those in jobs requiring classifed
Achieving Work-Life Balance at State
We want to see State become the
best federal agency in which to work,
with a culture known for work-life balance
and family-friendly policies.
Lillian C. Wahl-Tuco, a consular-coned Foreign Service ofcer, is currently the Czech desk of-
fcer in the Bureau of European Afairs. A State representative on the AFSA Governing Board,
she is also on the board of Balancing Act at State, an employee organization that addresses
work-life balance issues.